Future Leaders in Technology Scholarship - High School Award

Funded by
Virtasant Inc.
Learn more about the Donor
2 winners every 6 months, $500 each
Next Application Deadline
May 31, 2021
Next Winners Announced
Jul 16, 2021
Education Level
High School

Right now, Black and Latinx people only make up around 5% - 8% of the tech workforce. Women account for a mere 1 in every four tech jobs. For Native Americans and Indigenous groups, employment numbers are even lower, at around 1% at leading tech companies. These numbers reflect an improvement over the last few years, but this is not nearly enough.

The tech industry sets out to serve a remarkably diverse world. To accomplish this, the industry itself has to reflect that world. At Virtasant, we understand the need to embrace fresh perspectives, probe unexamined problems, and tap into unique ideas. We want to support the innovative minds that represent the groups and communities that are still getting left behind in tech.

To achieve this mission, we created the Future Leaders in Technology scholarship for students from these communities, who are pursuing careers in tech.

The scholarship is open to high school students who plan to pursue a degree in computer science, electrical engineering or data science. You must also be a member of an underrepresented group, including: Black or African American, Hispanic or Latinx, American Indian or Native American, LGBTQA+, and Women.

Selection Criteria:
Impact, Passion, Drive
Essay Topic

What area of tech are you interested in studying and why? Tell us about a problem that you hope to solve by way of your future education and career in tech.

200–1000 words

Winning Applications

Arjun Ramesh
Millard North High SchoolOmaha, NE
Adya Parida
Syracuse UniversitySyracuse, NY
As the curtains rise, I swirl across the stage, rhythm pulsating through my body. With my body draped in an ivory white, embellished silk saree, the movements of my upper torso symbolize waves and the graceful fluidity of my Odissi mudras (hand gestures) mimic swaying palm trees. I have been dancing since I was three and math always intrigued me. As a 6th grader, I was amused to see a few lines of C++ code making beautiful fractal patterns and overlays—my first non-textbook application of math. “It’s beautiful!”, I exclaimed, “but I can’t touch it!”. One day, I got hold of our old laptop and ripped it open to find an intricate network of tiny circuits, and shiny green slips jotted with silver spots. My brother explained how the microscopic switches on the motherboard generate 0s and 1s to execute wonderful things. “Oh! So the laptop is the flesh and the motherboard the heart? “Yes!”, he replied. I was elated to see how a tiny tangible chip breathes life into a powerful machine. I first applied coding in the real world by teaching three women housekeepers SQL and GoogleSuite. Two now work as database managers and one fondly recounts how she uses GoogleSheets to track crops grown and fertilizers used on her farm. Seeing her eyes sparkle with joy when her programs executed successfully, I was astounded by how a few lines of code could empower marginalized women and transform their lives in a patriarchal society. Thus, I feel compelled to study computer engineering. My mission as an engineer is to design intelligent AI systems to help farmers make rational decisions to optimize agriculture, without compromising the sanctity of the environment or ethics in the process. I want to expose myself to circuits, regression models, sensors, and their practical implementations. The wide range of AI specializations will teach me how to implement AI on data to identify solutions to root causes such as estimating costs and risks, improving crop yield, and minimizing waste. The ‘Mathematical Programming’ class will show me how to optimize systems of equations, a valuable skill for designing AI algorithms. I want to take an interdisciplinary approach to research and have the freedom to explore diverse connections between STEM and humanities. I want to work in horticulture on using soft bio-robots in vineyard harvesting. Through the Cornell Initiative for Digital Agriculture, I am excited to work with her to deploy Deep Learning algorithms in bio-robots that use spatial statistics for real-time yield forecasting and predicting which genes will create a healthier plant. Indian farms severely lack freshwater infrastructure. I want to develop sustainable irrigation systems, crucial for meeting agricultural and potable water requirements in the world's drought-prone areas. As a responsible engineer, I have always been interested in addressing ethical and privacy concerns in big data strategically. I will delve deeper into psychology and contextualize my work in engineering through information ethics, law & policy. Whether I am designing a new algorithm or developing disaster-resilient irrigation systems in India, my greatest loyalty as an engineer is to humanity. Thus, I will immerse myself in the power of simple lines of code to transform lives.
Anika Kathuria
Bridgewater-Raritan High SchoolBridgewater Township, NJ
Kynnedy Smith
Columbia University in the City of New YorkShaker Heights, OH
When I was younger, I loved creating contraptions under the name, The Inventress. I made things like vibrating back scratches that reached multiple spots at once and a pulley system that simplified rinsing dishes. Once I got my first taste of gaming through my Pink Nintendo DSI, I quickly became interested in learning how to be a digital inventress through code. After learning how to create a text-based adventure game in the language C# at summer camp, I became obsessed with coding. I participated in computer science camps and research each year after that, and I began creating new “inventions” in the form of creative online tools, games, and websites. I fell in love with computer science because coding is like doing magic with a keyboard. With the correct lines of code, I can create anything I want, from a new game or website to alternate realities and intelligent technologies. Computer science is thrilling because it gives me the ability to literally be a magician, to create something from nothing, and use this ability to better the lives of others. This summer, while reading up on news about the field, I stumbled across an article about a company that conducted the world’s first successful total knee replacement surgery using smart glasses enhanced with augmented reality and artificial intelligence. I was completely awestruck by how this technology enhanced the surgical process, so I decided to write a science article about how artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) can revolutionize the healthcare sector. I spent hours researching ways these two technologies can be combined to create an augmented human intelligence in healthcare workers, and I even secured interviews with experts from Google Healthcare and the Medical Virtual Reality department at the University of Southern California to broaden my understanding. I gave my all to this project, losing track of time researching potential applications and barriers to integrating this technology into everyday life, and I was very happy to get my article published in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Office of Engineering Outreach Program e-publication at the end of this summer. After studying how AI and AR can be integrated into the healthcare sector, I have become increasingly interested in how this technology can be used to help my community, especially in the midst of the re-emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement this summer. Between the tragic murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others who look like me, I began thinking of ways this technology can be used to create change during this tense time. I would love to explore the opportunity of a safety integration in AR/AI glasses that could read a person’s constitutional rights to them when they are stopped by the police and display the officer’s badge number and title. I also envision AR/AI glasses made for the police officers to wear that could recognize the person’s face and tell the officer the person’s criminal record, their occupation, if they have a family, etc. Although facial recognition raises some ethical concerns, I believe these issues can be solved with proper regulations in place that ensure the security and diversity of the data collected. The integration of this technology in these situations could bring humanity back into civilian-police interactions, make people feel safer, and even save lives. By pursuing computer science in college, I hope to continue studying this technology and go on to achieve my Ph.D. in the field with a concentration in human-computer interaction and artificial intelligence. In light of the systemic injustices that myself and other minority communities face in our society, I want to become an expert in this field to create a software company that produces technology that accents and improves the minority experience. Through virtual experiences and programs that augment human intelligence, I want to use the magic of computer science to expose people to new perspectives, and better the lives of minority communities.


When is the scholarship application deadline?

The application deadline is May 31, 2021. Winners will be announced on Jul 16, 2021.

This scholarship has been awarded, but we have hundreds more!
Find a perfect scholarship now