The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Forrest Hershberger
Sidney Sun-Telegraph 

Sidney Student Attends Prestigious Leadership Program


August 7, 2019

Courtesy Photo

Aastha Chaudhari attended the Envision National Youth Leadership Forum: Pathways to STEM in Denver recently. Students in the program are exposed to various science disciplines during their five-day stay.

Her friends probably see her as a typical fifth grader. She has a big smile, fun and spends time outside with friends. The exception is that she likes to read and study. Her interests are far deeper than comic books and novels.

At the young age of 10, she was focused on becoming an eye doctor. That is, until she was nominated to take part in the Envision National Youth Leadership Forum (NYLF): Pathways to STEM. STEM - science, technology, engineering and math - is overall within her interests. Science specifically is what excites her.

"I love science," Aastha Chaudhari said recently.

Her love of science and all things academic is what lead to her nomination for the NYLF. In January, her parents received a letter notifying them that she had been nominated by her teacher, Kelsey Carwin of North Elementary School The letter says "only the brightest, most highly motivated students are singled out by their teachers for nomination to NYLF Pathways to STEM." The letter goes on to say Aastha was selected because she "already demonstrates exceptional maturity, scholastic merit and leadership potential even at her young age."

The NYLF is a five-day experience in Denver where students are exposed to a vast array of various science disciplines. This year it was held July 14-19 and July 21-26 for residential students and July 15-19 and July 22-26 for day students. While Aastha entered the program interested in ophthalmology, she had the opportunity to experience several other disciplines in science.

She said she had the opportunity to dissect a beef heart.

"We also got to diagnose snake bites," she said.

But what really intrigued her was to take on the roll of Calleigh Duqesne in "CSI: Miami."

She had the opportunity to be part of a hands-on crime scene investigation, albeit a mock-up scene. She said they got to identify blood drops, finger prints and work in an escape room.

"Now I want to be a forensic scientist," she says.

She said the hands-on experiments are what she will remember most about the NYLF Pathways to STEM.

The week in Denver required a commitment from her father as well. The event costs nearly $1,900 for non-residential students and almost $2,300 for residential students. Her father, Bharat Chaudhari, "Bob" to many people, took the week off and rented an apartment in the Denver area; cheaper than the $150 per night for a hotel and still not having a kitchen. He has the attitude of it is expensive, but if she wants it, he will get it for her.

NYLF Pathways is a unique learning experience for bright, forward-thinking elementary school students who will evolve into next generation innovators, engineers, doctors, software developers and scientists, according to the webpage. The program traces its roots to 1985 when a Connecticut educator worked with a congressional staff member to arrange a trip for her students to visit the nation's capitol to attend the second Presidential Inauguration of Ronald Reagan. More than 30 years later, Envision has expanded from a teacher with an idea to a company providing about 20 different career, leadership and technology programs.


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