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Teen wins national 4-H award for local, global STEM education activism

a group of youth stand around a computer and robotic equipment in a school cafeteria

URBANA, Ill. – When Dhruv Rebba first visited the Indian village his father grew up in, he saw a community struggling because it didn’t have access to the internet. The high school freshman and Illinois 4-H member knew he had the skills and drive to make a difference and was inspired to create Universal Help, a non-profit devoted to providing access to STEM education both rural India and his home community. 

Rebba, age 17 of Normal, won the 2022 4-H Youth in Action Award for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) sponsored by HughesNet® for his innovation and activism.

“4-H gave me the confidence to know I can solve daunting problems. After conquering what seems like impossible challenges with my 4-H robotics team, I have known from a young age that I’m capable of doing a lot, and there’s a solution to be found for almost any problem.”

- Dhruv Rebba

The national 4-H Youth in Action Awards began in 2010 to recognize 4-H members who use the knowledge they gained in 4-H to create a lasting impact in their communities. The award is announced during National 4-H Week, October 3 to 9.

It all started in 4-H robotics

By being involved with University of Illinois Extension's 4-H programs in McLean County, Rebba has access to affordable STEM education. Using the leadership and problem-solving skills he learned in 4-H, he transformed his interest in STEM into a tool to help other students in Illinois and across the world learn.

The mission of Rebba’s nonprofit Universal Help is “improving the quality of life for people all over the world in innovative ways.” The organization does this by providing textbooks, internet access, computers, and other technology to students and schools in rural India. Universal Help has also provided relief during natural disasters, established an isolation center during the recent COVID-19 Delta variant surge, and expanded solar energy power access.

Rebba also works to create STEM education opportunities for young people in his own Central Illinois community by establishing two new 4-H robotics clubs at local schools and advocating with national policymakers for increased support of after-school STEM programs. He is also a founding member of the 4-H in Space and mission command team, partnering with the University of Illinois STEM Extension and Lab for Advanced Space Stations at Illinois.

Dhruv Rebba learned about robotics and other STEM topics as a part of McLean County 4-H.

“The impact that Dhruv Rebba has demonstrated in his community and globally to advance accessibility to STEM education resources and internet connectivity is admirable,” says Peter Gulla, senior vice president of marketing for HughesNet. “He is the personification of a youth leader who inspires others by his actions.”

Rebba plans to pursue a career in engineering or computer science after graduating high school in 2022. In addition to receiving a $5,000 STEM scholarship for higher education as part of the award, Rebba will serve as an advocate and spokesperson for 4-H STEM programming.

To learn more about the 4-H Youth in Action Awards and to view pillar winners from around the country, please visit

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