A talented Indian student from Ranchi in Jharkhand, eastern India, has been named a top 10 finalist for the Chegg.org Global Student Prize 2021, a new $100,000 award to be given to one exceptional student who has made a real impact on learning and society.
Seema Kumari, an 18-year-old student who has started studying at Harvard University, was selected from over 3,500 nominations and applications from 94 countries around the world. She overcame the child marriage norm of her conservative village upbringing and went on to focus on her studies with the help of women’s empowerment organisation Yuwa.
"I am excited to be in the Top 10 for the Chegg.org Global Student and I hope to get more help for Yuwa and help more girls escape child marriage like me and be financially independent," said Seema, on making the final 10.
Seema began playing on a football team run by Yuwa and when it opened an all-girls school in 2015, Seema was able to pay the school fees by using her skills coaching football sessions in her spare time.
At first, she found the new lessons difficult because they were in English, a language no one in her village knew. She stood her ground against societal pressures and as a result has had a hugely positive effect on her community.
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All six of her cousins have followed her lead and joined Yuwa football teams, with five also joining Yuwa School. Seema leads workshops for younger girls on topics including life skills, helping them gain confidence as well as reporting and resisting abusive behaviour in their villages.
In 2019, she became one of 40 selected from across India to complete a full academic year in the US, as part of the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study program, finishing her year with straight A grades. In 2021, Seema began her studies at Harvard University on a full scholarship.
If she wins the Global Student Prize, as well as helping her family, financing her upcoming studies, paying her cousin’s school fees, and travelling during vacation, Seema says she will use the money to launch a small business helping women in her village make and sell rugs – providing them with legal work in a safe .
“Seema and all our finalists represent the courageous and hardworking students all over the world that are fighting for their future,” said Lila Thomas, Head of Chegg.org – the non-profit arm of edtech firm Chegg.
“Despite the challenges of Covid, this generation of students have shown the kind of resilience and creativity that give us all hope as we confront the towering challenges ahead. The Global Student Prize has been launched to shine a light on their stories and listen to their voices. After all, it is their dreams and their talents that will light the path to a better tomorrow,” she said.
Also among the finalists is Indian-origin Dubai born and raised Kehkashan Basu from Toronto, Canada, who founded the Green Hope Foundation at the age of just 12. In just eight years, Green Hope Foundation has grown into a global UN-accredited change-making platform which has directly educated over 225,000 people in 25 countries. If she wins the Global Student Prize, Kehkashan plans to donate the funds to the foundation.
The Varkey Foundation launched the Chegg.org Global Student Prize earlier this year, a sister award to its $1 million Global Teacher Prize, to create a new platform that shines a light on the efforts of extraordinary students everywhere.
“While many stakeholders are busy debating, these students are busy doing. Congratulations to all the finalists of the Global Student Prize. They truly are the changemakers our world needs,” said Dan Rosensweig, CEO & President of Chegg.
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The prize is open to all students who are at least 16 years old and enrolled in an academic institution or training and skills program. Part time students as well as students enrolled in are also eligible for the prize.
The winner will be announced on November 10 via a virtual ceremony taking place at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris, chosen from the top 10 finalists by the Global Student Prize Academy.