Akanksha Education Fund



We are thrilled to have these amazing speakers at our Signature Event “Voices on the Rise.”
 Our speakers come from diverse professional and personal backgrounds, and are inspirational in their efforts to uplift others through service, community outreach, and education.

Kaneez Surka

Kaneez Surka is a Stand-Up Comedian and Show Creator/Producer. She has produced and performed in her Netflix Special, ”Ladies Up” and Netflix’s “Comedy Premium League,” and Amazon Prime Video’s Improv specials “Something From Nothing” and “Improv All Stars – Games Night.” Kaneez is a pioneer in the Indian comedy scene and has established herself in the industry. She has been a judge on the comedy reality show “Comicstaan” on Amazon Prime Video and “Queens of Comedy” on TLC. On YouTube Kaneez started “The General Fun Game Show,” a comedy panel game show featuring popular comics that is the first of its kind in India. Kaneez also worked with Art for Akanksha, and continues to bring her creative energies to her work today. Kaneez recently moved to New York and is set to continue her comedy career in America.

Sandeep Rai

Sandeep Rai started his career as a Teach For America corps member, teaching seventh and eighth grade science in Washington, D.C. In addition to championing multiple school-wide reforms, he led his students to dramatic gains across literacy, mathematics, and science. This experience cemented his resolve to eliminate educational inequity. In 2008, Sandeep moved across the world to help launch Teach For India. The organization houses 1000 Fellows who impact 32,000 children; and has graduated more than 4500 Alumni who are now reaching 33 million children across India. Sandeep has played numerous leadership roles at Teach For India, including serving as the Chief Program Officer and the Chief of City Operations.  

Since his time in India, Sandeep has published multiple works, including Grey Sunshine, a book on the truth and hope of India’s educational system. He sits on the advisory boards of Saturday Art Class and The Apprentice Project, and the governing board of iTeach. 

Sandeep recently pivoted to a senior advisory capacity at Teach For India, to found and lead The Circle, an organization that is building a reimagined circle of schools, after-school programs, and teachers that together, offer every child in India expanded opportunity to succeed.

Nitin Nohria

Nitin Nohria served as the tenth dean of Harvard Business School from 2010-2020. He previously served as co-chair of the Leadership Initiative, Senior Associate Dean of Faculty Development, and Head of the Organizational Behavior Unit. His intellectual interests center on human motivation, leadership, corporate transformation and accountability, and sustainable economic and human performance. He is co-author or co-editor of 16 books. Nohria is also the author of over 50 journal articles, book chapters, cases, working papers, and notes.

An advisor to small and large companies, he is Partner and Executive Chairman at Thrive Capital, Chair at Exor N.V., and serves on the boards of ABI, The Bridgespan Group, Massachusetts General Brigham, and Rakuten Medical.

Nohria received his Ph.D. in Management from the Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a B. Tech. in Chemical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (which honored him as a Distinguished Alumnus in 2007).

Rebecca Winthrop

Rebecca Winthrop is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution. Her research focuses on education globally, with special attention to the skills young people need to thrive in work, life, and as constructive citizens.    

Dr. Winthrop works to advance education systems transformation, including exploring how education innovations and family-school collaboration can be harnessed to leapfrog progress, particularly for the most marginalized youth. She advises governments, international institutions, civil society organizations, foundations and corporations on education issues. She currently serves as a board member and advisor for a number of global education organizations and lectures at Georgetown University.  Winthrop has also authored numerous articles, reports, books, and book chapters. 

She was educated at Columbia University, Teachers College (Ph.D., 2008), Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs (MA, 2001), and Swarthmore College, (BA, 1996). 


Ramesh Srinivasan

Ramesh is a Senior Partner in McKinsey’s New York Office. He joined the firm in
Mumbai in 1994, and moved to NYC in 2005. His work spans the Healthcare,
Leadership and Social Sector Practices. Ramesh is the Global Dean of the Bower
Forum, McKinsey’s CEO learning program. He sits on McKinsey’s Global Social
Responsibility Council, and leads the Firm’s Social Responsibility efforts in North
As part of his professional responsibilities, Ramesh has supported societal impact
efforts around food security, education & employment, and racial equity. His
geographic focus has been in the US, India, and Africa. 
Ramesh is a Board Member of The Akanksha Foundation, and has been involved with TAF for nearly 20 years.  He also sits on the Board for Teach for India, and the NYU Tandon School of Engineering Board of Overseers.

Aayati Dash Kar

Aayati Dash Kar is a fearless fifth-grade student and a self-taught artist. She uses her creativity to challenge traditional norms and expectations of young girls in STEAM fields. Aayati is currently the Assistant Creative Director of the Book LEADhER of the World Woman Foundation, and has co-founded Queendom Metaverse, an online platform that allows users to explore virtual worlds and create their communities.

Recently, Aayati collaborated with visual artist Karen Bysedt to launch the #Crownyourself collection to use the power of fashion for girls to embrace their true selves. Aayati has showcased her artwork at the Grammy Museum, META,  Art Director’s Festival Germany, and the Cannes Festival of Creativity. 

Aayati loves writing poetry and learning fun facts about everything. She credits her grandmother, who lives in India, for shaping who she is today.

Kehkashan Basu

Kehkashan Basu, M.S.M. is an iconic global influencer, educator, environmentalist, champion of women and children’s rights, TEDx speaker, Climate Reality Mentor, author, musician, and peace and sustainability campaigner. She is the recipient of Canada’s Meritorious Service Medal and the only Canadian to win the International Children’s Peace Prize. 

A Forbes 30 Under 30 and the first-ever Winner of the Voices Youth Gorbachev-Schultz Legacy Award for her work on nuclear disarmament, Kehkashan is a United Nations Human Rights Champion, a National Geographic Young Explorer, a UNCCD Land Hero, a UN Habitat Young City Champion, and one of Canada’s Top 25 Women of Influence. She is the Founder-President of global social innovation enterprise Green Hope Foundation, that works at a grassroots level in 28 countries, empowering over 500,000 young people, especially those from vulnerable communities, in the sustainable development process. 

Kehkashan was named as one of the Top 100 SDG Leaders in the world in 2019. She continues to work tirelessly to amplify the voices of young people, women and girls in decision-making processes. She is currently an MBA Candidate at the Cornell University SC Johnson Graduate School of Management.

Shruti Belitkar

Shruti Belitkar is from Pune, India. She is an Akanksha alumnus working as a Research Assistant in epidemiology at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA. Her journey with Akanksha started in 2014 when she enrolled at an Akanksha school to continue her education after Grade 8. She cleared her Grade 10 board exams and got a scholarship to study at an international residential high school called the Mahindra United World College of India in Pune. From there, she earned a full-ride scholarship to Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, where she graduated with a BA in Neuroscience and Public Health. 

While achieving these milestones in life, Shruti feels that Akanksha has constantly supported her, whether that is dealing with homesickness or finding new opportunities. With their support, Shruthi spoke at the United Nations Transforming Education Summit about the changes needed in the education system to direct impact on students to become world leaders and change makers. She is thrilled to be a part of that change.

Shlok Sadlapurkar

Shlok Sadlapurkar is from Pune, India. His journey at Akansha started in 2013 when he enrolled at Acharya Vinoba Bhave School, and was in Saurabh Taneja’s first group of students. He completed his high school exams and got a full scholarship to study at Mahindra United World College of India in Pune. After that, he secured a full scholarship at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, where he graduated with a bachelor’s in Biology.

After graduating, Shlok went to work at the Mayo Clinic as a Clinical Technologist for

Mycology and Mycobacteriology in Rochester, MN. He later worked at biotechnical company Agilent Technology in Iowa as a Lab Technician, making biochemical compounds used for molecular biology and synthetic biology applications. He is currently working as a Research Assistant at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. He is excited about his future endeavors and growth in his field.

Saurabh Taneja

Saurabh Taneja is CEO of The Akanksha Foundation (www.akanksha.org). He leads a team of 1000+ educators and staff – all serving 26 schools that educate 13,000 children and a network of 5100 Akanksha alumni across Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur. One of the Akanksha Foundation’s schools was awarded (top 3) “The World’s Best Schools Prize” under “Community Collaboration” in 2022.
Previously, Saurabh spent four years as a founding school leader of Acharya Vinoba Bhave
School (AVBS), Akanksha’s first stand-alone secondary school. During the 4-years of his school
leadership, he has ensured that ALL students pass the high stakes Gr 10 exam and join
junior college. The school’s success has inspired Akanksha, other organizations and local
government authorities to start similar school models in the city.
Before joining the Akanksha Foundation, Saurabh worked with Bodh Shiksha Samiti, UNICEF
and the Government of Rajasthan on large-scale school transformation projects and key
education policies. Saurabh is also a Teach for India fellow from its first cohort (2009-11) and a
graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi (2003-07).

Tejashree Jadhav

Tejashree Jadhav is a Senior Psychology major and Creative Writing minor at Whitman College in Washington state. She studied for 8 years in Akanksha school KC Thackeray Vidya Niketan, Pune. She then studied for two years in Mahindra United World College and got into Whitman. Soon after, she won second place in America’s Best College Poet competition held by Bass Schuler Entertainment. Last semester she studied in Granada, Spain and took all her classes in Spanish which is a language she was introduced to in Grade 10, by an Akanksha teacher who gave her after school lessons. After 10th grade she kept this language with her, along with many teachings she learned in Akanksha classrooms. Tejashree assisted her Psychology professor in her Neuro-lab this past summer and is currently doing her own thesis on zebra finch brains and their song learning abilities.