Two UCR students win Strauss Scholarships

Two UC Riverside students have won Donald A. Strauss Foundation awards in recognition of student engagement with public service.

The students, Ankita Ahluwalia and Thaniya Shankar, each applied with a public service project that they will carry out during their junior or senior year. The awards come with $15,000 grants that aim to sustain their public service projects.

Ankita Ahluwalia
Ankita Ahluwalia

Ahluwalia, a sophomore majoring in computer science with business applications, was awarded the scholarship for her work in founding the Power of Words and Numbers Initiative, or POWAN. The initiative aims to empower students and teachers in underserved districts that serve minority and low-income families. Strauss funds will help facilitate and grow the program, which offers free, needs-based e-learning solutions and an after-school program designed to effectively reduce the equity, achievement, and opportunity gap in high school classes with historically high numbers of students receiving D’s or F’s. 

“Our user-friendly platform allows K-12 students to sign up, schedule a session with an accredited volunteer instructor, and gain access to resources such as our Coding Bootcamp, all under five minutes,” said Ahluwalia, citing a 100% student and parental satisfaction rate.

Thaniya Shankar
Thaniya Shankar

Shankar, a junior studying biology and minoring in law and society, received the award for her work on Project LEAD, or Learn, Encourage, Advocate, and Develop. Project LEAD aims to address the educational barriers for kindergarten to 6th grade public school students with autism spectrum disorder.  The program will allow UCR students to mentor elementary students on the spectrum in the San Bernardino City Unified School District, an under-resourced community. 

“Students with autism display their own unique challenges that can benefit from individualized support,” Shankar said. “The program will not only promote a sense of community and belonging to autistic students, but also establish and strengthen academic and social skills that most autistic students lack.” 

Ahluwalia and Shankar were two out of a dozen selected scholars and over 300 applicants.

Author: Brigid Boll, May 9, 2022 

Find additional information on the Donald A. Strauss award or email us at Thaniya Shankar also co-created an R'Course titled: Understanding Social and Behavioral Aspects of Autism Spectrum Disorder that will be taught on Thursdays from 12-12:50pm, is a Student Ambassador for the Health Professions Advising Center, and presented her research on Cute Aggression in Children With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorder at the 2022 Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities Symposium as a Chancellor's Research Fellowship award winner.