The Westchester County Youth Bureau and Youth Board honored six youth who have demonstrated leadership and resilience in the face of adversity during the most unprecedented times. Those nominated by members of the community were selected for their volunteer service performed locally and internationally benefitting senior citizens, students, girls and women during the pandemic.

County Executive George Latimer said: “It is the season of giving, and the awardees have demonstrated their selflessness and prioritization of helping those in need. The past two years have been daunting, yet, these youth were busy advancing their studies while volunteering in and outside of their communities to make the world a better place by addressing a variety of key issues such as food insecurity, the digital divide, the treatment of girls and women, youth voice and more.”

The awardees were:

Nishta Nandkumar (Scarsdale)
Nishta's volunteered with Feeding Westchester to address food insecurity. She secured donations from Wegmans, Whole Foods, discounted goods from ShopRite, and $2500 from Mastercard, donated in her name, to Feeding Westchester, providing about 7,500 meals. In February 2021, Nishta donated 1,505 pounds of food; in 2020, she donated 1,350 pounds.

Harshita Shet (Greenburgh)
Harshita initiated the campaign called "Feminine Dignity" in early 2018, with a goal of collecting feminine hygiene products for women and girls in need and to spread awareness. Harshita designed and distributed flyers, placed collection bins at various locations throughout Westchester County, and has secured and donated 15,000 feminine hygiene products to My Sisters' Place, The Children's Village, a shelter housing the girls rescued from human trafficking, and Hearts and Homes for Refugees.

Vivian Navarrette (Yonkers)
Vivian volunteers at the YPIE Tech Squad program and assists senior citizens in Yonkers remotely with their technology needs. Vivian has supported seniors with setting up email accounts, Zoom accounts, and even assisting them with setting up cell phones so that they could remain connected to loved ones during the pandemic.

Ms. Akira Manning (Mount Vernon)
Ms. Manning has been a Peer Educator for the Mount Vernon Youth Bureau CAPP program where she creates positive media messages in an effort to continuously encourage her peers during the challenging months of the pandemic. Some of the topics she focused on were depression and suicide, bullying, covid-19 safety precaution tips, as well as things to do to get through quarantine.

Anika Puri (Chappaqua)
Anika founded MozAlrt with the goal of inspiring a new generation of young women and underrepresented minorities to learn about AI (Artificial Intelligence) and its creative, societal, and ethical implications. She volunteers her time at the Riverfront Library in Yonkers to teach a series of MozAlrt workshops.   

Jah'kell Hancock (Mount Vernon)
Jah'kell is the President of the Boys & Girls Club of Mount Vernon’s Keystone Club that is youth led and focused on advocacy and fundraising. He has used his voice to champion youth needs.

Watch the video

County Youth Bureau Executive Director Dr. DaMia Harris Madden said: “There are a mix of feelings that flood my body when I meet impressive youth such as those who were honored this year. These emerging leaders volunteered their time to research and solve complex issues, particularly those brought on by the pandemic. I look forward to see what more they will have to offer in the years to come while anticipating those whom they have inspired to bring forth their ideas for civic responsibility.”

Youth Board President Jan Fisher said: “It was the Board’s privilege to acknowledge the six youth that were selected for this year’s Youth Services Awards. Their brilliance and hearts are unmatched. We are proud of their contributions to this great county and we appreciate the Westchester County Youth Bureau for their efforts in making this event possible.”

Navarrette added: “When I saw there was an opportunity to help senior citizens I jumped in to help because I really wanted to make a difference and appreciate their patience with me because in turn that gave me more confidence to help people.”

Nandakumar said: “My years of service have opened my eyes to how much still needs to be done to get rid of the disparities in our community, country and world, fueling the fire within me to continue my service efforts and stay true to my value of equality of opportunity for all.”

Shet stated: “Globally over 1.2 billion women lack access to feminine hygiene products…I have been able to donate feminine hygiene products to shelters around Westchester and ultimately hope to complete the final goal to make this global issue of lack of feminine hygiene products known to the world.” 

Hancock added: “Thank you to the Westchester County Youth Bureau and Youth Board along with the team at the Boys and Girls Club of Mount Vernon. Youth have a voice and we can make a difference. We need to find out what we are passionate about and stand up and speak out.”

Manning added: “Children are born with unconditional love and so when you are given the opportunity to teach no matter how bad the lessons you learned may have been, nurture the love already instilled in your own and your peers hearts and minds.” 

Puri said: “The lack of diversity in people that create Artificial Intelligence and in the data they use to train it has created huge shortcomings in this technology; women and people of color need to be leaders at the forefront of artificial intelligence to ensure it creates an equitable future.” 

The 2021 Youth Service Awards video will be available on Westchester County Youth Bureau.