Radhika Kannan wins UC Berkeley Medal as top graduating senior

Lyanne Melendez Image
Thursday, May 7, 2015
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UC Berkeley has announced its top graduating senior. Radhika Kannan is this year's UC Medal winner.

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- Every year UC Berkeley selects the top graduating senior. This year's medal winner was tried by adversity after losing her mother but became stronger because of it.

"There's nothing to lose and everything to gain," said Radhika Kannan.

That's what Kannan thought when she put her name on a list of top seniors all competing for the UC Berkeley medal. To even be considered, a student must have a 3.96 grade point average. Kannan will graduate with a 3.97 grade pint average.

It was her mother and best friend who pushed her to be a well-rounded person.

"There was dance, there was academics. In high school I did model U.N. I did debate, she really tried to broaden my perspective outside of the academic world itself," Kannan said.

During her junior year, her mother, the woman who was her rock, suddenly died of a rare disease.

"My method of grieving was to follow the plan that my mom and I had made and to honor her memory in that respect, which was to stay on track come back to school," Kannan said.

She focused on her major, economics and worked on projects regarding climate change in India. It was her teachers and friends at Cal who supported her during those trying months. That will be the focus of her commencement speech, to not be afraid to ask people for help.

"I think a lot of Cal students understand what it is to be independent and competitive, but a lot of time when we need help we don't ask for it," Kannan said.

Kannan who is 21, will now attend Oxford University to get her Masters Degree in environmental policy, from there law school at Columbia University.

"In terms of this completely unexpected achievement, it's been good," Kannan said.

When she delivers her commencement speech, she will be wearing her mother's turquoise sari.