Philadelphia museum honors Basha High student The Chandler Arizonan

Philadelphia museum honors Basha High student

Philadelphia museum honors Basha High student

By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

A Basha High School student has been named a finalist by the National Liberty Museum for an award recognizing teenagers who make positive changes in their communities.

Nikita Bharati, 16, was honored on Sept. 12 in a virtual ceremony with the museum’s “Young Hero” award in recognition of her volunteer work in trying to improve science education for young girls.

She is one of 14 honorees from across the country to be given the award this year and the only from Arizona to be named a finalist.

“Winning this award means numerous things to me,” Nikita said, “it’s a recognition that is humbling and a reminder to continue to seek the call to action in my community.”

The award champions young leaders who value liberty, civic engagement, conflict resolution, and promoting diversity.

Nikita was singled out for her work with Girl STEMpowerment, a nonprofit that she founded a couple years ago to provide free science programs to young girls.

One of the organization’s goals is to encourage girls to complete community projects that utilize technology to innovatively solve a societal problem.

Nikita said the group’s latest project taught girls how they can use technology to grow food more sustainably and with fewer resources.

The nonprofit’s mission is to not only make girls feel more empowered and confident, she added, but demonstrate how math and science can be relevant to their daily lives.

Nikita founded Girl STEMpowerment after she noticed some blatant gender inequities in her high school science classes. In a class of nearly 30 students, she recalled being one of only a handful of girls.

The imbalance needed to change, Nikita said, and it could only change by working at the local level and teaching younger girls they’re smart enough to study math and science. Since its founding, her nonprofit and its various chapters claim to have educated more than 15,000 girls through its various outreach programs.     

The museum’s award is not the first time Nikita has been publicly recognized for her contributions to the Chandler community.

Last year, she was one of four Chandler residents to be nominated for the city’s prestigious People’s Choice Award, an annual honor that allows residents to vote for one nominee who has made a lasting impact on Chandler.   

Aside from her work involving science education, the city acknowledged Nikita’s membership in the Mayor’s Youth Commission and activism to protect the environment.

Nikita aspires to pursue a career in environmental science and help make policy changes to protect the Earth’s climate. She is a member of Basha High’s sustainability club and organizes protests put on by the Arizona Youth Climate Strike.

“It’s going to be my generation that’s gonna really make the change and really make people start holding their politicians accountable for issues like these,” Nikita said last year shortly after her nomination for the city’s award.

The Liberty Museum, which is based in Philadelphia, has been honoring civically-engaged teens for the last 20 years and specifically celebrates youths who inspire a sense of liberty in their communities.

Nikita said she considers liberty to involve using one’s talents and skills as an agent for the change they want to see in the world.

“I have been a champion for liberty through offering open arms to others around me, a role model to other individuals inside and outside of my community service work, and simply through always working to empower others in every situation imaginable,” she said.

The museum’s other finalists included teenagers who completed community projects that involved helping underprivileged children, creating face masks for nurses and doctors, raising money for blind children and baking desserts for firefighters.

“We are proud to honor these young people for using their time, their talents and the needed resources to give selflessly to others, the very attributes of heroism that are ingrained in our museum’s mission,” said Gwen Borowsky, the museum’s chief executive officer.

In addition to having their stories displayed in the museum’s exhibits, the 14 finalists are given a commemorative certificate and one will be surprised with a $2,000 scholarship.

“These young heroes deserve recognition for the many purposeful and thoughtful things they do to make their schools and their communities a better place,” Borowsky added.

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