Olympia sisters earn gold Congressional Youth Award

Olympia High School juniors Veda, left and Maya Srikantan each earned a gold Congressional Youth Award.

Olympia High School juniors Veda, left and Maya Srikantan each earned a gold Congressional Youth Award.
Olympia High School juniors Veda, left and Maya Srikantan each earned a gold Congressional Youth Award.
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Two Olympia High School juniors, who just happen to be sisters, are celebrating a huge personal win for earning the Congressional Award gold medals, the highest congressional youth award. The students, Maya and Veda Srikantan, were required to complete more than 400 public service hours, spend 200 hours on personal development in the areas of musical performance and complete 200 hours of physical fitness in the categories of Voluntary Public Service, Personal Development and Physical Fitness. They also explored India during a two-week trip with their parents in December to fulfill the Expedition/Exploration category.

The siblings were recognized at a recent meeting of the Orange County Board of County Commissioners and said it was a real honor to receive the award.

Maya Srikantan is a Congressional Award ambassador, as well, and engages in an online meeting every two months.

Maya and Veda Srikantan started their journey to the Congressional Award when they were 13 years old and students in middle school.

“I wanted to make a large impact on the community,” Maya Srikantan said.

“When we started in eighth grade, it gave us time to grow,” Veda Srikantan said. “We had more experience with volunteering. It was awesome starting in middle school and making more of a positive impact on the community.”

The pair also had music advisers helping them in the personal growth portion of the program.

Veda Srikantan plays trombone, participating in a jazz band through Florida Symphony Youth Orchestras, and she has gone to All-County and All-State at the school level. She met the award requirements through two-hour Sunday rehearsals plus festivals and concerts.

Maya Srikantan plays violin with the school orchestra and with the FSYO, and she qualified for the award through weekly three-hour rehearsals and additional practice at home.

Both girls play on Olympia’s varsity tennis team, and while they are competitive, they admit it’s fun playing together. They frequently play doubles with another pair.

Veda, left, and Maya Srikantan were recognized by the Orange County School Board for their Congressional Youth Awards.

Community service is a big part of Congressional Award, and Veda and Maya Srikantan have banked many hours with their volunteer work at places such as the Orlando Science Center, where they taught science demonstrations and interacted with guests; Second Harvest Food Bank, where they packed food boxes for needy families; and through the Olympia High Key Club, in which they volunteered at events such as the Windermere Pet Fest, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

To fulfill the Expedition/Exploration portion of the award, the sisters planned a trip to India. They had visited the country before with their parents, including the southern portion from where their family came, so they traveled to a different locale.

booking flights and hotels and creating an itinerary of activities. They each planned half the trip, which took them to cities such as Jaipur and Udaipur and on a safari in Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan.

“We would experience the culture and the food, and it was a totally new experience we learned about,” Maya Srikantan said. “You would see the unique architecture. … I’m a big foodie, so restaurants to eat at (was important).”

“There’s a lot of history in (Jaipur) too,” Veda Srikantan said.

One of the places they visited was a UNESCO World Heritage site called Qutb Minar.

“Every city we went to, it was different,” Veda Srikantan said. “Like in Delhi. … It’s not that it wasn’t as structured, it’s almost like rural vs. urban. You also have to be able to ride a rickshaw.”

U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost congratulated Maya, left, and Veda Srikantan for each earning a Congressional Youth Award.



Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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