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The Best and The Brightest of 2023



Age 17 | Senior
North High School
Shortly after Nikhil Johnson migrated to Arizona from India at just three years old, he began feeling the strain of cultural differences. Those experiences led to several instances where Johnson felt he was not given the same opportunities as his peers and struggled to access community resources.

Fast forward a decade, Johnson began transforming those experiences into a passion for fostering equity and interest in STEM careers. Johnson was selected to join the Chief Science Officer program, which gives 6-12th graders an opportunity to be STEM ambassadors. He used that leadership position to raise awareness about equity issues, work with organizations to close the technological divide, and champion virtual events for students from culturally diverse backgrounds. He is also a founding member of the Equity for Everyone (EE) committee, helping to spearhead donation drives, diversity training, and resource equity missions for tribal and rural areas.

Johnson’s work stretches beyond Arizona and shows no signs of slowing. He is currently working on a project with the White House to expand the STEM Ecosystem, which is made up of schools, businesses, community stakeholders, and a variety of environments that support education-to-workforce pipelines. He is also passionate about sustainability and works with the City of Phoenix, and others, to ensure the Phoenix Union High School District operates in an environmentally-friendly fashion.

One of Johnson’s biggest triumphs, however, has been reworking the way he views and reacts to failure. Through the help of a dedicated mentor, Johnson has learned not to fear failure, but rather to fail fast, forward, and often. It is a life lesson he works to instill in other students.

“Make local changes that cause global impact,” said Johnson. “There’s a bad stigma that in order to make a change in the real world you have to go big or go home. Imagine what you’re doing, if your whole community did it, or if the whole state or country did it.”

Nikhil plans to pursue the medical field and continue giving back. He also wants to mentor other young people and inspire them to pursue their dreams.
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