HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Sandhya Mahesh knew she wanted to help when she was in the eighth grade. During her own skating workouts at ice skate facilities across the Houston area, she noticed children with developmental disabilities.
Many were scared when they first encountered the ice saying, "I don't really want to be here. It's cold. It's scary. It's tiring."
But she also saw the remarkable transformation once the children tried it and gained confidence.
Mahesh has been a part of Skate Therapy for the past five years.
ESPN took notice of her great work as part of its Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award scholarship program ahead of the 2023 ESPY Awards.
The Shadow Creek High School graduate will put that money to good use when she enrolls at the University of Pennsylvania in the Ivy League this fall. Financial help is great, but the true rewards come with helping young people.
"They slowly start to change. They get excited every single week to be coming onto the ice. It's a kind of a stepping stone when they decide they feel comfortable enough to skate completely on their own," Mahesh told Eyewitness Sports.
Mahesh shares the experience with her sister Tanya. Together they play concerts to raise money so Skate Therapy can help even more children benefit from the program.
"It makes me proud, to say the least," Tanya said.
Sandhya's immediate goals include starting a Skate Therapy chapter at Penn. She'll also focus on finance and computer science so she can do even more to help her community when she graduates.
"I can be good at computer science, and I can use it to create an app or something. But creating an app that has a strong social impact is definitely something that appeals to me," Mahesh said.
Sandhya is not the only honoree of this year's Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award. Tune into ABC13 on Wednesday, July 12, at 7 p.m. to see the accomplishments of Sandhya's fellow award-winners during the 2023 ESPYs.