Newsletter: August - 2012

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Dear NSF Families,

Time is passing by faster than ever, and the NSF finals will take place in a little more than a week! This is a great time to like our Facebook page in order to get more information about our contests and show your support! Students from all over the country will be competing in these contests in order to test their knowledge. Winners or not, all students come out of the experience having learned valuable life lessons. The competition is in Michigan, Ann Harbor, and we wish all participants best of luck. If that's not enough to get you excited, summer is coming to a close and it's time for all students to go back to school. Break is over and it's time for a fresh start! We encourage all of you to start off your new school year the right way, and make it a new year that you’ll always be proud of.
Shrinidhi Thirumalai
NSF Newsletter Editorial Team Member
Summer will be out faster than you know it, and school is just around the corner. It’s time to pull yourself back together and start your new year the best way you can. We have a couple tips to help you get started.

Tip One: Get Organized !
Organization is the most important factor in starting off your school year the right way. Don't repeat the same previously failed methods. Find exactly what organizational technique works for you. Will you practically be able to hole-punch all your papers to put in a binder, or will you be better off with a couple of folders? Decide what will work for you, and stick with it!
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Tip Two: Shift your habits !
Most of us fall victim to the slacker disease during the summer, going to bed late in the night and sleeping in during the morning. However, school doesn’t allow us to sleep in late, and our entire sleeping schedule must change. Remember that your sleep time should shift earlier, not become shorter. Slowly ease yourself into this schedule, and go to sleep 20 minutes earlier each day, until you're finally ready for school1

Tip Three: Give your mind a pep talk !
Your mind is very important in the back to school process. Promise yourself you will put your best effort into this coming school year. Think of this as if you're about to begin a race. Don't allow any room for doubt, and get ready to push on! Those are all the tips we have for you. Always remember to balance your fun with your goals, and have a great summer!
Shrinidhi Thirumalai
NSF Newsletter Editorial Team Member
LA Chapter Coordinator Prasad Pedireddi receives presidential recognition for his volunteer work at North South Foundation.
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The immeasurable amount of time and energy that volunteers from around the country devote to North South Foundation is crucial to its success. In fact, the extent to which NSF volunteer service exhibits goodwill and benevolence of an individual has been lauded on a national level. It is with great pride that we share the news of the presidential recognition received by the Los Angeles, California regional contest coordinator Prasad Pedireddi for the volunteer work he has done for North South Foundation.
Mr. Pedireddi received the President's Volunteer Service Award, presented by the Corporation for National and Community Service "in recognition and appreciation of his commitment to making a difference through volunteer service". In his congratulatory letter to Mr.Pedireddi, President Obama recognizes that "there is nothing so satisfying as giving our all to a difficult task". Indeed any of us who volunteer for North South Foundation realize that there is an immense satisfaction in making a difference by doing so. After all, as Gandhi said, "The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others."
We would like to congratulate Mr. Pedireddi on his presidential recognition, and add that every NSF volunteer is deserving of the same praises. We greatly appreciate every effort made by North South Foundation volunteers to carry out its goals of helping impoverished students in India.
On behalf of the entire NSF Newsletter team, we take this opportunity to thank all NSF volunteers from the bottom of our hearts as one among us has been formally acclaimed.
Ramya Auroprem
NSF Newsletter Editorial Team Member

Dr. Venugopal Kesavulu, an outstanding and generous NSF donor for nearly 20 years passed away on July 20, 2012. He leaves behind his wife of 44 years - Shantha Kesavulu, MD and his daughter Rani Kesavulu, MD. Dr.Kesavulu was born August 10, 1923 in Bangalore, India. In his youth he was a Gandhian taking a year out of college to work as a Freedom Fighter for Indian Independence. He received his PhD in Physical Chemistry from New York University in 1961 and did postdoctoral work at the Johns Hopkins University. He was an expert in catalysts and held many research and teaching positions including the National Regional Research Lab, Chemistry in India, Sigmor Oil, and Oakland University. He will forever be remembered for his vast charitable work primarily in helping socially and financially disadvantaged youth gain a higher level of education and training. He established over 15 scholarships in his native India with the belief that an education was the way to betterment. In keeping with his convictions, the family asks that any memorial gifts be made to the North South Foundation, 2 Marissa Court, Burr Ridge, IL 60527, TIN: 36-3659998.
NSF Newsletter Team
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This month, NSF got the opportunity to interview Nipun Mehta, who is not only a successful computer scientist, but a man who believes in human kindness and puts great efforts into helping others. As a result, he was the recipient of the 2004 NSF role model award. Nipun is the founder of a non-profit organization called ServiceSpace, and just recently gave a moving speech about service at the University of Pennsylvania. After hearing of his speech, NSF was once again reminded of Nipun, and reached out to him. Please read below an interview of Nipun Mehta by Shrinidhi Thirumalai (Member, NSF News Letter Editorial Team)

Shrinidhi: Hi Mr. Mehta! It's great to meet you. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Nipun: Hi. I graduated from UC Berkeley in Computer Science, but I also did Philosophy. I grew up with the technology of the Silicon Valley, but my heart longed to be with the ancient values of the Himalayas. My experiment was to combine the two. In April 1999, four of us helped a homeless shelter build a website; in that context of the dot-com greed, giving with "no strings attached" seemed like radical idea.
Much to our surprise, dozens of people joined in and it became ServiceSpace (formerly CharityFocus). Being technically savvy, we organized efficiently so we didn't have much overhead. So we stayed volunteer run, decided not to fundraise, and worked without any expectations or agendas. Today, it has mushroomed into 400,000 members, with a vast online presence -- but we still stick to those three principles.

Shrinidhi: How did you become connected to NSF?
Nipun: I received the "Role Model Award" in 2004 and gave a speech at the gathering. Here's a quote from that speech that summarizes its theme: "Think of impossible as one circle. Think of love and service as another circle. Each one by themselves is incomplete. Put them side by side and you have infinity -- a cycle of virtue that knows no bounds. You see, history has been made by people who can do the impossible. But humanity has progressed only by those who are in touch with the infinite. Hitlers of the world have made to our history books, but it takes Gandhis of the world to transform lives."

Shrinidhi: Tell us about what ServiceSpace does.
Nipun:ServiceSpace works at the intersection of technology, volunteerism, and the gift-economy, by incubating projects ranging from online DailyGood and KarmaTube to offline Smile Cards and an art magazine to a rickshaw in India and Karma Kitchens across the US. At its core, all these projects support a shift from consumption to contribution, transaction to trust, isolation to community and scarcity to abundance. We don't have a word that captures this spirit of service, so we made up a new word: Giftivism -- the practice of radically generous acts that change the world.

Shrinidhi: What inspired you to start ServiceSpace?
Nipun: I wanted to become a better human being, to align my hands, head and heart at a deeper level. So I started practicing small acts of service. In my teen years, from the savings of my first job, I started an informal "Donation Club"; bunch of us would pool small amounts of money and give it out to three different nonprofit organizations every month. Then, I realized that I want to give more than money. So I started giving time. Among other things, I signed up as a hospice volunteer. While my peers were planning illustrious futures, I was with people on their death-beds. It was a profound contrast. As I served more, I felt like giving even more than my time -- I wanted to give my whole self. While moonlighting service projects, I looked at my bloated to-do list and realized that my top priority items didn’t include work that I was getting paid for. So I followed my heart, quit my job, and I have been a full-time volunteer since then.

Shrinidhi: What is your philosophy on being a role model?
Nipun: We're all role models in every moment, but the important question is around what values we embody. The more we can "be the change we wish to see in the world," the stronger our capacity to serve others.

Shrinidhi: We heard about your recent commencement speech at UPenn. Could you tell us a little about that?
Nipun: Many years ago, a very young kid heard me give a talk on service. It really impacted him, and his future life decisions, so he stayed in touch. When he started studying at UPenn, he would often seek the counsel of the chaplain there -- Charles Howard -- and always dreamed of bringing us together for a conversation. It happened in his fourth year and right after our meeting, Professor Howard asked if I would come to speak. I agreed, not realizing that it would be at the commencement.So, it all feels kind of serendipitous. I would've never expected that the transcript would spread virally to millions but I feel grateful that these values are striking a chord with the younger generation.

Shrinidhi: Can you explain your acronym for WALK?
Nipun: Six months into our marriage, my wife and I dropped our plans, went to the Gandhi Ashram in Gujarat and decided to walk South on a pilgrimage of sorts. We had no plans and no end date. We would serve wherever an opportunity showed up from pushing stalled cars on the highways to helping old farmers carry loads to cleaning community places to sharing stories of everyday heroes. We ate whatever food was offered, and slept wherever place was provided. Sometimes things didn't work, and that gave us an opportunity to grow in renunciation; sometimes things worked out miraculously, and that gave us a chance to cultivate gratitude.
When we returned from our walking pilgrimage, my Uncle casually asked me what we had learned. I made up an acronym that summarized our lesson: WALK -- Witness, Accept, Love, and Know Thyself.

Shrinidhi: Thanks for your time. Are there any last suggestions you would like to share with our readers?
Nipun: I'd say practice small act of kindness. Before you perform any act of kindness you have to have an intent and a capacity to deal with the subsequent thoughts is what manifests spiritual insight. Regardless of what happens at the external level of impact, that inner transformation and insight is ours to keep. This is why sages say that it doesn't matter if you give a million dollars or a penny - what matters is *how* you are giving it. And when you approach it in that way, generosity is a great catalyst for spiritual growth.

We thank Nipun for his time, and wish him the best for his future. Hopefully, you enjoyed his interview as much as we did !

Shrinidhi Thirumalai
NSF Newsletter Team Staff Member
Soumya Avva, Cannon School North Carolina, 8th Grade Soumya is a self-taught artist. Her other interests are Golf, Reading, and Gym.
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From Speller to Pronouncer:
Mahati Vavilala
Novi, MI, 10th Grade

"That is incorrect."
It was those dreaded three words that I had been hearing for eight years, always directed towards me or towards my fellow competitors. But, this time, I didn't hear those traitorous words that caused me so much dismay, when I missed words like "gyrocar" or "whistleable."
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No. This time, those three dreaded words came out of my mouth so reluctantly, as if they were being sucked out with a vacuum. Being heartbroken when I missed words, I soon saw the same expressions in six year-olds and seven year-olds, as the bright face of these young, spirited children soon became replaced with looks of disappointment. But, it was in these moments, when I realized the true meaning of being a pronouncer. Sure, the looks of disappointment absolutely tore my heart, but deep within the kids who missed words, I saw a glimmer of hope and confidence. And, I saw a future champion in them. It is these moments that have helped me evolve, not only as a pronouncer, but also as a person. Before, as a speller, in the midst of anxiety and happiness of getting an unknown word, I had never even thought about the emotions of a pronouncer. Now, as I pronounce the words for each child who glimmers with hope and unbridled confidence, as they approach the microphone, I experience the apprehension of the participants and the nail-biting anxiety of parents, as my heart races, just hoping that this kid gets their word right...just one more letter...and I mentally become the speller once again. From my participation in NSF Spelling Bees for eight years, I thought that I would miss being a speller. Although it seems like a huge step from being a participant, being a pronouncer is actually not that different. Sure, now I say the words, instead of spelling them, but it’s basically the same thing...with the same words, different spellers and now, the same emotions. It's just another perspective of the bee, and I'm right back there, just as I have always been for the last nine years.

The Battleground:
Nomith Murari, A young reader

The two forces’ confrontation -
The central acre the prime location
They built their strongholds true and tall
So for one to win the other must fall

The bishops wielded their double-edged swords
The knights jousted to save their lord
The turrets of castles protected damsels in distress
And Behold! The Queen! So powerful, she was a sorceress.

The war raged on, both queens had died
There wasn’t a tactic these teams hadn't tried
There could’ve been a treaty to bring peace to their lands
But instead each ensured every cannon was manned

Showing no signs of fatigue, both armies still fought
To defeat the enemy was their foremost thought
But in the grand scheme, the game was done,
For the Black King had fallen and the White King had won.

All About ME:
Lahari Vavilala, Novi MI, 6th Grade
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Spelling Bees, Spelling Bees
That's all I care about, you see

I have my lucky blue shirt,
And I can spell words like "skirt"

That's just easy.
I’m going to make you queasy.

Enjoy the ride!
It will bump from side to side!

This poem is crazy,
Now you can see, I am not lazy.

I like Spelling Bees, you see,
And this poem is all about ME!

by Arnav Patra, Young Poet from Rochester, NY

What waits out there?

Waves foam,
Leaving more mystery day by day.

Deep depth seems so scary,
Frightening many a child.

Cool and calm, soothing,
Peacefulness in every wave.

So mystical
Salty air sits forlornly there.

Conserve it with pride
Every last effort.

Still it sits,
Simultaneously strange and serene,
Like a dream.

Do you have a story, poem, essay, or some art work to share? Please send an e-mail with the attachments to


Ramya Auroprem, Sukanya Roy, Shrinidhi Thirumalai, Ferdine Silva, Madhav Durbha


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