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Two distinguished scholars

Woodbury High School junior junior Samyuktha Melachuri and sophomore Amrita Mohanty were named 2013 Scholars of Distinction by the Minnesota Department of Education.

Two Woodbury High School students wrapped up the school year with distinction.

Junior Samyuktha Melachuri and sophomore Amrita Mohanty were named 2013 Scholars of Distinction by the Department of Education.

Melachuri and Mohanty were two of only 42 students from across Minnesota to receive the honor, which recognizes students in the areas of science, mathematics, social studies, leadership, theater arts and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Melachuri was honored in the field of science and Mohanty was recognized in the field of social studies.

To earn recognition as a Scholar of Distinction, students must complete required work in Minnesota's academic standards, demonstrate mastery of complex subject matter and apply their knowledge and skills on challenging projects.

"It was a lot of hard work and it paid off," Mohanty said.

For the project, Melachuri and Mohanty had to complete a research paper, work with professionals in their chosen field, create an annotated bibliography and create an annotated resume.

"The major part of it is that you have to write a project about a specific topic that you choose and you go in depth about it," Melachuri said.

"You kind of write a thesis paper," Mohanty said.

A scholar of science

At the beginning of the school year Melachuri began working with a pediatrician at Children's Hospital of Minnesota as part of WHS' Honors Mentor Connection, a school program where students are paired with real world professionals in their chosen interest area.

"It's an academic opportunity to immerse yourself in a professional setting," Melachuri said.

At the suggestion of the program adviser, Melachuri decided to apply for the Scholars of Distinction program.

"It looked like a good thing to apply for because it's a good recognition," she said.

For her project, Melachuri submitted a research paper that she had already completed with her mentor.

The research paper addressed findings of a clinical study about the side effects of a certain drug.

For the study, Melachuri accessed medical records, worked with patients, collected data, charted trends on spreadsheets and read through roughly 25 medical publications to gain background on the topic in order to support the hypothesis.

Melachuri said she spent roughly six hours per week working on the project from September through March.

"I like the research, that's interesting, but the shadowing is really fun because I got to interact with the patients," she said. "I got see what being a doctor is like."

A scholar of social studies

Mohanty also participated in the Honors Mentor Connection where she worked with a professor of geography at Macalester College.

"(The mentor program) really introduces you to a lot of aspects of the real world," she said.

Mohanty said she was drawn to a career in social studies because "I like seeing the connection between people and different social issues."

For her Scholars of Distinction project, Mohanty said she decided to focus on Hmong students at WHS.

"The topic had to be about Minnesota specifically and the Hmong people are a big part of Minnesota," she said.

In addition to working with her mentor, Mohanty also spoke with WHS' English Language Learners teacher who paired her up with Hmong students at the school.

"I learned a lot about what it's like to be children of refugees or have family members who were refugees and having to assimilate into a new country and learn a new language," she said. "Plus, I learned about the struggles with catching up in school."

Mohanty said she spent about eight hours per week on her project from September through March.

Both Melachuri and Mohanty said they are considering participating in the Scholars of Distinction program again next year.

Melachuri said her experience with the Scholars of Distinction program, as well as the mentor program, has helped her develop a better understanding of where she wants her future to take her.

"Along the way, it's helped me see my path and see my future goals," she said. "It helped me see what I want to do. Plus, I learned more about myself."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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