2020 - CALIFORNIA (SAN FRANCISCO REGION)
Krishay Mukhija is a junior at the Harker School in San Jose, California, and the founder of Suits2Empower, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. He launched Suits2Empower to reduce ethnic and racial disparities in education by providing professional attire and by offering development tools to empower underserved students to thrive in their academic careers. Inspired by an opportunity to help a debate opponent who couldn’t afford the requisite blazer and tie, Krishay reached out to his principal and hosted a school-wide donation drive and Suits2Empower was born. He then leveraged his involvement with Fresh Lifeline for Youth, an organization working to break the cycle of juvenile incarceration, where Krishay had heard the stories of many teens who had one or more parents in prison and had gone on to commit minor felonies themselves. He saw that breaking the cycle of incarceration meant providing equal educational opportunities to at-risk youth. While hosting dress-up events, Krishay and his team discovered that many students had limited career aspirations. To break through perceived glass ceilings, Krishay established a speaker program in which industry experts share their insights about their professions. Interacting with dynamic professionals has helped many students realize that they, too, can become pathologists or financial analysts. In partnering with over 14 nonprofits, including Lincoln Law School, Fresh Lifeline for Youth, Urban Debate League, and Restorative Justice Program, Suits2Empower has served over 2,500 students, debaters, young veterans, and aspiring lawyers. Using the Suits2Empower online portal, Krishay plans to extend the program nationwide and internationally, empowering students from different schools to start their own drives and partner with local nonprofits. In the next 18 months, Krishay envisions supporting more than 10,000 students through clothing drives, skills training, and juvenile court assistance programs with a team of 30 student leaders and 18 adult volunteers. Curious to investigate how these educational disparities and health outcomes are linked with neighborhood infrastructure and conditions, Krishay has also been conducting research at the University of Maryland College Park epidemiology lab. He aims to present this research to city legislators to improve neighborhood conditions and educational opportunities.