In the last five years, Pratyusha Yalamanchi, 18, has helped provide treatment to more than 290,000 dental patients in Andhra Pradesh.
A high school graduate from the International Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, she founded Dental HygIndia, partnering with Dr Kadiyala Rajendra, a dentist in Andhra Pradesh, at the age of 13, after she saw the sorry state of dental hygiene among villagers in India during a trip.
This, her other compassionate activities and top academic achievement earned her a place among the five finalists in the Youth Volunteer of the Year award in the Michigan Governor's Service Award Programme.
Pratyusha, her award programme profile noted, 'has a passion for making a difference locally and globally.' She is also 'an exceptional student and leader; receiving a perfect score on her Scholastic Aptitude Test, maintaining a 4.0 grade point average, and serving as her senior class' co-president.'
Pratyusha did not win the award. "Another very deserving teen was selected," she said.
"When I was 12, I visited my grandparents' village in Andhra Pradesh and was shocked to find villagers brushing their teeth with charcoal, salt, and neem sticks since basic amenities like toothbrushes and toothpaste were unavailable," she said. "I soon learned that according to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 90 per cent of the Indian population is affected by dental diseases and one oral-cancer-related death occurs every seven minutes".
"While the average Telugu-American teen grumbles about trips to the orthodontist," she continued, "the average Indian teen has four decayed or missing teeth and has never seen a dentist in his lifetime."
Hence, she partnered with Dr Rajendra, chairman, AP superspecialty Dental Hospitals.
"Over the past three years, Dental HygIndia and AP Superspecialty Dental Hospitals have run a mobile dental clinic that has traveled across AP, treating over 290,000 people and holding dental hygiene awareness camps in 150 schools," she said.
Last year, she obtained a Michigan Solicitation License to apply for grants and raise funds in the United States.
"I created pamphlets on dental hygiene for the awareness campaign in Indian schools and donor packages so individuals may contribute online and sponsor the treatment of a single child or a family with contributions ranging from $10 to $75," she said.
She also teaches SAT prep courses and the money she earns goes to Dental HygIndia
Pratyusha has worked as research intern at the Pediatric Retna Lab in Beaumont Hospital and as a student researcher at the Oakland University's physics department.
She was a semi-finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search and Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology. She is also a National Merit Scholar finalist, Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge semifinalist and a semifinalist in the Presidential Scholars programme.
She was accepted to many universities, and has decided on Harvard.