Neil Khurana is not the type to spend his days playing video games or scrolling through social media.
Instead, the high schooler is creating robots and volunteering for the likes of Put on the Cape: A Foundation for Hope. He completed research internships in the computer science and finance field at ASU.
He’s also the recipient of the University of Rochester’s prestigious Bausch & Lomb Honorary Science Award.
“My parents have really helped me with this since my early says,” says Khurana, a former Peoria resident who attended Sandra Day O’Connor High School. His father’s job brought his family to North Carolina a week ago.
“They taught me to be involved in sports, academic and extracurricular activities. They taught me to manage my time early on and not waste it on a lot of what teens do nowadays with social media and games. I do spend time on those to connect with friends and family. I have a joy for learning.”
The Bausch & Lomb is one of four selective awards that the University of Rochester offers 11th graders from around the world. Each school can nominate one student per award. Khurana’s prize recognizes high achievement and rigor in science and math classes, as well as positive contributions to the school and larger community.
Winners of the award have their University of Rochester application fee waived and are eligible to be considered for merit scholarships worth at least $10,000 per year.
Khurana, who formerly attended Glendale Community College, too, is the first student nominated by Sandra Day O’Connor High School.
He is “very involved” with Put on the Cape: A Foundation for Hope. He led multiple donation drives, raised more than $800 and collected about 200 new toys.
Put on the Cape’s founder, Sean Reavie, said Khurana impressed him immediately.
“Reaching out to me, he asked if he could be of help with my foundation’s mission of caring for abused children,” Reavie said.
Working with his classmates, Khurana organized a donation drive for the Superhero September celebration and visited the advocacy center with his father to deliver the items, and the staff thanked him for his generosity.
“In the spring of 2019, Khurana heard about the foundation’s Superhero 5K and signed up to run,” Reavie said. “The organizer of the race, Brett Stewart, is a renowned extreme athlete. Before the race started, Stewart challenged people to beat him to the starting line after the first mile of the race and earn a pair of high-end sport sunglasses if they could do it.
“I remember seeing Neil streak past the finish line with Brett behind him, earning a pair of those glasses. I was amazed.
“Most people go their entire lives and don’t make an impact in the lives of others the way Neil has in just a few short years. He has a giving heart and is a born leader and, more importantly, a servant. That is a rare combination. His parents are no doubt very proud of him. The sky is not the limit for Neil. It is the beginning.”
Khurana also served as the president of the Student Wellness Advocacy Team; president of the National Honor Society; and tutor to peers in math, Spanish and chemistry courses. He mentored freshmen in 10th grade and author of two articles. He collected leftover donuts and muffins from Dunkin Donuts and donated them to local nonprofits and halfway houses.
Khurana is hoping to study computer science or environmental engineering at Duke University.
“Science and computer science are things I really like the most,” he said. “My dad is very involved in computer science. That led me to take various courses in AP computer science in high school, and 11th grade I took computer science at Glendale Community College.”
While at Sandra Day O’Connor, Khurana did a “little project” in his computer science class. He 3D printed a robot and programmed it using Java to eat marbles.
“The robot would raise the container into its mouth,” Khurana said. “It would eat it. It would drop the container and put another marble in it. It was a small project, but it utilized coding.”
He is the son of Rupak and Polly Khurana and the brother of Ansh.