2019 Student Peace Award Winner Deepika Joshi


Photo by Andrea Worker

Karyna Hetman

Fairfax County Public Schools annually gives out a “Student Peace Award,” where they pick students from schools around the county to award their success in working hard to make a difference in and out of the school environment. Recipients were recognized on March 10, 2019 at the Sherwood Community Center in Fairfax. Out of the twenty-two students chosen, Centreville High School’s very own Deepika Joshi was awarded for her outstanding job as the founder and President of the Students Together Assisting Refugees (STAR) club.

STAR was created by Deepika Joshi to help refugees overcome the obstacles they face, including emotional, mental, and physical distress. They work with refugees both locally and globally; one such example would be children in Lebanon. Through a project initiated by Joshi, called “Letters of Hope,” students and teachers throughout the school wrote letters to refugee children in Lebanon in the hopes that it would spread feelings of hope and encouragement and alleviate their feeling of fear.

The club also took action, informing youth about the issues involving refugees. STAR reached out to middle school youth group students to raise awareness and spread their passion for making a difference. Getting feedback from a younger population was crucial to get ideas for how to help refugees the same age as these children. This also provided an opportunity for them to get feedback from younger peers in the community, as well as gave them a platform to voice their ideas and opinions on the subject. This was a great way to take their organization from the high school level to a more broad, public level.

Joshi continually worked towards her goal to help refugees outside of school as well, working with her community to come towards a common good. She made welcome packages for incoming refugees to Washington D.C. and Maryland, in order to help them start and flourish in a new life and environment in America. She made this possible by holding donations for household goods, as well as school supplies. She also held donation drives during the winter season for coats and other warm winter clothes to send to refugees in Bosnia. Through many bake sales and fundraisers for the Centreville STAR club, they have raised a good deal of money for their cause. They decided use this money to support the United Nations Refugee Agency. “Through STAR, I have been able to interact with various students in my school [and] community, and have been able to raise awareness about the issue,” says Joshi.

Joshi says her passion to help refugees started after she experienced a refugee simulation activity at a Conflict Resolution Youth Summit. “For me,” Joshi says, “simply being able to see this issue through a wider scope and closely understanding the struggles they are facing was enough to start taking a step.” Her goal for her work is to “inspire others to bring us together, [and] to not focus on what makes us different, but what binds us together-humanity.”

One of the obstacles Joshi faced when creating STAR was recruiting members. It was hard for her to assure students that their club could make a difference, no matter how small the impact. By talking to students about how important it is to take steps toward making a difference for a greater cause, she was able to recruit thirty-five members for STAR.

Joshi says her Student Peace Award is very precious to her, and she will be using the monetary portion of the award to buy school supplies for unprivileged children in Nepal. Her big takeaway from the award ceremony was that it widened her eyes to see how many other students are striving to make a change and how the effort from everyone amounts to a significant, beneficial impact on the world. “I have been able to see that each one of us can change the world one step at a time, making ripples throughout mankind,” Joshi says.

Centreville High School is very proud of Joshi for her hard work in and out of school to make a difference in lives of refugees. Her nature of putting others needs before her own is a very admirable quality, and this along with all her hard work makes her very deserving of this award. Keep up the great work, Deepika!