Local high school graduate Ritiga Ravichandran received $1,000 courtesy of the Dr. Phillips Chamber of Commerce for her idea to market an organic and non-GMO snack food.
Senior Ritiga Ravichandran graduated from Dr. Phillips High School this spring with top honors, a 4.4 GPA and as winner of the Dr. Phillips Chamber of Commerce 2019 Youth Scholarship Award, including a prize of $1,000.
“(Ravichandran) was very well-spoken, her presentation was nicely done … she seemed to have a lot of tenacity,” said Maggie Rosario, president of the Dr. Phillips Chamber of Commerce and a committee member for the 2019 Youth Scholarship Award selection.
Ravichandran earned the scholarship last month thanks to her own entrepreneur project called “The Vada Vicinity.” She created an organic, non-GMO snack, which is based off the Indian snack of Vada, according to a press release. She pitched her idea along with marketing and sales strategies.
“In general, I’ve always had ideas pop up … based on something I’ve tasted or visited,” she said. “I also wanted to embrace my Indian culture.”
Vada is a dish her mom makes all the time and she drew influence from there. Vada, she described, is a dish made of lentils and vegetables that is usually deep-fried or baked. Her parents are originally from India and Ravichandran grew up in a culture that was both Indian and American influenced.
“I’m proud definitely to be Indian with all the food, dance, culture, music,” she said. “Of course, with the American aspect here, I get to share that with my other Indian-American friends.”
Ravichandran has done Indian classical dance for about eight years, she said, and taught English to seventh graders in India when she was going into her sophomore year in high school.
The selection process consisted of three steps: a written description, an idea pitch and a final presentation to the Dr. Phillips Chamber of Commerce Selection Committee.
The scholarship program has been in effect for three years, but this was the first year that the Youth Scholarship Award was awarded. Not many students applied and followed through the three steps before this year, Rosario said. Five students applied for the 2019 scholarship and the selection committee of eight people narrowed it down to three people for the final judgment, ultimately choosing Ravichandran.
“I’m definitely really happy to have gotten (the scholarship),” Ravichandran said. “I’m proud that, as a woman, I’m able to issue that leadership … and have the opportunity to participate in this scholarship.”
Now that she has graduated from high school, Ravichandran has been accepted into the University of Central Florida and starts in August. She will be a part of UCF’s LEAD Scholars, a leadership program for freshmen and sophomores in college, and wants to major in computer science with a business minor.
Ravichandran said that, for now, she has put her winnings in savings, but eventually wants to use the money to start her business.
The selection panel, made up of professionals and business owners in the Dr. Phillips area, noted Ravichandran’s communication skills, adding she is “an intelligent woman with a bright future ahead.”
While this was the first year a winner was found, Rosario said that they hope to continue this scholarship with even more participation next year. All graduating senior high-school students interested in participating in next year’s Youth Scholarship Award can contact the Dr. Phillips Chamber of Commerce at (407) 749-0333 or Maggie Rosario at [email protected].
“I think this is really a great opportunity,” Ravichandran said. “It’s a way to show if you have any ideas or any thoughts of something you’d like to develop … It’s a leeway to show your skills. It opens up a lot of doors, too. Even with or without the scholarship money, it’s a great experience to have had.”