Vedha Vaddaraju, a Plano West Senior High School student, was honored this month with the First Lady’s Rising Star Award, a designation given to young Texans who are giving back to the state with their time and talents.
The award, presented by OneStar Foundation and First Lady Cecelia Abbott, will be presented at the 39th Annual Governor’s Volunteer Award ceremony held in April during National Volunteer Month.
The senior’s award comes after Vaddaraju and Iris Lai, a friend and fellow Plano West student, opened a nonprofit called Letters of Gold, which aims to “give hope to people in times of need through providing an opportunity for people around the world to write letters of compassion, love and resilience,” their website says.
Since its inception in 2020, Letters of Gold has increased its school chapters to Lebanon Trail High School, Jasper High School, Heritage High School, Independence High School and Plano West Senior High School, and aims to create chapters at Celina and Lovejoy high schools.
The organization writes and facilitates the writing of positive letters to senior adults, domestic abuse survivors, schools in Plano and healthcare workers in Frisco, Washington, Arizona and California. Their website boasts a collection of around 3,000 letters since 2020.
In addition to starting Letters of Gold, Vaddaraju participates in speech and debate, President’s Council, National Spanish Honor Society and National Honor Society at PWSHS. Outside of school, she has worked in the medical industry in several capacities, including as a National Outreach Coordinator for the American Lung Cancer Screening Initiative, a Molecular Biology Researcher for UT Southwestern Medical Center and a Clinical Thoracic Surgery Researcher for Harvard Medical School.