Latest Research Cohort Represents Three States, Works to Fight Poverty

Fifteen people on zoom meeting

Asbury Park, July 5, 2021 – Twelve socially conscious high school students, representing three states, commenced their fellowship with the Teen Think Tank Project in an effort to fight poverty.

On June 8, 2021, twelve students from California, Georgia and New Jersey began their 12-week residency as research associates at the Teen Think Tank Project. The focus of the Summer Research Cohort is financial security, with a concentration on achieving economic security and fighting poverty. As research associates, students are investigating the struggles and hardships that low-income American families face to understand how education inequalities, underemployment, inconsistent health benefits, and institutional prejudices prevent individuals from escaping poverty’s grip.

The members of the Summer Research Cohort are Zachery Alexis (St. Joseph High School, NJ), Leah Desai (Thomas Edison Energysmart Charter School, NJ), Sameer Desai (Thomas Edison Energysmart Charter School, NJ), Aishwarya Dodda (Somerset Vocational and Technical High School, NJ), Selahattin Gedik (Thomas Edison Energysmart Charter School, NJ), Jayda Hendrickson (McDonough High School, McDonough, GA), Salma Khan (Corona Del Mar High School, CA), Indiana Lu (Bridgewater-Raritan Regional High School, NJ), Shrey Metha (Somerset Vocational and Technical High School, NJ), Milan Patel (Somerset Vocational and Technical High School, NJ), Pranav Potrevu (Somerset Vocational and Technical High School, NJ), and Fiona Shanahan (Somerset Vocational and Technical High School, NJ). The cohort is led by research coordinator and Teen Think Tank Project Co-founder, Matthew DeSantis.

“We are really excited to be kicking off the summer session with this talented group of teenage change agents,” said DeSantis. “Our inaugural research cohort, which concluded their work this past spring, was a special group of students who set the bar extremely high for future Teen Think Tank Project members. However, I am confident our Summer Research Cohort will rise to the challenge and exceed expectations. I look forward to working alongside them.”

Although the research associates represent different states, high schools, ages and interests their passion to have a positive impact in the world unites them. Salma Khan, research associate, shared “I am very passionate about making an impact on the world and serving as a catalyst for positive social change. I believe that education can be a transformative tool for changing the world because it amplifies unheard voices and paves the way for future innovation.”

The research associates will have the pleasure of learning from industry experts and thought leaders, including Connie Whitman, CEO of Whitman & Associates LLC, Bruce Waltuck, a professor at Kean University, and Mary Pascarella, founder of Perennis Financial Planning, LLC.

The Summer Research Cohort will conclude with a Policy Research Launch Party on August 26, 2021. The research associates will share their research and policy recommendations to address economic insecurity and poverty. The launch party will also award an outstanding research associate with a $500 college scholarship, thanks to the generosity of Perennis Financial Planning, LLC. The virtual event will be open to the public.

Teen Think Tank Project is a student-run policy institute that fosters critical thinking, research techniques, and problem-solving skills to develop policy frameworks for real-life issues and empowers students to become future changemakers. Teens find their voice and create change at or @teen_thinktank.

Contact Information:
Kelly Nagle, Co-founder and Vice Chair

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