Scholarship recipients are making a difference

Scholarship recipients are making a difference

The Kiwanis Children’s Fund honors 7 Key Club and CKI scholars in 2024. 

By Erin Chandler

Out of over 500 applicants, the seven outstanding scholars who will receive this year’s Kiwanis Children’s Fund scholarships stand out as leaders and visionaries. Each recipient emphasizes that the values and skills they have learned in Key Club and Circle K International are the foundation for the difference they will make in the world — whether through science, medicine, politics and community organization, or education. The Children’s Fund is honored to help them continue their education in the upcoming academic year.  

Samaira Lee
Linda Canaday Memorial Scholarship
Samaira Lee is a recent graduate of Fishers High School in Indiana, U.S., where she served one term as secretary-treasurer and two terms as president of her Key Club. She went on to serve as lieutenant governor for her Key Club division. Lee’s passion for service began when she was 7 years old, helping her parents serve meals to families of hospitalized children at the Ronald McDonald House. Last year, that passion came full circle when she organized pajama days at four local elementary schools to raise funds for Riley Children’s Hospital. That service helped show more kids how, in Lee’s words, “small acts of service make an impact in one’s community and incrementally create a better world.” In addition to Key Club, Lee was part of the 2024 Leadership Committee for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Student Visionaries of the Year, the student board for the Hamilton Southeastern Education Foundation, the Fishers High School National Honor Society, and the National French Honor Society. Next year, Lee will attend Northwestern University with a major in psychology and minors in economics and French. She plans to pursue a career in community leadership, with the goal of serving in state or national government. 

Kyle Hanson
Kiwanis Children’s Fund Scholarship
Kyle Hanson is a recent graduate of Beaverton High School in Oregon, U.S., and the current president of Key Club International. He previously served Key Club as a district governor and club president. As governor of the Pacific Northwest District, Hanson developed a strategy for better engaging and supporting clubs in rural areas. The district subsequently grew by over 1,000 members, with record-breaking attendance at its convention. For the past two years, Hanson has worked at the Children’s Cancer Therapy Development Institute, contributing to research on the treatment of pediatric cancers. He has also served as student government president; co-president of the STEM education nonprofit Create Invent Aspire Science and of Club Hope, a student aid group focusing on homelessness; founder of his school’s chapter of the Oregon Math, Engineering, Science and Achievement program; project coordinator for the environmental activism club; and Beaverton-area dragon boat team captain. “By centering work around Key Club’s core values,” Hanson says, “I’ve built better relationships, got people more engaged and ultimately made a bigger impact.” Hanson will study economics and applied math at Harvard University. He hopes to pursue a career in biotechnology and run his own nonprofit. 

Saumya Sikhwal
Kiwanis Children’s Fund Scholarship
Saumya Sikhwal recently graduated from South Warren High School in Bowling Green, Kentucky, U.S. She immigrated to the U.S. from India in 2020, and within a few months, while still adjusting to life in an American high school, she was elected lieutenant governor of her division in Key Club International. Sikhwal went on to receive the Robert F. Lucas Outstanding Lt. Governor Award and to further serve Key Club as secretary and governor of her district. She describes her decision to run for governor as the moment that changed her “from an indecisive person to a certain one, reticent to outgoing, a young leader who made mindful decisions.” Sikhwal is also a leader outside of Key Club, serving as a student council officer, National Beta Club social media chair, chess club president, taekwondo demonstration team lead and a national competitor in archery. As president of the youth advisory board for the tobacco prevention and cessation organization #iCANendthetrend, she has presented her advocacy at youth tobacco control conferences and in professional development series. Sikhwal plans to pursue a degree in biochemistry at the University of Louisville. 

Sarah Khreizat
CKI Past Presidents Scholarship
Sarah Khreizat is a public health major at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. As club president, Khreizat took on the responsibility of rebuilding her club’s chapter of Circle K International following a sharp decline in engagement, successfully tripling the club’s membership and reactivating dormant community partnerships. In addition to CKI, she has been president of the Pay It Forward mentorship program and the Arabesque Dance Troupe. She has held leadership positions with the Hospital Elder Life Program at the University of Michigan Hospital, Arab American Health Initiative and Middle Eastern/North African Public Health. She has also served as an English tutor for Syrian refugees. Khreizat currently works as a research assistant in the Prevention Research and Health Equity Lab, where she studies factors associated with HIV in adolescents. She has presented her research at national conferences and in peer-reviewed journals. Khreizat says, “CKI taught me that even though a leader may face challenges along the way, there is always light at the end of the tunnel as long as we hold onto our values of passion for service and determination to make a positive change in our community.” 

Matthew Yuro
John E. Mayfield CKI Scholarship
Already a recipient of a 2023 Kiwanis Children’s Fund Scholarship, Matthew Yuro is a special education, elementary education and history major at The College of New Jersey, U.S. He is the lieutenant governor of his Circle K International division, and he leads and serves on a number of CKI committees at the international, district and club levels. He is also a member of the Youth Homelessness Committee for the New Jersey District of Kiwanis International. In addition to his service with the Kiwanis family, Yuro is the president of the New Jersey Education Association Preservice and holds leadership positions with the National Education Association Aspiring Educators, Student New Jersey Education Association, Teachers of Young Children, multiple honor societies, history club and student government. He is also active as a peer mentor and is vice president of his college mentoring union. In his quest to become an educator, Yuro works as a substitute teacher at Mill Lake Elementary School and as a tutor for the Monroe Township School District and The College of New Jersey. “For me,” Yuro says, “Circle K International transcends being just a club; it is a community of like-minded individuals where I can be my best self.” 

Jonathan Huang
Kiwanis Children’s Fund Scholarship
Originally from Houston, Texas, U.S., Jonathan Huang is a molecular and cellular biology major at Harvard University in Massachusetts, U.S. A former president of his high school’s Key Club, Huang founded the first virtual CKI club. With Huang as its president, the Circle K e-Club of the New England District has grown to include members from five universities and has the district’s highest fundraising total. Huang is also the chair of CKI’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coalition. Outside of CKI, Huang is a peer advising fellow and holds leadership roles in the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Association, Harvard Undergraduate UNICEF, Harvard University Police Advisory Board and MakeHarvard, a competitive engineering organization. He works as an emergency medical technician for CrimsonEMS, an undergraduate research assistant in global health issues at MJ Lab and a Harvard admissions recruiter for first-generation students from low-income backgrounds. Huang says his experiences with CKI “serve as the backbone and foundation for everything I’ve been able to accomplish.” He plans to pursue a career as a physician. 

Srishti Khadilkar
Kiwanis Children’s Fund Scholarship
Srishti Khadilkar of Oakville, Ontario, Canada, is studying physiology and interdisciplinary medical sciences at the University of Western Ontario. She is in her second term as governor for the Eastern Canada District of Circle K International, having previously served as chair of the Kiwanis Family Relations Committee. In the latter role, she helped plan events that enhanced the connections between CKI, Key Club and Kiwanis International. For Khadilkar, one of the most rewarding aspects of CKI leadership is that it has “strengthened [her] ability to empathize and communicate effectively, fostering a sense of community” between people of all ages and backgrounds. In addition to CKI, Khadilkar has been president of the Microbiology and Immunology Student Association and vice president of academics for Simply Scientific. She has also worked as a student volunteer at University Hospital. In her free time, she is a member of BRDRLESS Dance Studio. Khadilkar plans to take the values and interpersonal skills she has learned in CKI into her career as a dentist, providing affordable and convenient care to underserved communities. 

Visit the Kiwanis Children’s Fund Scholarship Opportunities page for information about scholarships distributed by the Children’s Fund, including who to contact with questions and award notification dates.  

Grants bring Key Clubs and communities closer

Grants bring Key Clubs and communities closer

The Kiwanis Children’s Fund awarded 17 Youth Opportunities Fund grants to outstanding Key Club projects in April.

By Erin Chandler

This year, Key Club International is celebrating 99 years of making a difference in schools and communities around the world. The Kiwanis Children’s Fund established the Youth Opportunities Fund so that Key Club leaders can continue taking action for the next 99 years and beyond. 

In April, the Children’s Fund awarded Youth Opportunities Fund grants for 17 outstanding Key Club projects that foster collaboration between clubs and their communities. Of the top 11 projects — as determined by the Key Club International Board committee and Children’s Fund representatives — eight are new projects launched this year. In alphabetical order by club name, the top 11 are: 

Firebird Garden
Key Club of BASIS Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.
The BASIS Phoenix Key Club will work with their school’s National Honor Society, Science National Honors Society and National Art Honor Society to turn part of the campus into a raised-bed community garden with a decorated bench and shed. The garden will serve as a hands-on outdoor “lab” classroom where students will be responsible for growing and studying pumpkins, watermelon, carrots, tomatoes and more. It also will be a space for social interaction, collaboration and the cultivation of mental health. 

Children Christmas Lane and Community Fund Day
The Key Club of Bishop Michael Eldon High School, Grand Bahama, The Bahamas
Teaming up with the Kiwanis Club of Freeport, the Bishop Michael Eldon High School Key Club is bringing holiday cheer to the entire community. The project began by distributing holiday gifts to kids in need but is now expanding so that 100 families also receive grocery bags filled with food and toiletries. The event will also feature festive decorations, an arts and crafts corner, a bouncy castle, face painting, games and stations where nurses will provide health screenings. 

Operation Warm Coats
Key Club of Huntington Park High School, California, U.S.
With monthly food baskets, grocery gift cards, and school and hygiene supplies, members of the Huntington Park High School Key Club have been helping people who struggle with homelessness and food insecurity in their community — including students in the Key Clubbers’ own school. Now they will expand their project by providing warm winter coats to students at Huntington Park High School, Marquez High School and Roybal-Allard Elementary School. Members hope the coats will help more students attend school regularly in poor weather — and maybe even help save lives. 

Supporting Our Seniors
Key Club of Lake Ridge High School, Texas, U.S.
“Supporting Our Seniors” is an expansion of the Lake Ridge High School Key Club’s previous “Elevating the Elderly” program. Club members will combat loneliness among residents of Walnut Creek Assisted Living and Memory Care with planned visits, events and projects, including a talent show, care packages, handwritten cards, arts and crafts, and fun games. The senior citizens will benefit from the companionship and excitement, while the Key Club volunteers will learn about their elders’ life experiences and receive their advice. 

Gifts That Keep Giving
Key Club of Mayde Creek High School, Texas, U.S.
The Key Club of Mayde Creek High School will support people experiencing homelessness in their community by assembling 90 care packages containing high-quality, long-lasting resources to safeguard recipients’ physical and mental health. The packages will contain hygiene supplies like body wipes and bandages, socks and underwear, reusable water bottles, notebooks and writing utensils, and candies that will be especially helpful as grounding aids for people with PTSD. Club members will also personalize the packages by including handwritten letters. The club will make some of the packages available to fellow students at their school and will donate the rest to be distributed to those in need by two local ministries. 

Cozy Care for Companions
Key Club of North Garland High School, Texas, U.S.
When members of the Key Club of North Garland High School heard about the overcapacity and lack of resources in Texas’s animal shelters, they knew they had to do something to help both the animals and the shelter workers. Through donation drives — including tennis balls donated by the school’s tennis coach — and events dedicated to making pet toys, the club will provide beds and care packages to comfort and enrich the lives of the furry shelter residents. Club members will also write adoption biographies and volunteer to support shelter staff. In collaboration with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Garland Animal Shelter, they additionally hope to create informational posters for new and potential pet owners. 

Key Club of Santa Ana Valley High School, California, U.S.
In the Key Club of Santa Ana Valley’s “Adopt-a-Kinder” program, high school students “adopt” kindergarten students at a local elementary school for Read Across America, an annual day to celebrate and promote literacy. The high schoolers read books with the kindergarteners, and each kindergartener then keeps the book — and gets a tasty treat. The project has been so successful that it is expanding from one to three elementary schools this year. 

Soles for Souls
Key Club of Southmoore High School, Oklahoma, U.S.
In their “Soles for Souls” program, the Key Club of Southmoore High School will place decorated donation boxes in classrooms and local businesses to collect new shoes and socks for people who need them in Guatemala. The club hopes to collect 2,000 shoes that will be distributed, in cooperation with Believe Guatemala, to approximately 100 Guatemala City families who make their living by picking through a landfill for items to resell. The shoes and socks will protect the feet of adults and children alike from glass, needles, chemicals and other hazardous materials. 

Clean Shores Initiative: Bin the Waste, Keep the Coastline Great!
Key Club of St. Maarten Academy, Sint Maarten
Members of the Key Club of St. Maarten Academy took it upon themselves to maintain the public Little Bay Beach for their community, as well as for visitors to the area — but they noticed that trash continued to pile up between their bimonthly cleanups. To help address the problem, they will install six waste bins along the beach with signs that promote the preservation of the environment and its fragile ecosystems. Additionally, club members will contribute hand-painted signs encouraging the proper disposal of waste, painted murals to further beautify the area and sea grape trees to protect the shoreline. They also plan to partner with the St. Maarten Academy science club to install three recycling bins as part of their UNESCO-funded Green Dream project. 

Enhancing Senior Well-being
Key Club of Stephen F. Austin High School, Texas, U.S.
The Key Club of Stephen F. Austin High School will bring mental and social engagement to residents of the Clayton Senior Living Center with a roster of activities. Club members will lead residents of the center in various workshops, including board games, bingo, crochet and other arts, and technology. In doing so, they hope to forge stronger intergenerational bonds in their community. 

Sleep in Heavenly Peace
Key Club of Webster High School, South Dakota, U.S.
The Key Club of Webster High School will partner with the Sleep in Heavenly Peace organization to build twin beds for children in the community. Having learned how children sleep better in their own beds — and enjoy better mental, emotional and physical health — the club members will work with local Kiwanis and Builders Clubs to help measure, cut, sand, stain and assemble the beds. Sleep in Heavenly Peace will then deliver the beds to families.  

How to get involved
Does your Key Club have a project idea that could benefit from a Youth Opportunities Fund grant? Learn more about the grant and how to apply on the Key Club website. If your club does not yet sponsor a Key Club, learn about the advantages of chartering one today on the Kiwanis Service Leadership Programs page. 

Grant project helps kids with autism 

Grant project helps kids with autism 

The Kiwanis Club of Lalbandi’s program brings aid and awareness to a Nepal community.

By Erin Chandler

The Kiwanis Club of Lalbandi, Nepal, became aware of the challenges faced by people with autism in their community when a child in a club member’s family was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Fortunately, members were able to call on the expertise of a fellow Kiwanian — Navaraj Banstola from the Kiwanis Club of Nilgiri — who leveraged his experience in healthcare to guide the child and their family through screening and treatment. But the club knew that not everyone would have the advantage of this kind of connection. 

In fact, the Lalbandi club’s research indicated that four to five cases of ASD were diagnosed each day in one Kathmandu health clinic alone. On average, each of the six autism centers in Kathmandu Valley treats 450 children with ASD every month — a case load that is difficult to manage. Children in rural areas often can’t get treatment and therapy at all. Because of these obstacles and widespread misunderstanding of ASD, some children with autism stop attending school. 

In March, the Kiwanis Club of Lalbandi received a club grant from the Kiwanis Children’s Fund for its autism spectrum disorder program, which will enable more kids with ASD and their families to receive screenings, diagnoses and support, along with treatments such as speech language therapy, play-based therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy and nutritional therapy. The club has partnered with the six area autism centers and Bir Hospital for the program and received additional funding from government organizations, club members and the community.   

“Overall, the autism project will serve as a catalyst for positive change within the club and the broader community, fostering understanding, support and empowerment for individuals with autism and their families,” says club president Kavita Upadhyay.  

In the first steps of the program, specialists will train Lalbandi club members on screening for ASD and assisting in some therapy services. Those who conduct the screenings will refer kids to healthcare professionals as needed. The club will pay for therapies, medicines and nutritional supplements for children whose families can’t afford them, and club members will assist within the therapy centers. 

On top of all this, a key part of the Kiwanis Club of Lalbandi’s program is to raise awareness and educate the public about ASD. Misconceptions about autism — defined by the World Health Organization as “a diverse group of conditions related to development of the brain…characterized by some degree of difficulty with social interaction and communication” — can be difficult to dispel. 

“Many were reluctant to discuss the issue,” says Upadhyay. “Even now, there remains a lack of awareness of the implications of ASD, with many community members lacking information about the condition.” 

She describes one mother attributing her child’s signs of autism to “past sins, believing it was a punishment from a higher power and therefore incurable. However, through our discussions, she came to understand that autism is not a divine punishment.” 

In planning its program, the club learned that addressing autism is not just about helping children with ASD adapt to their communities; it’s about helping the community adapt to the kids.  

“Engaging the community in the project fosters a sense of solidarity and collaboration,” Upadhyay explains. 

She hopes the project will increase understanding and acceptance, leading to a more inclusive environment for people with autism and their families. The community formed by the project could even lead the way in amplifying the voices of people with ASD to advocate for more inclusive practices elsewhere. 

“By working together toward a common goal,” she says, “community members become more invested in supporting individuals with autism and promoting their wellbeing.” 

More about Kiwanis Childrens’ Fund grants  
Kiwanis Children’s Fund grants improve the lives of children around the world by identifying projects like the Kiwanis Club of Lalbandi’s, which create a continuum of impact in a child’s life — one that spans their entire childhood and sets them up for a bright future. By funding projects that target the Kiwanis causes — health and nutrition, education and literacy, and youth leadership development — whether through a Kiwanis club’s local service project or a club’s partner, the Children’s Fund ensures that its grantmaking has the greatest possible impact.  

If you are interested in extending the impact you and your club make beyond your community, give to the Children’s Fundor learn how your club canapply for a grantto help kids in your community.