From Global Scholars Diploma Graduate to Founder and CEO

August 27, 2021

Global Scholars Impact the World of STEM

Two Kid Scientists prepare non-Newtonian fluids.
Photo courtesy of The Be W.I.S.E. Initiative


Slime, recycled paper houses, non-Newtonian fluids, and candy DNA models. These are just some of the many activities that have taken place at multiple YMCA locations around the city this past summer as part of The Be W.I.S.E. Initiative. 175 elementary school students from 30 schools participated in this STEM-focused summer camp, learning about the scientific method, competing in bristle bot battles, launching seltzer rockets, and having their minds opened to the world of STEM.  


The Be W.I.S.E. Initiative’s goal is to educate the pioneers of tomorrow by facilitating STEM programming that cultivates a heartfelt academic experience for elementary school students. At the heart of the initiative is the desire to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers, helping them develop a passion for STEM-based careers. Like many nonprofit organizations, Be W.I.S.E. started with identifying a need, developing a plan to address it, and a drive to execute it.  


This process was started by Ashwin Rajkumar in 2018 during his third year of the Global Scholars Diploma program. After noticing a lack of girls in his STEM classes at Olentangy Orange High School, Ashwin devoted his Take Action project to developing an initiative focused on getting elementary school girls interested in STEM.


“I was heavily involved in STEM,” Rajkumar explained. “That’s when it hit me, ‘How come I’m not seeing more girls in our classes and how can I not see their creativity from their side too?’”


Now a sophomore at Ohio State, Ashwin has developed his Year 3 Take Action project into a fully-fledged nonprofit organization—collaborating with school districts, social service organizations, and volunteers to impact the minds and lives of elementary school students in Central Ohio.  


Ashwin is not the only graduate of the Global Scholars Diploma Program in The Be W.I.S.E. Initiative. In early 2020, Ashley Tarrant of Dublin City Schools joined their ranks after being connected with Ashwin through Ohio State. Ashley also used her Take Action project to focus on STEM-based education and has brought her knowledge and experience working with curriculum development and chemistry to the organization. Seeing two Global Scholars graduates join forces in their collegiate careers is such a powerful testimony to the Global Scholars Diploma Program, and we at the Columbus Council on World Affairs are deeply encouraged by the impact that our graduates are having in their communities. 

The Be W.I.S.E. Initiative has made a lasting impression on more than its students and volunteers. Nancy Brody, Executive Director of School Success at the YMCA has over 30 years experience in the nonprofit world and had some incredible remarks about the success of this program:


“The Be W.I.S.E Initiative Collaborative with the YMCA of Central Ohio over Summer 2021 was by far one of the top collaboratives I have been involved with coordinating. Not only did our elementary-age campers learning the language of the scientific process, they also met and interacted with young scientists who served as role models of what their future could look like if they had interest and pursued work in a STEM field.” 


Global Scholars Graduates Ashwin (left) and Ashley (right) with their CCWA Year 3 Advisor Kendra Polito (center)


Time will reveal the compounding results of The Be W.I.S.E. Initiative as these little scientists come into their own and consider careers in STEM, but the immediate impact is easily seen in the smiles and laughter of the students. The slime they made might not last for long, but the memories and education they gained certainly will. Learn more about The Be W.I.S.E. Initiative by following them on social media using the icons below. 

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Seeing Ashwin and Ashley’s partnership, forged from their experience in the Global Scholars Diploma Program, makes us even more excited to see what our students will accomplish. As we enter a new school year facing new waves of uncertainty, we see an even bigger need to develop globally competent High School students who are building awareness and skills needed to take action as responsible citizens of the world. As Ashwin and Ashley have demonstrated, their journeys are only just beginning. 


Ashwin and Ashley are not the only young professionals taking action in the world of STEM. TIME Magazine’s Kid of the Year 2020, Gitanjali Rao, has made an impact by mentoring over 30,000 students through STEM innovation workshops, creating a community of young innovators poised to create lasting community change. The 15-year-old scientist and inventor has a mission to create a global community of young innovators to take on the world’s most pressing challenges. The Columbus Council on World Affairs is privileged to host and interview Gitanjali on October 19th, 2021. Stay tuned for more details on this incredible event!


The year, the Global Scholars Diploma Program is expanding its online learning experience. We aim to develop a fully virtual program and create accessibility to more school districts in Central Ohio and beyond. We’ve seen our graduates develop into globally competent leaders that create lasting impact in their communities, and as we start the new school year our hope for the incoming class is high. This program needs your support—consider sponsoring a Global Scholar today and take part in fostering the next generation of global citizens. 


Help us change the world, one student at a time. Sponsor a Global Scholar