ABC7 Top Scholar: Niharika Bedekar

June 26, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
What do you get when you combine top talent in the classroom with exceptional achievement in extra-curricular activities? The answer is: one of our ABC7 Top Scholars. Every year, we choose seven Bay Area high school seniors for this honor. Each one receives $1,000 scholarship and we've been bringing you their stories over the past several days. Here is a South Bay superstar.

"Hi. My name is Niharika Bedekar and I'm a senior at Saratoga High School. In the fall I will be attending Stanford University where I will be studying science technology and society," said Bedekar.

Top Scholar Bedekar is a straight-A student, captain of the tennis team, an outgoing young woman who is thriving. But back in elementary school, life threw her an unexpected curve. It's a sensitive subject many girls are reluctant to talk about.

"I got my first period when I was 9. It was early. Most of my peers back then were maturing at 12 and 13, so it was a little hard being four years above everyone else," said Bedekar.

The age when girls reach puberty is continuing to drop and as Bedekar got older she wanted to help young girls cope with their confusing feelings.

Through the organization she founded, PEAS -- Puberty Education And Support. Top Scholar Bedekar mentors young girls on the issue of puberty, something she struggled with growing up. Bedekar makes presentations to Girl Scout troops and works with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.

Sze: "Do you find that girls who develop early often have nowhere to go for help?"
Bedekar: "They have questions that are unanswered because they are too scared to ask people about it or they think they will be judged for asking people about it, and so they ask me, but once they ask me their fears are cleared up."

Bedekar is also an academic role model in science, history and language.

Sze: "You know how to speak Mandarin. It is not an easy language to learn. How did you get there?"
Bedekar: "All my friends were Chinese when I was little. And as the little 7-year-old I was, I wanted to be able to talk to them. And I came home one day and I angrily told my mom, 'I have to learn Chinese. I have to.'"

And she did. Bedekar is one of only two non-native speakers in her honors Mandarin class. Last summer she put her skills to the test when she went to Beijing to work as a research assistant in materials science at a Chinese university. Now she's co-authoring a published paper on her findings. Saratoga High School's assistant principal Brian Safine says Bedekar is the total package.

"If you look at the resume, you see a student who looks really perfect and entirely giving, but even more importantly is the fact that she constantly gives credit to others, constantly deflects praise and is a person that is easy to relate to," said Safine.

Bedekar says what drives her is her intense curiosity.

"I always try to go further. I research more. I do more for a project and I think the extra information just gives me the extra edge," said Bedekar.

Congratulations to Bedekar for being named an ABC 7 Top Scholar!

Join ABC7 on Sunday, June 30, at 3 p.m. for a special on all seven of this year's Top Scholars.


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