This story is part of Newsday’s 2020 Extraordinary Seniors series showcasing 12 high school students from across Long Island with the vision and determination to transform their corners of the universe — and perhaps beyond. See more Extraordinary Seniors at newsday.com/extraordinaryseniors.
Dhanush Sivasankaran has come a long way since his birth in India.
The Hicksville High School senior, who was born in the metropolitan city of Chennai, and his family immigrated shortly thereafter with dreams of a better life in America.
Today, Sivasankaran is making those dreams a reality through his achievements and activities, ranging from becoming an AP Scholar with Distinction to volunteering nearly 230 hours since his freshman year at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola. He also became a U.S. citizen last year.
"If my parents could do all this with what they had, coming here with almost nothing, given what I've been given, I should be able to do so much more," said Sivasankaran, 18.
From last July to this January, Sivasankaran helped develop a cracker through India-based Granova Naturals that is fortified with nutrients and antioxidants to address the "often overlooked problem of malnutrition" in India, he said. Last fall, he volunteered up to five days a week at St. Francis Hospital in Flower Hill.
The diligent teen has also participated in prestigious summer programs through the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, Camp Cardiac at NYU Langone Health, and the Institute of Cancer Research and Education at SUNY Old Westbury.
"Dhanush expects to understand how and why the world works," Hicksville math teacher Jason Cetron said. "He makes those around him better students by allowing them to feel comfortable and motivating them to think independently, and he makes them better people by making them feel accepted and confident in their own abilities."
In addition, Sivasankaran won a gold medal in the Long Island Math Fair, was named a commended student by the National Merit Scholarship Corp., and attended the Institute of MERIT at SUNY Old Westbury. His leadership positions have included being director general of his school's Model UN, president of the Science Honor Society, and captain of the varsity swim team.
"Dhanush has left an impression on almost everyone he has had an interaction with," said his guidance counselor Russell Garcia. "He is a once-in-a-lifetime student with a drive that will always push himself to become better."
HIGHER ED: Plans to major in biology and global health at Georgetown University
FRESHMAN YEAR: "I'm most excited for the opportunity to meet new people from around the world … and am looking forward to partaking in activism in Washington, D.C."
DURING THE PANDEMIC, I LEARNED: "The pandemic has shown me that although we live in a digital age, social interaction and quality in-person time with your friends and loved ones remains as important as ever."