Srikanth Bolla

Srikanth is currently a third year undergraduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States. As a visually challenged individual, he has overcome many life challenges in order to achieve his impressive academic and entrepreneurial success. Being visually challenged has not stopped him from having the dedicated vision to change society, creating a better tomorrow for disabled people in India, and becoming an active Board member for the Samanvai Center for Children with Multiple Disabilities, a non-profit organization in Hyderabad, India. Dedicated to the vision of supporting students with disabilities, Srikanth took the initiative to launch a Computer Research and Training Center for visually challenged students at the Samanvai Center to provide computer education for visually challenged students and to help them become independent learners and develop skills for employment. He also designed the Digital Library which provides books in the form of mp3 files and DVDs to promote accessible education. In addition to this he also designed and implemented a Braille library and printing press to provide free Braille books to blind schools and colleges for the students studying there. He is now concentrating on fundraising for future projects and working on Samanvai’s website development.

Srikanth has many titles and awards under his name. He became the first blind student to complete a science education in Andhra Pradesh State Board, receiving 92 percent. During high school, Srikanth won numerous state and national titles in chess, including the special distinction of drawing a chess match with one of India’s grand masters. Srikanth also won second place in India’s 93rd Indian Science Congress and was on the state and national teams in India for blind cricket. During middle and high school, Srikanth won the Pratibha Excellence Award twice, which is given by the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh for academic excellence. In addition to his education and extracurricular activities, Srikanth had great passion towards community service ever since he was in high school. His interest in service led him to join Lead India 2020, the second youth national movement started by former President of India Dr. A.P.J. Kalam, to train India’s youth in leadership, human values, and employability skills with the vision that the transformed 540 million youth would lead India to become a developed nation by 2020, which could be achieved by eradicating poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment. As a youth leader for the past five years, Srikanth has trained youth on all aspects of leadership, human values and employability skills. Srikanth was personally appreciated by former President Kalam at his residence for his outstanding efforts and service for training, motivating and inspiring students and youth across India. More than 800,000 students and youth across India have been inspired by Srikanth’s vision.

Srikanth’s successes throughout his school years in India led him to be admitted to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as the institution’s first international blind student. Srikanth has been recognized by the National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS), a college honor society in the United States. When he is not busy studying for his classes, Srikanth continues to promote service and entrepreneurship. He is currently serving as an executive director for the MIT International Development Club. Srikanth is also collaborating with other team members from MIT on a low-cost science curriculum for blind students in developing countries as part of the MIT’s Global Challenge competition.

Srikanth continues to try to increase awareness of issues related to children in India on his college campus. He has authored a paper on Child Labor in India, which was published in the MIT Angles magazine. He also directs continuous fundraising efforts for Samanvai.

Srikanth recently completed a summer internship at Infosys, Hyderabad, India, where he worked on a project entitled, “Building Smarter Teams to Understand Practices that Shape Collaboration and Learning in Distributed Project Teams.” During summer 2010, he completed a similar internship at GE, Hyderabad.

Srikanth is also working hard in the MIT Vision and Computation Lab of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences as an undergraduate research assistant. His research involves studying the workings of the brain in people with visual challenges and studying tactile picture recognition by blind people. Using his research findings in tactile image recognition and brain development, Srikanth endeavors to foster visual arts projects amongst blind students.

Ever since he came to MIT, Srikanth has continued to receive awards for his excellence in academics and service. He was awarded the “Distinguished Youth Service Award” by renowned Telugu poet Dr. J. Bapu Reddy, the “Youth Leadership Award” by New Jersey Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, and the “Youth Excellence Award” by the Telugu Fine Arts Society of New Jersey. Srikanth also received several fellowship grants from the MIT Public Service Center and the MIT Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship to implement his service goals at Samanvai. Besides his entrepreneurial and educational activities, Srikanth gives equal importance to sports. He is part of MIT’s Chess Club and Archery Club and the Boston Renegades baseball team.

Srikanth in the Future

He wants to spend most of his career improving the situation of challenged populations.As he puts it, “I would like to dedicate my career to serving those who are physically challenged, especially to increasing their access to education and technology for disabled students. I want to provide the guidance and mentoring necessary to facilitate opportunities for these students to excel. I want to guarantee that students younger than I am don’t suffer as I did as they endeavor to create a successful career for themselves. I am lucky to have great support from my mentors and well-wishers, but most students lack this valuable resource. I want to fill this gap and be helpful to the community.” In addition to having social goals, Srikanth views himself as a visionary business leader, and would like to contribute to the emerging market with a future company. Srikanth likes to design and market new products with cutting edge technologies, creativity, low prices, and top quality. He would like to complete an MBA in innovation, technology and entrepreneurship, and also be a PhD in education. Finally, he would like to maximize his public service efforts by becoming the future President of India.