FCSN’s Very First Scholarship Fund of 2021

written by Shreya Johar with graphics by Aarnav Nagabhirava

From the very beginning, FCSN has strived to create a loving, welcoming, and inclusive community that acts in the best interest of each and every member. New projects and events are constantly being implemented to bring our tight-knit family even closer, but this year marks an especially memorable one. Our board members decided to award a scholarship fund of $5,000 each to three youth volunteers, who have given their all to FCSN and the entire special needs community. Board Member Peter Chen was delegated to lead a committee to  review and award the scholarships. Chen said the scholarships will serve as “a reward for the applicants moving forward to get a better education, and will hopefully contribute to the special needs community in the future.”

The idea of a scholarship fund emerged during a board meeting amidst the discussion of giving back to the community. When the CFO and the president of FCSN suggested setting up a scholarship, the board immediately got to work constructing the selection criteria and process. The board decided that  the applicants’ major must be closely related to special needs or general healthcare, including anything from special education to psychology and nursing. Additionally, the applicants must  submit an official transcript as proof of a GPA of 3.5 or higher, an essay that elaborates on why they have applied for the scholarship, and two letters of recommendation. One of the letters must be from an FCSN supervisor as confirmation for their contribution to the organization, while the other can be from a high school counselor or college advisor. Because the idea of the fund is to give back to youth volunteers, candidates’ volunteer experience will also be a factor; this is not limited to volunteering at FCSN, but will instead be a holistic view of their community involvement. This entire process begins in April with a deadline of June 15, and applicants will find out if they won by the end of the month. Despite the set requirements and criterias involved in the process, FCSN has taken a multidisciplinary approach in deciding on the winners.

Out of the 10 applicants, three were chosen for the scholarship. ​​Ashika Kuchhangi, Charis Ling, and Rachel Huynh are prospective students with promising futures, who have certainly proven their dedication and commitment to FCSN; all three have further aspirations for their involvement in the special needs community.

Ashika Kuchhangi is sophomore at Vanderbilt University, majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Spanish, and aspires to attend medical school after graduating. While searching for a way to make better use of her time during the pandemic, Ashika stumbled upon FCSN and went on to co-direct the novel virtual social group, tutor students, and start the social storytime sessions to promote upstanding behavior. When she heard about the scholarship, she knew it would help her family support her financially during college. 

Ashika Kucchangi, one of the scholarship award winners of 2021

The second winner, Charis Ling, also attends Vanderbilt University, but as a senior majoring in Human and Organizational Development and minoring in Special Education. She started volunteering at FCSN almost seven years ago and still keeps in touch with the first seven year old boy she was paired with all those years ago. Because she was also an intern for FCSN, the mailing list informed her of the scholarship. As her senior year of college rolled around, she knew it was the perfect opportunity at the perfect time. 

Charis Ling, one of the scholarship award winners of 2021

The third and final winner, Rachel Huynh, is currently a junior at Brown University as well as an army ROTC cadet. She hopes to create a curriculum focused on food, health, and society, following her similar aspirations at FCSN where she started a virtual nutrition and fitness class for kids with special needs. Rachel has always felt that children with special needs have a voice for themselves concerning food and health, but because of more glaring priorities, the issue is not brought up enough. This deep connection to FCSN’s mission led her to apply for the scholarship in hopes to become a pediatrician specializing in mental disorders, as well as teach kids with special needs about lifestyle habits.

Rachel Huynh holds up her scholarship fund check from FCSN

All three winners believe that the scholarship application process and criteria was straightforward and unbiased. Encouraged by FCSN’s faith in them, they feel inspired and motivated to pursue their passions. With this positive feedback and the beautiful environment FCSN has fostered among members, volunteers, and students, we hope to provide many more scholarship funds for aspiring youth in the future. 

Finally, here is one of the scholarship winners, Rachel Huynh, who describes how it feels to volunteer at FCSN: “We are creating a very meaningful experience for them, but also for us”.

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