Smitha Ramakrishna is on a quest to show young people can make a difference. The Chandler 15-year-old started AWAKE: Arizona Water Activists Karing for the Environment.
The club’s motto is, “Think globally, act locally and act globally.”
“Water is the basic necessity for people on Earth, and everyone should have access to clean, potable water,” said Ramakrishna, one of 10 national winners of the 2006 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes. “I think it’s crucial because water affects so many people. One out of five people in the world have problems with water.”
Locally, club members are showing their opposition to a Flagstaff ski resort’s use of reclaimed water for snowmaking on the San Francisco Peaks.
Since Phoenix goes through the same type of water filtration, AWAKE members tested the reclaimed water in 30 local ponds and lakes. They found that 17 tested positive for coliform, an intestinal waste bacteria, Ramakrishna said.
The group sent the test results, along with a petition of 200 signatures, to the mayor of Flagstaff.
Globally, club members are helping destitute children living in India. On one of many trips to India to visit family, Ramakrishna saw children living in slums and wanted to help.
She started the Asha Kids Chapter, a branch of AWAKE, and is raising money to help give the children better educations and try to better their lifestyle. Asha means hope in Sanskrit.
The chapter organized three annual walkathons at Kiwanis Park on or around the Oct. 2 birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, Ramakrishna’s role model. The 5K walks brought together 450 people and raised $5,200.
The money is funding projects in India: Reverse osmosis systems and mid-day meal programs for 500 children, increased teacher pay in two private schools, and reverse osmosis systems in small villages that will help 3,150 children have potable water.
As a Corona del Sol High School sophomore, Ramakrishna also rejuvenated the school’s Earthworks club, which has the same goal as AWAKE. Today, club members will participate in the international World Water Monitoring Day. They will test the lake waters in a couple local parks and send back data to the organization.
Debbie Moore, Ramakrishna’s counselor at Corona del Sol, nominated her for the Young Heroes award.
“I can’t wait to see what she’s going to do for the country and the world,” Moore said.
For information on AWAKE, call (480) 965-6560 or visit