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2007 National Youth Science Camp®
Delegate Press Release

Information and Photography ready for release and publication.
Sumedha Chablani

Sumedha Chablani



High School:
Shady Side Academy

College Plans: Columbia University
Major: Biology/Economics
Professional Plans: Physician
Interests: Indian dance, folk festival
Documents: Cover Letter to Farewell Banquet Remarks

Sumedha Chablani, a 2007 graduate of Shady Side Academy from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was selected to represent Pennsylvania at the National Youth Science Camp® (NYSC) this summer from June 27 to July 23. Chablani joined 107 other top high school graduates representing the United States as well as students from Argentina, Bolivia, Canada, Colombia, Germany, Mexico, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago at the prestigious four-week program, now in its 44th year. The camp, located in the beautiful and rustic setting of the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, integrates scientific programming with opportunities for delegates to explore music, art, and the outdoors.

Each year, eminent scientists from various disciplines travel to the camp to present lectures and directed studies. This year’s lecture topics included: Global Warming, Genomic Medicine, Radio Astronomy, and Energy Sustainability. Throughout camp, a Directed Study series provided extensive “hands-on” experiences in specific fields. According to Chablani, “At camp, after being exposed to a wide range of scientific fields and professions, I have realized that I definitely want to study biology or immunology. The lecturers have intrigued me with their eloquent, comprehensive lectures.”  Delegates had the opportunity to dissect a human hand, discuss bioethics, explore forensic science techniques, and search through the DNA sequence of a genetic disease.

In addition to learning about groundbreaking scientific research, delegates also explored their natural surroundings through an extensive outdoor program consisting of hiking, caving, mountain biking, and rock climbing. “Coming from a city, I never took time to realize the inherent beauty of nature. While walking on Seneca Creek trail, it struck me why there is a huge outcry for environmentalism. Nature is a masterpiece and it is our duty to conserve it,” said Chablani. Sumedha chose from an array of afternoon seminars ranging from Ultimate Frisbee and swing dancing to discussions of philosophy, travel, religion and culture. Sumedha Chablani is planning to study Biology or Economics at Columbia University this fall.

Contributions to the National Youth Science Foundation make it possible for all delegates to attend NYSC free of charge, including round-trip transportation.

For more information, please contact:
Andrew N. Blackwood, Ed.D.
Executive Director

National Youth Science Foundation
P.O. Box 3387
Charleston, WV 25333-3387
(304) 342-3326 voice
(866) 833-0875 fax

Sumedha Chablani

(click image to download high resolution version)
Sumedha gears up to enter one of the many caves in West Virginia. Photo by Adam Lesnikowski

Cover Letter to Farewell Banquet Remarks

July 27, 2007

Dear Dr. Blackwood (and NYSC Staph),

Thank you for providing me with such a remarkable experience! I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend the summer before I enter college. After explaining camp to family and friends and having time to reflect on the past month, I realized just how privileged I am to have attended NYSC.

From the way we woke up in the morning (Rhododendron Song) to the way we fell asleep at night (Ashokan Farewell), everything was so planned out. I loved starting my day off with an invigorating run alongside fellow delegates and staph members. Grace before meals forced me to understand just how fortunate we were to eat such tasty, nutritious (usually!) meals together. These minute details within our busy schedules certainly didn’t go unnoticed.

The one aspect about camp that I didn’t stress in the speech and didn’t get a chance to discuss with you is self-esteem. Throughout camp, whether hiking, adventure biking, or simply playing kickball, the staph did such a tremendous job of increasing my self-esteem, and I know I speak on behalf of every delegate. Although such activities became rigorous at times, never once did I feel incompetent, as the staph remained encouraging. I wanted to personally thank you and every staph member for instilling such confidence in me before I venture into the world.

I have sent my speech as an attachment. I hope you enjoy!

Thanks, once again, for a beautiful 4 weeks. Have a relaxing rest of the summer.


Sumedha Chablani

Farewell Banquet Remarks - Given on Sunday, July 22, 2007

National Youth Science Camp: Understanding Our World

By: Sumedha Chablani

During my junior of high school, my family decided to travel to India to visit relatives and while there, to visit an ashram, Parmarth Niketan, in the Himalayan Mountains of Rishikish. My parents had always wanted to go on a pilgrimage to this spiritual retreat and believed that my sisters and I were finally old enough to comprehend its essence. I was curious and a bit nervous: Where would we sleep? What would we eat? What were we even going to do?

Our journey to the ashram, much like our journey to Camp Pocahontas, was a long train ride, followed by a treacherous car ride curving up narrow, dusty roads and steering inches past vertical cliffs. The ashram sat amid lush greenery. Hungry, we were immediately invited to eat a simple yet filling lunch. We ate in complete silence, as required.

While the sun slipped down the horizon, we attended a prayer ceremony by the Icy River Ganga. It was chilly – we were bundled up in fleeces – but the heat of our prayers dispelled discomfort. We sang songs and meditated with locals, disciples, gurus, and fellow visitors. For the first time, I was praying from my heart. My eyes were closed, my hands clapped to the beat of the music, and I focused on each syllable of the Sanskrit songs. That evening was sublime.

Returning to America, I found no sacred garden, no pure river, no quiet meditation. Instead, I was swept back into the whirlwind of 10,000 responsibilities and ninety deadlines; although satisfying, this lifestyle was neither simple nor spiritual.

As I look back on our time spent at Pocahontas, in the mountainous terrain of West Virginia, I realized that I don’t need to travel across the globe to relive those moments of unadulterated happiness and purity. Every aspect of National Youth Science Camp was genuine, away from all things plastic, materialistic, and contrived.

On first instinct, I, along with most of you, was taken aback once I walked into the crammed, dusty girls’ cabin. I was really in for a surprise when I entered the bathhouse – the soaking, muddy floor, incessant dripping from the pipes, and putrid smell definitely didn’t serve to abate my initial disgust.

As I walked into the crowded dining hall, I assumed I had nothing in common, aside from my interest in science, with the 107 other delegates, being that we came from differing families, backgrounds, religions, cities, states, and countries. I wanted to transport myself to my sense of familiarity – MY hometown, MY house, surrounded by MY family, MY friends, MY favorite restaurants, MY pool, so on and so forth.

Gradually, we began immersing ourselves in the jam-packed schedule. We attended intriguing lectures by renowned scientists on topics ranging from breast cancer and global warming to architecture, bioethics, and men’s clothing. We finessed our disc throwing abilities, soccer kicks, volleyball serves, and kickball cheers. We participated in hands-on directed studies during which we familiarized ourselves with Economics, Gene Mapping, Sustainability, and, of course, the Rubik’s Cube. We spent hours testing our limits either by climbing extremely steep mountain faces; caving in wet, muddy, and sometimes cow-smelling conditions; adventure biking through forests and valleys – regardless of the outdoor conditions (thanks for that, Doug); and hiking amid the beautiful terrain of our wild and wonderful West Virginia.

As if that wasn’t enough, we also managed to become acquainted with the good ole’ GBT; jam to the rockin’ beats of Peter Mulvey in a cave; spend the 4th of July frolicking, rolling down hills, singing songs, and reflecting on the fundamental nature of Independence Day; embody true tourists while doing, seeing, and eating everything imaginable in Washington D.C.; and play every form of tag, ranging from freeze tag to buddy tag to blob tag, during our final OCE in the “green rolling hills of West Virginia.”

True, these activities and outings were rewarding in that they allowed us to explore hobbies and pursuits that we may not have otherwise – for personal or provincial reasons – but the aspects of National Youth Science Camp that I want to highlight are the relationships that we’ve formed with others and our surroundings.

National Youth Science Camp was the first time during which I consciously didn’t concern myself with befriending others based on similar interests or outer appearances such as accessories, clothing, gadgets, and make-up. Nor did I base my friendships on one’s prestige, as we were all strangers, entitled to forming our own reputations. Rather, National Youth Science Camp was an environment conducive to uninhibited bonding.

In the spirit of Dr. Blackwood’s request, I tried to meet and interact with a new person daily.  Conversing with such a broad, diverse group of people during meals, hikes, and cabin meetings has been enlightening. I’ve met a delegate whose family fled Tibet, one who has a penchant for Alaskan salmon, another who was the first in her town to be accepted to an Ivy League university, one who played the flute at Carnegie Hall, a few who were Intel Finalists, a boy who was the lead in all of his high school musicals, and a girl who is a hard-to-die feminist, among many others. During our conversations, I gathered information about personal hobbies and interests, religious customs and postulates, and state beliefs and traditions.

Such are in-depth, pure friendships as they are based on personal, one-to-one interactions rather than similarities, appearances, and reputations. Tomorrow, we will embark on our own journeys toward improving the world, whether in a scientific, health or political manner. But, we will remain strung together with our common thread – National Youth Science Camp.

In today’s materialistic, high-paced world, it is hard to avoid becoming technologically dependent. We have replaced personal interactions with instant messaging and “Face-booking.” We’ve replaced playing outdoors with playing the Nintendo Wii, computer games, and with our MP3 players. Additionally, we have substituted watching sunsets and stars with watching television and movies.

According to William Wordsworth, a 19th century Romantic:

            The world is too much with us; late and soon,

            Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

            Little we see in Nature that is ours;

            We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

In regard to our relationship with nature, National Youth Science Camp has helped to bridge the gap between the environment and us. While silently waking across the Seneca, Lumberjack, and North Fork trails, I enjoyed listening to sweet melodies of birds, peering at diverse landscapes, and eating in grassy fields and meadows. At night, lying upon the soft grass while gazing at distant stars was relaxing. Such hiking trips opened my eyes to the real beauty – natural beauty among us.

This morning, Zoon discussed the utmost hospitality of the National Youth Science Camp community. He stressed that we aren’t asked for anything in return for this month-long scholarship summer camp. In the same way, nature is “selfless,” providing us with fresh air, clean water, and sunlight, without expecting reciprocity.

I came to Pocahontas longing for MY hometown, MY house, and MY family but I am leaving with a deep sense of admiration for OUR environment, OUR fields, OUR hills, OUR mountains, OUR stars, and mostly, OUR friendships.

Although National Youth Science Camp enhanced my knowledge of scientific concepts, introducing me to a variety of fields, problems, and professions, its most important lesson was showing me the unfettered beauty and depth within our surroundings and us. May we treasure this lesson forever. Thanks for an amazing month!

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