Arcadia’s Aani Nagaiah inspires people through music, sports and research

Jan 16, 2024, 5:00 AM


Aani Nagaiah is a jack of all trades. She’s a senior at Arcadia High School who volunteers at three different locations, plays three different sports and is even a nonprofit owner.

Through all these activities, Nagaiah has one goal in mind: to help people.

“I come from a family who didn’t have much to start with,” Nagaiah said. “Seeing all the resources I have around me now, there’s not really any reason not to help people.”

Nagaiah is the co-founder of a nonprofit organization called “Our Ode To You”. The goal of the non-profit is to help senior citizens through the use of art and creative means such as singing, playing instruments and painting. They go from hospice to hospice, helping the elderly reclaim their creative minds.

“It’s the reason why we made this,” Nagaiah said. “We want to rekindle the elderly’s passions, and we want them to know that they’re not alone. It’s our ode to them.”

Our Ode To You has done several workshops in the Valley, spanning from private and public memory care homes to around 15 school districts in Arizona. Its social media accounts also allow for nationwide participation through fundraisers and craft kit drives.

Nagaiah also volunteers at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, as well as HonorHealth’s John C. Lincoln Medical Center.

At Arcadia, she plays for the Titans basketball team and runs in track and cross-country. Her involvement doesn’t stop there, as she’s also a woodwind section leader in Arcadia’s marching band.

Her athletics have not only pushed her to be better but to also do underlying research on a topic in the sports world: injuries.

Injuries in sports become more and more common every year, and Nagiaiah wanted to focus on the trauma that comes with these wounds, both physically and mentally.

“Every day at school, I see another person hobbling in on crutches,” Nagaiah said.  “I’ve watched a bunch of athletes tear a bunch of ligaments and have life-altering injuries. Meanwhile, they’re supposed to be just playing a sport and having fun.”

The inspiration for this research was also driven by her sister, Vedha, who faced an ACL tear from soccer and lost her immediate admission to West Point because of it.

Her research has led her to host a TED Talk at GCU in the near future about this topic, as well as the societal pressures of being a good athlete.

“In America, I feel like there’s just such a heavy focus on being good at a sport so people can go to college for free,” Nagaiah said. “I’ve seen athletes faint on courts, and it’s just such a common thing. Like, if you do a sport, you definitely had an injury at one point or another. They don’t want to be in these situations.”

Nagaiah has also done research on specific ethnicities, such as the prevalence of type two diabetes mellitus in Indian Americans, and the effects of boarding schools on Indigenous Americans as well.

Her major in college is going to be medical anthropology, which fits her past research well because her future work will entail taking serrations to factors of where you are, your ethnicity, where you come from, physical traits and how all of those factors affect your health.

Nagaiah’s intended career path for the future is to be a doctor, which at the core, is simply helping people. That’s all she wants to do.

“You can do more than you think,” Nagaiah said. “All these opportunities, they’re not things that I could sign up for. I created them for myself, and I think people are underestimating how simple or easy it is to get your name out there. As long as you talk to the right people and your motives come from a genuine place, I think anyone can do anything they want.”

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Arcadia’s Aani Nagaiah inspires people through music, sports and research