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Waldorf Watch: Junior Selected as NY Winner of Science and Services Awards!

The Waldorf School of Garden City Junior, Esandi Perera, has been selected as the NY winner of the National Center for Women and Information Technology Award and The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards Gold Presidential Service Award!

The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) works to increase the meaningful participation of girls and women in computing. As the only national non-profit focused on women’s participation in the field, they work with organizations to recruit, retain, and advance women from K-12 and higher education. NYWIT works to make computing education accessible to all and attract diverse talent to the discipline. Esandi received the award from NCWIT for her work in coding and her passion for computer science.

The Prudential and National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) has been created to honor middle and high school students for outstanding service to others at the local, state, and national levels. Esandi was honored with the Gold Presidential Service Award on behalf of NASSP for her work at TeenHacksLI.

TeenHacksLI Advocates for the presence of underrepresented groups in the world of STEM, specifically women and people of color. They work to reinforce positive real-world implications of hacking, from solving environmental issues to easing society’s socioeconomic disparities by hosting yearly hack-a-thons. This year’s hack-a-thon theme was “Hacking for Humanity.” Participants worked in teams of four to think of innovative solutions to stop the spread of COVID-19. Esandi first got involved as a participant in their first hack-a-thon in 2019 became Executive Director of TeenHacks LI in May 2020.

When originally asked to send information about what she is currently working on, Esandi responded humbly with, “Which project you are you asking about? Is it my participation in the New York Academy of Science, my research work, or TeenHacks LI?”

Esandi is currently conducting research through The American Museum of Natural History and the New York Academy of Science.

“At the moment, I am working on two research projects involving computational biology and data analysis. The first is at the American Museum of Natural History, where I research the North Atlantic Oscillation and how it has impacted climate change through data analysis and visualization using python. The second project I am working on is at Columbia University’s Axel Lab. [I] work with Dr. Walter Fischler to study the Anolis Carolinensis and its properties of neurogenesis in its medial cortex. These lizards are able to regain their memories/neurons even after brain damage over a period of time. The aim of this research is to study their brain activity when regaining memories by introducing new odors to the lizards and then injecting them with a chemical that will kill all their neurons. As of now, we are still working on creating the first modern Anolis Brain atlas through MRI imaging and creating 3D models before moving on to observing neurogenesis. We have finished the majority of the 3D models, and by December/January, the brain atlas paper will be published, which is really exciting since my name will be on it as a contributor as well.”

The New York Academy of Science includes a network of scientists around the globe who pioneer new discoveries and explorations in science. According to the website, “The mission of the New York Academy of Sciences is to drive innovative solutions to society’s challenges by advancing scientific research, education, and policy.” Some notable members included Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, Richard Axel, and more. The academy has a high school division called the Junior Academy, into which Esandi was accepted in September after an application process. They accept about 1,000 people out of the 18,000 that apply annually from around the world. At the academy, she competes in a myriad of challenges to create solutions for current problems in science through engineering, technology, and research. “At the moment, I am competing in a Telemedicine Challenge to design a solution that improves the quality of virtual care, advances the current digital healthcare space, and addresses health inequalities. I am competing in a team of 6 with members from Romania, India, Texas, New York, and New Jersey, so it is very exciting to collaboratively work together to build a prototype!”

The Waldorf School of Garden City is very proud of Esandi for all her accomplishments, her work in science and technology, and her service to her community.