Naina wrote, “In my 9th grade year, I noticed
that students at my school were unable to engage in science due to the minimal
educational opportunities present in my rural town in northwestern Arizona. Also, many
students had not yet established a connection with the intricacies of the
natural world outsides of sports such as hunting and fishing. I knew that I
needed to find a way to interest students in the ecological sciences and then
develop an appreciation of the beauty and peace of nature outside of these
destructive practices.”

“I first applied for and won a $500 grant from the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation, which I used to buy plants, supplies, and tools. I assembled a team of high school students and began breaking ground in a deserted area at the edge of my school’s campus. At first, the rocky terrain, insecure water connection, and oven-like climate threatened to stall the garden’s progress. However, I planned a winding canal system to store and supply water for the trees, bushes, and crops growing in the garden, and installed a greenhouse and raised beds for various varieties of plants.” … “We have grown peaches, plums, apples, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, cilantro, spinach, broccoli, onions, corn, and okra to name a few … Any students who have worked in the garden and helped during our planting season can take home and give away the produce they have grown.”   

“When I go to college at the end of this year, I plan to
entrust the Garden to my school for its upkeep. I have established a garden
club which under the supervision of my science teacher will look after it.”

“In my 11th grade, I also pioneered a salad bar
in my school district cafeteria.” “I conducted a survey of all students and
faculty at my high school to determine the impact a new salad bar would have on
our school cafeteria … I sent a memo to the school district administration to
introduce my plan. I then assembled a salad bar needs assessment committee that
included my culinary teacher, faculty members, and student representatives. We
brainstormed ideas for the salad bar’s offerings, determined the new lunch line
procedures, and set the school days the salad bar would be in operation. I
scheduled a meeting with my district’s principal and superintendant where I
presented the survey results, and addressed my plan to move forward with the
salad bar … I also proposed the equipment necessary to store and serve the
salads. After hearing my ideas, the administration quickly approved the project
and allocated funds to purchase a two-door self-serve salad station for the

“Monday, March 16th was the Salad Bar’s Grand
Opening Day. Flyers were sent to students across the school district, and a
school newspaper article detailing the unveiling of this new cafeteria addition
was already in circulation. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic ground all school
operations to a halt. Classroom learning migrated to the cloud, and months
passed without a single student stepping foot on campus. My vision to implement
a salad bar at my school had been paused … (Then) I was elated to hear that I
could begin the salad bar in a new school year, but knew that I would have
to  recalculate its setup. Once the school
year began, I met with the salad bar needs assessment committee and decided to
send an online order form every morning to faculty and students, enabling them
to select the options they would like on the salad bar, and then coordinate
with the culinary department to pre-assemble the individualized salads. As I
worked with other culinary students in the morning, reading orders and
portioning salads while wearing gloves, masks, and keeping a safe distance, I
gained hope in the fact I could make my goals a reality.”

“My school was a tough place to implement a salad-bar
project as most of the students and staff come from ranching and farming
backgrounds, and meat is always a part of their diet.” The salad bar was open
to students from September to December last year. Then the salad bar was only
for faculty due to the COVID-19 restrictions. After its success, it was
implemented for everyone. “This week I began the salad bar in person and
participants can now order and pick up their salads in my school’s cafeteria.
Earlier approximately 200-300 students ordered from the salad bar, and the most
popular toppings were the roasted nuts and cranberries, and crunchy spiced
lentils. Previously, all of the salads were distributed in pickup boxes to
prevent COVID-19 contamination. Now, my school district has allowed the salad
bar to operate-in-person. I am working with other students at my school to take
orders and create the salads-in-person in my school cafeteria.” Naina made sure
that options such as nuts and baked tofu were available.

Naina hopes to become a neurosurgeon and recommend
vegetarian diets to her patients.

The deadline for the next scholarship contest for high
school seniors graduating in 2022 is February 20, 2022. To see rules and other
scholarship winners, visit  

To support additional scholarships and internships, donate
at, call (410) 366-8343,
or send donations to VRG, P.O. Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203.


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