As part of the Samsung American Legion scholarship program, Miles Swaminathan, a senior at Olathe Northwest High, has already won a state-level award. Now, he’s being considered for an additional regional and national award.
Recipients of the $1,250 state level awards must be a descendant of a U.S. veteran of a war fought in the last 100 years, had to participate in the American Legion’s Boys or Girls State leadership program, submitted a resume containing their community service and academic achievements.
Applicants also had to submit two essays, one pertaining to their college preparations so far. The other asked students to identify their favorite clause in the American Legion’s preamble. Swaminathan selected the clause that advises people to “inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the community, state and nation.”
“Aside from the other stuff that you're doing [you should] also help out your community and [help] humanity progress,” he said.
State winners automatically move onto the regional scholarship contest. Individuals who move on from there are eligible for $5,000 or $10,000 scholarships, depending on whether they are selected to be one of 10 national scholar runners-up or the national scholar. Swaminathan said he should find out in mid-September how he fared in the regional and national leg of the competitions.
POST-HIGH SCHOOL EDUCATION
Swaminathan has his eyes on an out-of-state school to study music, probably a west or east coast observatory or university. He hasn’t narrowed down his top picks yet, but some of the choices he’s considering are the University of Southern California, the Manhattan School of Music, the Curtis Institute of Music in Pennsylvania or a dual-degree program through Harvard and the New England Conservatory of Music.
“I want to get out of the state,” he said.
His primary focus is on “performing, composing and conducting” music, maybe with traveling orchestras. Someday, though, he says he might like to teach at a conservatory.
GETTING INTO MUSIC
Swaminathan grew up in a pretty musically-inclined family — his father plays the drums in a number of bands in the metro area. However, he said he didn’t feel forced into it.
“I grew up around a lot of music, especially my dad's drumming. Also, just listening to music that he listened to, and I kind of got into music slowly,” he said. “I started to develop that passion on my own.”
When he was seven years old, he started playing the piano and was soon into private lessons. Now, he teaches private lessons on the side.
Although he’s more classically-inclined, Swaminathan said he’s also interested in jazz and rock. He’s part of a Deep Purple cover band that performs in KC called Purplexed.
Swaminathan is also interested in engineering. At Olathe Northwest, he’s in the engineering 21st century academy in the Engineering a Better World capstone.
“What we do is we use all of our STEM knowledge to do projects that will help others,” he said.
During his junior year, he was on a team of students in that capstone who built a machine to help a student at Olathe Northwest who has Phelan-McDermid syndrome, which is a genetic condition that affects speech, behavior and the body’s musculature among other things. The machine helped her eat independently, Swaminathan said. The invention, submitted to the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association’s REACH Challenge, won a national award.
Additionally he’s a self-described “avid golfer” and loves to play badminton. Swaminathan says he also participated in a number of student leadership programs, including the ONW Senior Committee and Student Council.