Like most other college students, Mita Sharma of West Windsor is looking forward to her winter break. But Sharma, a Dartmouth sophomore majoring in neuroscience, minoring in chemistry, and planning to go to medical school after graduation, has some rather unusual plans.##M:[more]##

Sharma will travel with 31 others, including students, faculty, and staff, to the rural village of Siuna, located in the heart of Nicaragua’s most impoverished regions. The program focuses on cross-cultural services and education while working with the local people on a community health project. This is the fourth year of the program with the University of the Autonomous Region of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua.

Sharma has been involved in several community service projects at Dartmouth during the past year including a Habitat for Humanity trip to Florida last spring break. “An international service trip relating to global health was very appealing,” she says.

At High School South Sharma was valedictorian of the Class of 2004, and one of the first high school seniors to receive the Joseph Dantone Scholarship. She was also co-president of the Red Cross Club, president of the National Spanish Honor Society, co-president of the Spanish Club, treasurer of the National Honor Society, and vice president of the Red Cross of Central NJ Youth Council. She volunteered at the University Medical Center at Princeton and worked at Village School extended day program. This past summer she and her sister, Shikha, became EMTs and volunteered at the Twin “W” First Aid Squad.

“A friend of mine at Dartmouth had gone to Nicaragua last year through the same program and had an amazing experience,” she says. “She recommended that I apply because she knew that I would enjoy such an experience.”

The program, sponsored by Dartmouth’s William Jewett Tucker Foundation and the national non-profit organization, Bridges to Community, the program is founded on the principles of education, immersion, service, and reflection.

The competitive application process received an unprecedented number of applications this year. “The process consisted of a few essays about why we were interested in going, why we should be chosen, and what we could add to the team. It was followed by an interview with a faculty member.”

Sharma, one of the 10 undergraduates on the community health team, will lead the workshop on maternal mortality. Her group will focus on delivery free basic medical care through daily public health workshops while the community development team works on construction and agriculture projects.

“We have been doing tons of research to become as educated as possible and find all the information that we can for the workshop,” she says. “We are then planning out the presentation, with handouts and posters, all of which must be written in Spanish. The handouts for our workshop as well as the workshops prepared by other students will be combined in a binder for each village health leader to take back with them.”

The purpose of the program seeks to prepare ethical leaders and responsible citizens by growing through cultural exchange, dialogue, and reflection, and deepening their knowledge, understanding, and awareness of the global community. The trip is from December 9 to 23.

Meanwhile, back in New Jersey, Mita’s younger sister Shikha Sharma, a junior at High School South, was elected the youth representative to American Red Cross of Central New Jersey Board of Directors. She has been a Red Cross volunteer since she was in seventh grade when she began going to Central New Jersey’s Youth Council meetings with her sister. As a 10th grader, she became secretary of both the Youth Council of Central New Jersey, the secretary of the State Youth Council, and vice president of the Red Cross Club at High School South. She also received a Pacesetter Award that year.

This year she is co- president of the High School South club, volunteers at blood drives, and in the blood donor center at the chapter.

She is also a volunteer with Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic and is an EMT for the West Windsor Twin “W” Rescue Squad. In school she also is secretary of the Student Council and sports editor of the “Pirate Eye,” the school’s newspaper. She plays on the varsity soccer team, as well as the East Windsor travel team, and serves as a referee. She has also studied classical Indian dance for close to 10 years.

Their younger brother, Nikhil, 12, is a seventh grade student at Grover Middle School. Their father, Rajeev Sharma, is a textile business owner. Their mother, Suruchi Sharma, is a programmer analyst.

The family moved from Woodbridge six years ago.