Thank you to everyone who applied to the 2017 Kelly Somey Digital Marketing Scholarship! We received dozens of outstanding submissions this year from passionate high school seniors across the country. After reviewing all of the entries, UNION is excited to announce that the winner of the 2017 Kelly Somey Digital Marketing Scholarship is Akshay Punukollu!
Akshay is a senior at Naperville Central High School just outside Chicago, Illinois, and was recently accepted to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the fall to study Finance and Marketing.
Creating Success in Marketing
Growing up in and around Chicago, Akshay learned about the importance and of reinvention. In his essay, he cited his childhood of watching a city constantly change and the spaces and people within always redefining themselves, often bringing with it disorder but also beauty. Upon starting high school, Akshay began to see digital marketing as a problem-solving tool that could help impact his own community. Working as the Event Director for the Education Technology Collaborative, he helped coordinate a 2015 gathering that brought the brightest start-ups in education and over 500 education thought-leaders together for a three-day conference. Akshay’s used his creative muscles to work out logistics, lesson plans, organizational structures and graphic designs to bring the event to life, and leveraged its success into repeat of the conference the following year at LinkedIn Chicago.
In addition to his work with the ETC, Akshay devoted much of his time, energy (and summers) to multiple internships at ThinkCERCA, an education technology company. Here he learned first-hand the struggles school administrators have with adopting innovation and change and, as a result, took a role as an advisor to the Illinois Workforce Innovation Board. Motivated to understand public education challenges from a grassroots perspective, Akshay spent time as a second-grade teacher to low-income refugee students in South Chicago, choosing to throw out the standard workbooks and instead challenge the kids with exercises in creativity and experiential learning. Akshay’s students grew bean plants, sculpted the planets, built robots and, most importantly, grew as learners -- an artistic approach right in line with Mr. Somey's own beliefs..
Akshay says his experience as an educator reminded him of how influential and important his teachers were in his own life, especially Mrs. Christine Bell, a marketing educator at Naperville High School. He credits Mrs. Bell with focusing his talents and acting as a positive force of development, recruiting him into DECA. There, Akshay eventually became the State President of Illinois DECA, winning two international championships. Mrs. Bell pushed him to analyze issues from multiple perspectives and understand the role marketing can play in crafting solutions and putting those solutions in front of the right audience. Recently, in his local DECA’s annual fundraiser for the Naperville Education Foundation and under the leadership of Mrs. Bell, Akshay and his peers created promotional materials and campaign strategies that successfully raised the most funding in the program’s history.
For all his success, Akshay remains thankful to his parents, his sister, Mauna, and his dog, Leo.
We look forward to sharing in Akshay’s growth as an incredible human being and watching what he will achieve in college and beyond!
The team at UNION would like to thank all of the students who shared their personal stories and creative efforts this year. We loved reading them and we encourage each of you to continue pursuing education and careers in digital marketing.