It was a symphony of hoots, whistles and cheers as hundreds of excited young voices rang out across the auditorium on Friday morning, confirming that the third edition of the Hindustan Times Scholarship Programme awards ceremony was bigger, better, and louder.
Amid a blaze of feverish celebration, 50 of the brightest students from Class 5 to 9 were honoured for winning scholarships of Rs. 50,000 each, after a gruelling two-tier selection process.
The winners were selected from among 57,000 applicants — up from 42,547 last year.
Maharashtra governor K Sankaranarayanan was the chief guest at the function, held at the Shanmukhananda auditorium.
The awards were presented by actress Kajol and boxer Vijender Singh after a lively panel discussion and interactive session moderated by Soumya Bhattacharya, editor, Hindustan Times Mumbai.
“This was a superb experience and a great opportunity,” said Siddhant Jajodia, 14, a Class 9 student of Bhaktivedanta Swami Mission School, Juhu, and one of the scholarship winners. “It’s a confidence boost and has encouraged me to participate in more activities.”
Many were surprised to know they had won. “When my mom called me with the news, I was so stunned that she asked me if I was still on the line, because I didn’t say a word,” said Abhinaya Rao, 14, a Class 9 student of Hiranandani Foundation School, Thane.
The 2013 edition of the scholarship programme, one of several initiatives by HT in the field of education, saw participation from 280 schools.
The event was a mixture of serious reflection and unbridled fun, as students poured on to the stage for photo-ops and parents nudged each other to capture their child’s best angles.
“It is a celebration of talent, originality and intelligence of these children, it’s a celebration of the city’s future,” said Bhattacharya.
“I look forward to this celebration because being here today is a privilege.” He concluded, “Remember how special all of you are and whatever you do, don’t do one thing — never, ever stop believing in yourself.”
Several schools had cancelled classes for the day so students could attend the ceremony. “We wanted all Class 5 students to come and cheer for their winning classmate,” said Seema Das, an English teacher at Maneckji Cooper Education Trust School, Juhu.
“The awards have become very important for our students, and they wait for it every year,” said Sandhya Balakrishnan, principal, Bai Avabai Framji Petit Girls’ High School, Bandra, which had 300 applicants.
Winners relished every hoot and foot stomp. “It was very exciting to get the award, especially with my classmates cheering me on,” said Muditt Khurana, 10, a Class 5 student of St Gregorios High School, Chembur.
Sitting in one of the front rows were actor Juhi Chawla and Jai Mehta, beaming parents who were cheering their daughter Jahnavi, a Class 6 student and a scholarship winner. “It was all her doing and hard work, I am very proud,” said Chawla.
For teachers and parents, it was a proud moment to see their children receive the scholarship. “We will invest the money in my daughter’s education,” said Shobhana Ganesh, whose daughter Ananya from Lakshdham High School, Goregaon, won the award.