Pandemic ‘brought us closer as a community and as Concord High School’

  • Senior Aakriti Bhattarai tries on her graduation cap that she just pick up at Concord High School on Friday, June 11, 2021. Bhattari plans on being a doctor. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Senior Aakriti Bhattarai tries on her graduation cap that she just pick up at Concord High School on Friday. Bhattarai plans on becoming a doctor. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/15/2021 4:43:49 PM

The one piece of advice Concord senior Aakriti Bhattarai would give to new high school students is, “do what you love” as much as possible.

That’s what she’s been doing throughout her time at Concord High School, by getting involved in the community and exploring subjects beyond what’s taught in the classroom.

Bhattarai describes herself as science-driven. Although she tried branching out and taking different classes in high school, it’s science – specifically neuroscience – that has captivated her. Bhattarai’s interest in neuroscience started her junior year in an AP psychology class.

“We had this whole unit on the brain, and I was like, ‘oh my God, this is so cool,’ ” Bhattarai said.

Since Concord High doesn’t have any neuroscience classes, Bhattarai made the decision to pursue the subject independently. Bhattarai said she and several friends who were also interested in specializations the high school didn’t offer, approached their former AP biology teacher and asked if she would oversee an independent study.

“We all had our own niches, so I stuck with neuroscience, one of my friends stuck with epidemiology, another stuck with genetics and gender roles,” Bhattarai explained. “We came back together with advisors and we presented our research and helped each other learn about the topics we’re all interested in.”

At Concord High, Bhattarai has honed her organizational skills as secretary for the class of 2021 and also for the school’s chapter of the National Honor Society. She has been on the crew team and the varsity club. Outside of school, she has volunteered as a mentor in the Friends Program and at Concord Community Music School.

Her sophomore year, she was selected for the Capitol Area Student Leadership Council, a program that helps young people develop their leadership skills to contribute to the Concord community.

“I like learning new things, but I also believe in giving back to my community, so by doing little things like volunteering and being a part of different clubs, I feel like I’m most myself and able to give back,” Bhattarai said. “It’s something that’s really significant in my life.”

Bhattarai moved to Concord from Nepal when she was six years old. She remembers immediately noticing a distinct contrast between the more strict teaching style she was used to, and the more laid-back atmosphere of American classrooms.

“You’d come in class, you’d be quiet, you’d wait for the teacher to come in. Here, your teacher is already there and you greet them as you go in and everyone is just constantly having fun,” Bhattarai said. “It was very much like, ‘this is an open space and you are here to have fun,’ rather than ‘you are here to study and only study.’ ”

She says Concord schools have provided her with a very supportive environment.

“I like how everyone wants to see everyone else succeed,” Bhattarai said. “Especially within Concord High School, there’s just a community that’s always there to help you and people you can always go to.”

Bhattarai has experienced every possible COVID-19 learning model this year. She started out the year remote, then hybrid with the rest of the school, then switched back to remote learning after winter break when COVID-19 cases were spiking.

Bhattarai said going through the COVID-19 pandemic was hard on the senior class. For Bhattarai, whose mother is a nurse at Concord Hospital, the topic was with her constantly, in school and at home.

“It took a lot out of us, mentally and physically. Seeing the death rates go up, I think that was just a mental toll on everyone,” Bhattarai said. “Being in school during the pandemic, we lived in a world of unknowns. I always like having some structure to my life, so not knowing what’s going to happen tomorrow, not knowing when the mask mandate is going to be lifted or when we’re going to go back to normal was pretty hard.”

April 19, the day everyone returned to five-day-a-week in-person learning after the governor’s back-to-school order, remains one of Bhattarai’s favorite memories from high school.

“I came back and I just saw how much closer my grade was, just because we went through the pandemic together,” Bhattarai said. “It brought us closer as a community and as Concord High School, I think we were more grateful.”

After high school, Bhattarai will attend Duke University where she plans to major in neuroscience. She hopes that future high school students make the most of the time they have at Concord High.

“I would say, do what you love and also make the best out of your high school experience,” Bhattarai said. “It’s not just about the grade s, it’s about what you do apart from the grades and also making sure you also have a social life apart from school.”

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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