Exceptional students from all over Tamil Nadu, South India including some from the Pamela Martinez – Pathway Matriculation School and Orphanage, were recently honored in a glittering ceremony reflecting their accomplishments, held in the Chennai GRT Grand Hotel. These students stood out because they, despite the disadvantages of poverty and being the first in their families to attend school, achieved top marks in their respective schools. The idea of recognizing such students was conceived at Pathway two years ago. The aim of Pathway has always been to uncover the potential of deserving children who are generally neglected or marginalized by society. In response to this problem, a panel of experts and highly successful professionals from various fields was assembled to select outstanding students for mentorships and awards. Various public, government, corporate, and orphanage schools were studied, and the performance, character, and potential of individual students were compared.
The award ceremony was conducted in June at the Southern Crown hall in the GRT Grand Hotel and was jam-packed with excited invitees. Children, parents, and principals from rural schools were present, with seats reserved for the press and electronic media. Students beamed and bounced with anticipation, in dress particularly tailored for the occasion, with boys wearing white shirts and black pants and girls decked out in beautiful “Salvar Khameez” in matching colors. The thirty-seven awardees were all present to receive their honors. Some parents had traveled from remote rural areas and profusely thanked Pathway for such an occasion and opportunity for their children. The principals of village schools were likewise thrilled with the honors bestowed upon their wards. Included in the audience were many distinguished guests including top civil servants, representatives from various NGOs and industries, and visitors from the BYU, Provo, Utah Marriott School of Management – Scott Christensen, Benjamin Ehlert, and Nathan Sorensen. Awards for excellence were given in three categories, with the prizes consisting of a cash prize, certificate, and gift.
Among the most coveted awards was the Pathway Judge William Sheffield Excellence Award, which was conferred on Kovardhan, a 15-year-old boy from a far-distant village, who is the son of poor illiterate parents whose family income is about $2 per day. The family lives in a thatched hut of palm and coconut leaves, with no electricity in the home. Kovardhan walks 36 kilometers each day to attend school and studies by candlelight. Often he goes days without food and joins his father to work in the fields after school. Despite these difficulties, Kovardhan received first rank in his school and second in the district, with 95-plus percent scores in all subjects, including 100% in mathematics. Pathway saluted this great achiever, and Kovardhan was thrilled to receive his award.
The elite Pathway ADSN Prasad Excellence Award was bestowed on Meenakshi, a young lady of 18 who was educated at the Pamela Martinez Matriculation School through tenth grade, graduating with over 95% in many subjects. As she continued her studies, Meenakshi also looked after her ailing step-mother, her only known relative, who died just after Meenakshi completed her final exams. Meenakshi was selected for her outstanding performance in school, along with her grit, valor and dedicated service to her step-mother. Many eyes were moist and there was thunderous applause as Pathway saluted this great achiever.
The Pathway Excellent Awards were conferred on students by the Honorable Minister for Shipping, Shri G K Vasan. Ms Jennifer McIntyre, Consul General of the United States of American also recognized and congratulated the children for their performance. Ms Anuradha Parakkat, Director of Student Affairs, SRM University, expressed her happiness about the children’s achievements and her university’s willingness to help deserving children pursue higher education.
ADSN Prasad, Founder/Director of Pathway, briefly described the work done for the disabled in the past 37 years and also outlined the contributions made by the Pamela Martinez School and Agro Farm over the last 12 years. Conveying his thanks to Judge William Sheffield, he explained that nearly 30,000 lives have been touched by Pathway over the years.
Judge William Sheffield, Chairman of Pathway, complimented the children for the superlative performance and expressed delight at having mentors to work closely with all the awardees, stating that he felt this was one of the best projects every undertaken by Pathway.
Ms Sudha Subramaniam, Vice President and Director of Special Projects, thanked the GRT Grand for their partnership. Mrs Chandra Prasad, Trustee and Technical Director, also echoed her appreciation. The film, “A Class Apart,” created for this occasion, was also viewed. This event was well covered by both local and India news as well as other electronic media.