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Young Achievers- Satvika Ananthanarayan

November 16, 2012

We are extremely pleased to announce a new series of essays for our upcoming editions. These essays will highlight young achievers- current or past students of CHS or NTH@C, who have been outstanding learners and role models, and who, we believe, are well on the path to a successful future.

We are happy to kick off this new series “Young Achievers” with an essay by 2010 CHS Graduate Satvika Ananthanarayan.

I like to describe Coppell High School as the perfect precursor to the University of Texas. Both of these schools have a large, diverse population, a strong commitment to students and success, and an endless supply of grassroots opportunities for personal growth. I’m thrilled to have the chance to talk about all the opportunities our unique high school offered me for four years.

I graduated in 2010, and frankly, I was a little sad to leave the red-brick halls of CHS. But I did, and I came to UT Austin, where I have found my second home as a Business Honors, Marketing, and Plan II Honors major. I am currently involved in three organizations on campus: The Undergraduate Business Council, as Publicity Chair, Eastside Community Connection, as a board member for this non-profit, and Texas Orange Jackets, as a member of this women’s honorary service organization. I am constantly reminded of how blessed I am to be involved with these incredible groups, and I know that much of my success thus far at UT has been a result of the time I spent at CHS.

I can divide my high school experience into the academic and the extracurricular, though truly these things were very closely entwined over the course of four years. Over those four years, my friendships, my involvement, and my academic aspiration were shaped by the people at CHS.

Academically, I followed a fairly traditional path, attending CHS, taking AP and GT classes, and being your average over-involved GT student. As I was a 2010 graduate, I didn’t have the options of New Tech or IB, but I believe that the level of academic stimulation and challenge that AP classes provided me has indeed prepared me properly for the rigorous honors classes I take at UT.

In fact, I remember certain classes very vividly. For example, Mrs. Bauer’s AP Human Geography class was both slightly scarring and incredibly formative in my high school experience. I took it as a freshman, and was plunged straight into the world of late night studying and cramming Martha Sharma’s key terms into my head. But the work paid off – I walked out of the class with an A, a lasting understanding of things like the tragedy of the commons, and a mentor who would continue to be a part of my high school experience for the next three years.

This class, along with others like AP World History, AP US History, and AP Government were the homes of knowledge that I didn’t forget right after the test, but more importantly, they were the places where I made many of my closest friends – people I still know and love, even three years after graduation. There are certain bonds that last forever, and I am certain that memorizing US History identifications and freaking out at 7:35 a.m. before a government test are among them.

I know that many students and parents worry endlessly about making the right and wrong choices when it comes to picking classes each semester. I certainly did. But if you take nothing else away from the academic experience I just described, I hope you realize that I truly enjoyed my classes. And that’s really the critical thing, at the end of the day, the semester, and the year. Make sure you’re taking classes that interest you, as the student. This is your time to learn anything you want. Love it! In addition to fulfilling the core requirements of the Texas education system (and get used to core requirements  – they don’t go away in college), take classes that make you, an academically advanced student, excited. Does the idea of learning about Freudian psychology make your eyes light up and your heart beat faster? Take the AP Psychology class! Do differentials make you turn cartwheels in excitement? Take AP Calculus! These classes are available for you to enjoy, so take advantage of them, and appreciate the fact that CHS is full of talented, intelligent teachers who are willing to go the extra mile.

This brings me to the next part of my experience at CHS. While taking challenging and interesting classes is what high school is all about, that isn’t the extent of the experience. Being a part of extra-curricular activities and electives is equally, if not more, important in discovering what your passion is. In high school, I was involved in a laundry list of activities: I founded and was president of the Junior World Affairs Council, I was a member of the debate team, I competed with Business Professionals of America and Model United Nations, I wrote for The Sidekick Newspaper, I took art classes, I was a member of Red Jackets, and I was a Girl Scout, and completed my Gold Award. To say I was busy would be an understatement.

But I didn’t do all of these things because I thought to myself, Go go go go! Gotta prepare for college and do everything possible for the resume! In most things school-related, there is no right or wrong answer, but in the case of involvement, resume-padding is always the wrong answer. I did all of these activities because something about them piqued my interest while I was at CHS. Whether it was the chance to compete and argue (which my parents told me early on I was a little too good at) in debate, or learn about international issues for Model United Nations, or have an outlet for my constant itch to write, write, write through The Sidekick, or the kind of vague desire to be like the seniors I looked up to who always had a red blazer on their arm for one event or another, I chose my activities based on things I thought sounded interesting.

And I can say with confidence that I gave myself fully to each of these activities when needed, and because of that, each of them has made a lasting impact in such a way that I cannot singularly point to one as being the most valuable part of my high school life. From debate with Mrs. Ferguson I learned the value of quick critical thinking as well as the importance of hard work and dedication to a group of team you consider family. From Girl Scouts I learned to be a servant leader, and that each person, no matter how small, can have an incredible impact on the world. Girl Scouts also taught me how to be a better leader of JWAC, where I learned about myself as a person and, in addition to the very many ways a fundraiser can go wrong, how important international relations were to me. I could go on for pages, but in essence, each of these clubs and activities were valuable in their own way. Had I taken part in any of them for solely resume reasons, I would probably not have enjoyed them nearly as much.

But like any student, making the choices of where to dedicate my time was difficult. Luckily, I had a wonderful mentor in my AP Human Geography teacher, Mrs. Bauer, who was guiding presence throughout high school for me, as a teacher and as the advisor for JWAC. Mrs. Bauer, the first teacher to push me to the limit of my intellectual capacity, never stopped telling me not to quit. She was always the first to remind me not to take the easy way out, but would also make me stop and relax every now and then. I, like many of my peers, was never afraid to go ask her for advice totally unrelated to the history department, and she was never shy about giving us a piece of her mind either. Having a mentor like this in high school is something that I wish upon every student. When CEO of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi came to speak at UT, she told us that you shouldn’t wait for mentors to come to you – go get them. I think this is true always, and especially during the formative years of high school.

That being said, not all my best memories of high school are centered on academics. In fact, though I am a self-described nerd (no shame), I also had a social life.  I remember screaming at the top of my lungs in the senior section of pep rallies and football games, clad in my senior overalls. I remember homecoming dinner, and prom dinner, and all the awkwardness that was involved with those kinds of events. I remember the unbelievable excitement we all felt at our black-out pep rally before the game against South Lake. I remember homecoming parades, the first time all my friends had cars, going to Six Flags on senior skip day, off-campus lunches, Sonic runs, and all these other very average high school experiences so fondly because they were the times my friends and I became closer, created memories that we still talk about today, and really laughed, cried and yelled like there would be no tomorrow.

My only regret in high school would be not going to more of CHS’s many events and getting to know my peers better. You go to high school with an indescribable group of people, who are all very inspiring. Don’t miss this four-year-long opportunity you have to get to know them. Studying is important, yes, but take the time to go to football games on Fridays, to attend pep rallies, to go to homecoming and prom. I only went to homecoming once. I wish I had gone every year. You learn things from these social events that are just as important as your schoolwork.

Many people look back on their high school experience with a shudder. I can say with truth that I mostly fond memories of CHS, as to most of my peers. We are incredibly lucky to have gone to a school that really lets us be whom we want to. And what we want to be changes daily, weekly, yearly. My current goal is to work in a marketing position at a consumer product company, and to continue being involved with non-profit work forever. But no matter where my college years and career take me, I will always be a Coppell Cowboy.

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