Senior recognized for leadership skills

Riya Sembhi is the winner of Widener University’s High School Leadership Award.
Posted on 12/23/2020
Riya Sembhi speaks at a student forum in front of a group of student leaders from Bucks County high schools.By Gary Weckselblatt

Riya Sembhi, a Quakertown Community High School senior, is a winner of the Widener University High School Leadership Award.

The program recognized 160 students from high schools throughout the region for their abilities to stand up for what is right, address a wrong and make a difference in their communities or schools. The award comes with a $20,000 scholarship, paid over four years, should Riya choose to enroll at Widener as a freshman for undergraduate studies.

She would be known as Apogee Scholar, which provides students the opportunity to receive four years of valuable leadership programming and experiences. Through this Leadership Institute, Apogee Scholars can uncover their potential and further develop leadership skills by earning a leadership certificate or pursuing a minor in leadership studies.

“I was so excited to hear about this,” said Riya, who plans to study for a career as an attorney. “It is such an honor. I am so thankful to Mrs. Sabol for nominating me.”

Mrs. Sabol is QCHS guidance counselor Patty Sabol, who beams when speaking of Riya. “She is fabulous,” Mrs. Sabol said. “Riya is a natural leader. As one of our former HOBY representatives and our school’s recipient of the Widener University High School Leadership Award, I cannot speak enough about Riya’s leadership style and her commitment to her activities. Riya is counted on in the main office to present the announcements to the building each morning. Everyone knows Riya and everyone admires her personality and her dedication.”

HOBY is the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership scholarship, which Riya earned as a sophomore. It came with a weekend leadership seminar at Albright College, where students participated in hands-on leadership activities, meet leaders in their state, and explore their own personal leadership skills while learning how to make a positive impact in their community.

Riya began building those leadership skills at Strayer Middle School as a member of the student council. She continued along that path at QCHS where she got to know 2020 grads Jacob Berton and Jolly Ekpe and joined them on the executive council of the student council.

“I love being able to talk to and to meet people,” she said. “Jake and Jolly are good people, and I believe it’s important to be around good people in high school to be successful.”

Success has certainly followed Riya throughout a highly productive high school career. She has taken 10 Advanced Placement classes and is a drum major for the marching band. Riya, who is passionate about music and plays with the Jazz Band and indoor drumline, is also a member of the National Honor Society, Future Business Leaders of America, Social Justice Alliance and the Environmental Club.

She praised her teachers, saying “I never had a teacher whose class I didn’t enjoy being a part of. They all care about us, and they all know what they’re talking about.”

Now comes the hard part. While she has been accepted to attend Widener with what she described as “hefty scholarships,” Riya recently applied to Drexel, where her brother Jasraj is a recent graduate. Whatever she chooses, this future attorney is on her way to becoming a leader in her field.

"Through the High School Leadership Awards, Widener University has the pleasure of honoring the inspiring young leaders within our community who demonstrate courage and strong leadership," Widener University President Julie E. Wollman said in a statement. "This year we are extremely proud to recognize students like Riya Sembhi who embody the important principles of character and leadership, and who work to create positive change in their communities. It is my pleasure to give all the honorees this well-deserved recognition."

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or gweckselblatt@qcsd.org.
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