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The Best and The Brightest of 2023



Age 16 | Junior
Mountain Ridge High School
There was a lot to be depressed about in 2020. But rather than dwell on all the sadness, Hurshneet Chadha saw the pandemic as an opportunity. And his infectious optimism has ignited a movement of positivity across the world.

“In the spring of 2020, we had the pandemic,” said Chadha, 16, a junior at Mountain Ridge High School. “My parents are both doctors. We got a very intimate experience dealing with the problems doctors and healthcare workers and patients experienced. And we wanted to help.”

Chadha’s solution was Project Smile AZ. It started small: Chadha and his family, at home, using the craft supplies they had available, to make cards (“smiles”) sending well-wishes to those affected by the pandemic.

“Over time,” he said, “it expanded exponentially.”

The smiles begat more smiles, and more and more people wanted to contribute to uplift their communities. Chadha and his brother have committed themselves to the Project Smile AZ mission. They’ve now established the organization as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

“We have over 1,000 Smile-Makers around the world,” Chadha said. “We’ve grown the project from that vision to make everyone smile. We started getting all these calls and emails and we realized we’d built something. We realized how much of an impact positivity could have. We haven’t strayed from that original project.”

Chadha has received feedback from everyone ranging from patients to hospital management, all sending gratitude for the acknowledgement and kindness.

Now, Chadha is working on digital smiles over social media – he calls it his “smile army.”

“We’re building up people and inspiring them to make a difference in the world around them,” Chadha said.
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