Their spirits buoyed by loud cheers from classmates, parents and teachers, some of the city’s brightest young minds walked on stage to receive their awards at the fifth edition of the Hindustan Times Scholarship Programme on Friday.
A packed auditorium at New Cuffe Parade Arts and Culture Centre, Wadala, celebrated the awards that seek to recognise the brightest talent Mumbai has to offer. Fifty students, ten each from Classes 5 to 9, were honoured with scholarships of Rs 50,000 each.
The awards were presented by actors Huma Qureshi and Imran Khan after a lively panel discussion and a question and answer session with students, moderated by Soumya Bhattacharya, editor, Hindustan Times, Mumbai.
The winners had to go through a gruelling selection process, which included an essay on what is mankind’s greatest invention. Then 150 shortlisted students were interviewed by senior editors at Hindustan Times, before 50 were chosen for the scholarships.
“During the interviews, I was struck by how many of you [children] want to make the world a better place,” said Bhattacharya in his opening address. “You can make a difference if you badly want to.”
Abhinandan Lodha, deputy managing director, Lodha Group, said, “In all of you [children] lies the future, there is potential and desire to excel. [Childhood] is the first step of a journey of a thousand miles.”
The fifth edition of the scholarship programme saw 77,389 applicants — up from 58,000 last year. The number of schools participating increased from 250 to 300.
“It felt great to receive the award, especially with my friends cheering for me,” said Smruti Tripathy, a Class 7 student from Ryan International School, Kharghar, who got a standing ovation from her classmates.
Overjoyed parents, grandparents and even usually stern-faced principals posed for ‘selfies’ with the children. “My entire family came to cheer for me,” said Saksham Sood, a Class 5 student, Cathedral and John Connon School, Fort. “I will use the prize money for pursuing my education.”
Some students were surprised to find out they had won. “I was playing the drums when my mother told me I had won the scholarship. I wasn’t expecting it, having already applied three times in the past,” said Gayatri Meswani, a Class 8 student of Dhirubhai Ambani International School, Bandra. “I plan to use the money to help underprivileged children get access to an education in western arts.”
Like Gayatri, a few other students, too, plan to use a part of their winnings to make a difference in society.
“I want to use it to build a library in Odisha. I am already sponsoring the education of a girl there,” said Nerika Mishra, a Class 5 student from Gokuldham High School, Goregaon.