Newsletter: February - 2013

Dear NSF families,

We would like to wish you all a happy and prosperous 2013!

To recognize the beginning of the 2013 NSF competition season, I would like to say that I have always admired NSF’s motto, "encouraging excellence in education". Not only does NSF encourage education in the United States by giving young people the opportunity to compete in a variety of contests, but its number one priority has always been to fund the education of India's most meritorious students in need. In this way, NSF helps students in India while promoting excellence amongst students in America, which has always been my favorite aspect of the foundation.

As the US struggles to stay ahead in the global race to raise tomorrow's leaders, NSF continues to propagate ideals of excellent education. Recently, the Wall Street Journal published an article on the "severe shortcomings in the nation’s education". NSF strives to combat these shortcomings with their contests. We have two objectives: to ensure education in America, and to combat poverty in India.

As part of an ongoing series of inspiring stories from NSF Youth Ambassadors, this newsletter showcases essays by Sejal Kabre and Ramamurthy Siripuram.

With NSF's 2013 regionals season quickly approaching, this edition of the newsletter also contains tips for regional contests.

Ramya Auroprem
NSF Newsletter Editorial Team Member
Dear NSF contestants,
It’s time to crack open those books and start studying! During the months of March and April, NSF competitions across the country will start to take place. You can find specific dates and register for the contests nearest your hometown by visiting the North South Foundation website at Preparing for these competitions might seem daunting, but we have some tips to help you along the way.

Tip One: Don’t study longer, study smarter!
It's important not only to study, but to study efficiently. To accomplish this, we encourage you to use organizational tools, set timers for different tasks, and focus completely on your work. Try to exclude any distractions, especially your computer. We also encourage you to find a calm and peaceful environment to study in. Find a special place, whether a library or a private corner of your room. Finally, make sure you understand what methods of learning work best for you. Are you a visual, aural, social, or physical learner? Knowing your learning style and having a designated environment to work in will help to optimize your study habits.
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Tip Two: Use the right resources and techniques
Although any studying will increase your chances of future success, using the right resources and methods makes it even easier to do well - in an NSF contest or otherwise.
Below, we've compiled a list of some of the most helpful resources for various competitions. For further information, please click on any of the linked items or visit our website's landing page for regionals.
  • Spelling: After familiarizing yourself with NSF's word list, try to learn the spellings and meanings of common root words, prefixes, and suffixes. and Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day programs send new words to your email or phone daily, and the Scripps National Spelling Bee’s website also features several useful materials.
  • Vocabulary: In addition to NSF’s official vocabulary list, we recommend Barron's SAT I book and "Word Power Made Easy" by Norman Lewis. Some websites, such as, also utilize a game-like approach.
  • Math: Singapore Math books and problems from the Math Olympiad and California Math League are most helpful for the lower levels of competition. Level 3 Math contestants should look into MathCounts problems and the Art of Problem Solving books.
  • Science: To gain an in-depth understanding of various topics, make good use of online resources like Khan Academy ( We suggest the Glencoe Science series for senior-level participants. Junior- and intermediate-level contestants should consider the Science: A Closer Look series. Websites such as Enchanted Learning and BrainPOP are also convenient places to find facts.
  • Geography: The questions used in the National Geographic Bee are very similar to those of the United States geography portion of our contests. More about India's geography can be found on this website.
Tip Three: Get used to the competition with mock bees and tests
After you've learned most of what you need to know, conduct a mock bee or a practice test at home. The point of this is to apply your knowledge in the same way you would at an actual competition. For example,math bee contestants can take timed practice tests, and spelling bee participants can ask their parents to verbally quiz them on challenging words. This makes it much easier to compete under pressure or within acertain time limit.

Tip Four: Make a list of your errors
After conducting a practice bee or test,make a list of your errors and mistakes. Look for general patterns or trends in places where you went wrong, and review this list before your next mock test. This is a helpful way to prevent you from making the same mistakes over and over again.

Tip Five: Practice makes perfect!
As often as this phrase is heard, it can never be stressed enough. Delegate a particular time slot each day to practice and review material for your contests. Procrastinating never helps. Studying an hour a day for four days will always be better than studying for four hours on one day. Manage your time wisely, and try to stick to your plans.

Tip Six: Stay motivated
It is easy to lose motivation and start to slip up in your practice schedule, whether it means losing efficiency, becoming distracted, or starting to procrastinate. Aim for a personal target and think of a reward to go with it. If you accomplish your goal, then give yourself a treat!

Good luck with studying. It may seem tedious at times, but remember that every one of you has the potential to reach your dreams.

Shrinidhi Thirumalai
NSF Newsletter Editorial Team Member
NSF has organized another successful year of its APNA India Ambassadors program, which providesan excellent opportunity for high school students from the US to volunteer in India. Some of our volunteers have shared their experiences below. The next issue of NSF’s newsletter will contain more of these inspirational stories.
For additional details about NSF’s APNA program, please visit

APNA – Sejal Kabre

This summer, before visiting India, I was offered an opportunity by Mr. Venkat Gade of NSF. He told me that I could conduct a Spelling Bee workshop in India. I said yes immediately! This would be so much fun, I thought to myself.
And I was so right! Teaching the class was the experience of a lifetime! It felt refreshing being the teacher instead of the student. I conducted a spelling bee workshop in R.R. Vidyalaya, Jalgaon. There were 103 kids in this class.This experience was good not only for the kids that I was lucky to teach,but for me as well. I learnt to be organized, patient, a leader and a teacher -- in otherwords, a mentor. This is good for me, because as I go into 8th grade and highschool, all these skills are going to be a must! While teaching the class, I learned how hard being a teacher is. You need to be able to handle a crowd, keep everyone involved, but without spending too much time on one topic. You need to be able to get things done, but make them fun and keep things interesting at the same time, so that the kids don’t lose interest.
Before the class started, I was a little nervous, but after just one day, I felt like I had a handle on things. The kids treated my mother and I with respect, so it made my job a bit easier. The class of 7th graders was inquisitive; involved and so eager to learn. I was impressed with the response from class once I explained the rules to them. They came up with so many ideas that at some point I had to say, no more examples! I could tell that they were enjoying the class and learning at the same time. Their English teacher was in the classroom with us to help the students understand certain things in an Indian accent or explain them in ways more related to their curriculum.
Over a period of 5 days, I taught this class roots, such as "amphi" and "biblio". I taught them prefixes, such as "ante-" vs. "anti-". I also taught them suffixes, such as "-phobia", "-able and -ible". I explained how to form plurals with words ending in f, y, o, and other irregular words. Lastly, I went over the parts of speech, nouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs. On the fourth day we conducted a mock spelling bee to give them an idea of the next day’s final spelling bee.On the fifth day of the class, we conducted the spelling bee. We thanked the class for being such good class and being so attentive and enthusiastic to learn. We told the class that we would come back a week later and have a small ceremony to acknowledge the top 3 winners. A week later, after checking everyone's papers, we went back to the school and invited the principal, vice principal, English teacher Mr. S.R. Mahajan sir, who helped us in the classroom, and my grandmother, who is a retired teacher from this school. In the ceremony we recognized the top 3 winners. Before we distributed certificates, three kids from the class gave speeches, expressing their thoughts, how delighted they were that we conducted the workshop and how they learnt something new that would help them when they heard these words in the future.
How they appreciated what we did for them! It touched my heart to hear their heartfelt speeches. I spoke and expressed my heartfelt gratitude for allowing me to conduct this workshop in their school. They gave us one of their big halls to conduct the class, a loudspeaker, and a microphone to speak, so I did not have to shout and everyone could hear us properly.
During my five-day workshop, many teachers from school came to observe our class. All these teachers said on the last day how lucky this class was to be taught the rules of spelling bees. They were saying that I should have done it for the entire school. In the end, I felt very proud that what I had done helped these kids. I decided, if I could, I would want to do this again. Whenever I go back to India, I will do this workshop again without a doubt - not because it will benefit me, but because it gave me a feeling of content, and I enjoyed sharing my knowledge with other students. I thank NSF and Mr. Venkat Gade for giving me this great opportunity.
Sejal Kabre
My Youth Ambassador Experience – Ramamurthy Siripuram

I’m Ramamurthy Siripuram, a senior at Wilton High School in Wilton, Connecticut. This past summer, through the APNA Student Ambassador Program I volunteered to teach two one-hour vocabulary workshops to eighty 6th and eighty 7th graders at the Jawaharlal Navodaya Vidyalaya in a town called Arnakonda, Karimnagar, in the state of Andhrapradesh.
Most 6th to 7th graders who attend the school are very poor and have experienced school only in a strictly Telugu medium and have just a rudimentary grasp of the English language. I knew that because of this they would be weakest in English vocabulary. When I first stood up in front of these eager young students, I was very anxious because I knew they looked up to me. But I soon relaxed when I saw how intently they listened and responded to my questions and games about prefixes and roots. Since they were used to rote learning, my interactive style was more appealing and made them eager to learn. The teachers at the school were very cooperative and encouraged my teaching style. They also found it more effective than the lecturing the students were used to.
I was surprised by the amount of respect I was given. Not only the students but even some of the staff called me "sir". I also was given tea to drink during breaks. It really showed me how much respect is given to education and people who educate.
After a week of teaching vocabulary I had the kids take a vocabulary test. They did very well, considering how quickly the classes went and how little time they had to study. I gave the top four winners new dictionaries. All in all I would say my experience was a successful one. The children learned a lot of new vocabulary, and the teachers were exposed to a different more engaging style of teaching. It was a very fulfilling experience for me because I got a chance to help those students through their never-ending journey of learning.

Ramamurthy Siripuram
The 2012-2013 scholarship season is well under way and all chapters are receiving applications. We have several new volunteers working on new chapters with the help of their parents in India. We have approved about 700 scholarships so far and we hope to reach our goal of helping 1500 first-year students as soon as all chapters report in.

As always, the scholarship team is looking to improve and increase scholarships and requests for ideas from our NSF newsletter readers.

NSF Scholarships Team

Sadhana Durbha is an 8th grader from Swanee, GA.Her artwork below won first place in a nationwide art contest organized by "Not in Our School", a project of The Working Group, a non-profit founded in 1985. Sadhana is a talented artist and a gifted singer. Her artwork won several prizes in various regional and nationwide contests. She has also won several academic contests and has been a regular at NSF finals over the last seven years.

Sadhana Durbha
NSF Youth in the News

Nilai Sarda of Marietta,GA, a freshman in high school, won 3rd Place in the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament. His 3rd place finish came with a prize money of $26,400! Nilai was a regular at NSF finals over the years and went on to win in many events. He was also a runner-up in the 2011 National Geographic Bee. The Teen Tournament lasted for 2 weeks, airing from January 30 to February 12, 2013.
We are proud to announce that several NSF contestants, including Debnil Sur, Nikhil Buduma, Raja Selvakumar, and Vaibhav Vavilala, have been named semifinalists in the 2013 Intel Science Talent Search. The Intel Science Talent Search (Intel STS) is the nation's most prestigious pre-college science competition. STS alumni have made extraordinary contributions to science and hold more than 100 of the world's most coveted science and math honors, including the Nobel Prize and National Medal of Science. The Intel STS recognizes 300 students as semifinalists each year to compete for $1.25 million in awards. From those select few, 40 finalists are invited to Washington D.C. in March to have their work judged, display their projects to the public, meet with notable scientists, and compete for a top award of $100,000. To view the full list of semifinalists, please visit
Yet another accomplishment by several of our NSF participants, including Debnil Sur, Kavya Shivashankar, Kshithij Srinath, Mouctika Paluri, and Ramya Auroprem, is the honor of being nominated for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program by the U.S. Department of Education. The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964, by executive order of the President, to recognize and honor some of our nation's most distinguished graduating high school seniors. In 1979, the program was extended to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, creative and performing arts. Each year, up to 141 students are named Presidential Scholars. The award is one of the nation's highest honors for high school students.

For more information about PSP eligibility, please visit
For a complete list of 2013 PSP candidates, visit

Congratulations to all of these outstanding NSF students! We wish you the best of luck.
(We sincerely apologize if any NSF contestant names are not mentioned above.)
Do you have a story, poem, essay, or some artwork to share? Send your submissions to! In addition to your entry, please include a scanned photograph of yourself and the name of your school, your hometown, grade level, and hobbies


Ramya Auroprem, Sukanya Roy, Shrinidhi Thirumalai, Ferdine Silva, Vignesh Kumar, and Madhav Durbha


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