SHRUB OAK, N.Y. – Four years ago, Jothi Ramaswamy sat in the audience at Lakeland High School’s graduation and watched her brother, Akshay, deliver his valedictorian speech. Posted to YouTube by their mom, the video of Akshay’s speech has since received more than 120,000 views.
Not to be outdone, the Harvard-bound Ramaswamy spent her own Lakeland career racking up accomplishment after accomplishment. Her prowess in developing smartphone apps landed her scholarships and face-to-face meetings with Michelle Obama and Apple CEO Tim Cook; she conducted biocomputation research at IBM and Columbia University, which won her even more scholarships and awards; and she developed her own non-profit organization, ThinkSTEAM, which aims to bridge the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math fields.
On Saturday, June 22, after being named valedictorian of the Class of 2019, she also took aim at her brother’s YouTube views.
“You already know I’m going to top that,” Ramaswamy said about her brother’s 120,000 views.
Quoting TV host Ellen DeGeneres, Ramaswamy encouraged her fellow graduated to take some risks and follow their passions.
“Success is to live your life with integrity and not give in to peer pressure to be someone you’re not,” she said. “Follow your passion, stay true to yourself, never follow someone else’s path.”
Through ThinkSTEAM, Ramaswamy has partnered with companies like IBM, Facebook, Google and Amazon to conduct 45 hands-on technology workshops for about 1,000 K-12 girls in different ThinkSTEAM chapters across the nation, including a STEAM-a-Thon at Lakeland Copper Beech Middle School.
Due to ThinkSTEAM’s success, Ramaswamy was named one of New York’s top youth volunteers of 2019 by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for acts of volunteerism. For that honor, she received $1,000 and a trip to Washington, D.C.
For her work developing apps, she received full scholarships to Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in 2017 and 2018 in California. Last year, Ramaswamy had the opportunity to interview Karlie Kloss for TeenVogue, do a Snapchat Takeover on TeenVogue’s account, talk with Apple CEO Tim Cook about her STEM projects, and do a podcast with tech YouTuber Sara Dietschy.
Additionally, she has been a part of Lakeland’s debate team and Girls Inc.’s Girls Leadership Council since her freshman year and had the opportunity to interview Erica Hill, a CNN News anchor. She participated in Lakeland High School’s chamber orchestra (achieving NYSSMA Level 6), volunteered as a nurse’s assistant at a local hospital, and ran on the school’s cross country/track team.
Ramaswamy has also been named a 2019 National Merit Semifinalist, a 2018 SWENext Global Innovator, a 2018 Global Teen Leader, a 2017 HERlead Fellow, and a 2017 SHE++ Fellow.
None of this would be possible, she said, without the support of her family.
“I would like to thank my chauffeur, personal cook, and my best friend—my mom—for always having my back,” Ramaswamy said. “Thanks, Mom, for shoving me out of bed and driving me to high school every single day.”