Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Know our people - Brintha Vasagar

Brintha Vasagar - Miss Philadelphia 2008

A Hatfield native, Brintha has been involved with volunteerism since the age of 9 when she decided to skip recess to work with special education classes. In the following years, she continued on this trend: logging over 200 hours as a candystriper at North Penn Hospital, attending hundreds of events as Treasurer of the North Penn High School Key Club, and becoming involved with both the Boys and Girls Club of Lansdale and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America.

As a National Merit Scholar and Salutatorian of her high school class of 1137 students, Brintha also managed to find time to excel academically. She received medals of distinction as a Mathcounts Mathlete and led her team to a state championship as Captain of the Academic Decathalon team. In addition, she received a prestigious full scholarship to attend the Pennsylvania Governor’s School of the Sciences to conduct research on plasmid transference. In what free time she had, Brintha found herself heavily involved with Odyssey of the Mind, a robotics competition, where she found herself Team Captain for four years and led her team to the State finals each year. She also competed in piano competitions for thirteen years, where she won numerous blue ribbons and trophies.

After graduating from North Penn High School in 2002, Brintha continued her studies at Georgetown University where she double majored in Biology and Psychology and completed a thesis entitled “Teaching Biology through the Georgetown University/McKinley Technology High School Partnership: The Mutual Benefits for College and High School Students.” It was through this thesis that she was able to spend a year teaching in an inner city school and really fall in love with education. Brintha continued on to help establish GOLE (Georgetown Outreach on Learning and Education) and to work with the Educational Community Outreach Program as an Anatomy and Physiology teacher for students identified as “most at risk to not graduate from high school.” She credits this as one of her most meaningful experiences as several students began the course hating science and left telling her that they wanted to grow up and be doctors just like her!

In December 2004, Brintha found herself in Sri Lanka during the tsunami which devastated Southeast Asia. She was able to work in refugee camps and offer medical support for 2 weeks before returning to the U.S. Upon her return, she embarked on an email campaign to raise awareness and funds and before she knew it, her story had traveled the globe and people were more than willing to give. One soon-to-be bride decided to ask her guests to donate rather than bring wedding gifts. As she said, “Why do we need another blender when people have nothing?” For her efforts, Brintha was invited to the 2004 Presidential Inauguration and to speak before various members of Congress and the United Nations about what Americans do to help the rebuilding process.

Now having a profound interest in international health, Brintha decided to join the Ross University School of Medicine Scholars Program, which enabled her to study abroad on the small island of Dominica for sixteen months. She had been Treasurer of the MESAHI Project (which works to build and maintain an AIDS clinic in rural Kenya) while at Georgetown, and was able to continue working with AIDS/HIV awareness while in Dominica. Her favorite moments of medical school include visiting local schools and teaching students about HIV prevention.

These experiences with volunteering have led to the platform Brintha will champion as Miss Philadelphia 2008 - GIVE: Get Involved, Volunteer in Education. Over the next year, she hopes to make it easier for member of the community to get involve in their schools. Moreover, she hopes to encourage our youth to GIVE back to their schools by tutoring younger students. Brintha says that her priority for the year is to “strengthen our community by empowering our youth with knowledge.”

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