Concord High senior is driven to examining vital issues

  • Concord High senior Niyanta Nepal has seemingly done it all over the past four years, and she’s now headed to Brown University. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/13/2021 2:27:55 PM

Concord High School senior Niyanta Nepal was initially hesitant to get involved in student activities because she knew whatever started, she would commit 100% and there would be no going back.

She was right.

Nepal, 18, is the president of the CHS class of 2021. She’s also the vice president of CHS’s National Honor Society. She’s been involved in the Save Our Cold Kids (SOCK) club, on the crew team, and is a student rep on School Board committees.

“I really was someone who wanted to commit to something, whenever I did, and do it to the best of my ability,” Nepal said. “I didn’t really believe in going in and doing something just because it looked good on my college applications. I was kind of hesitant, going into high school, to start participating in things because I was like, ‘well, can I invest enough time into this. Can I invest enough of my effort into this?’’

Nepal saw an opportunity to make a change her sophomore year, after noticing the class of 2021 was struggling to generate student participation and get fundraising efforts going. Nepal was elected student body president her junior year and pushed herself hard, working to get her peers interested in student activities, and led fundraising efforts like blanket sales and a volleyball tournament. The money the class had been lacking started to roll in.

Nepal would arrive at school at 7:15 every morning to lead or attend club meetings, then begin a day packed with classes – 7-8 credits in all. After school, there would be a three-hour crew team practice, or a club activity. Nepal maintained a large online planner to help keep track of her own weekly schedule.

“It was a lot. I think I went into it being like, ‘I can handle everything,’” Nepal said. “Then I realized there are some things you have to lean back on, and understand that one person can’t do like 10 different things well.”

Nepal has also been a student representative on several School Board committees, including the Anti-Racism/Discrimination Task Force, which was formed in summer 2020. Nepal, who has been a student voice on the committee alongside teachers and administrators, said she was motivated to get involved amid the racial justice movement following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

“I really wanted to understand more about how this district was catering toward people who are the minority in a lot of ways,” Nepal said. “I think you question it a lot on a global scale and an international scale, but you don’t necessarily question it in your own communities as much because you think it’s kind of flawless.”

Nepal said she realized in elementary school that she looked different from many of her white peers.

“I was born here, but I saw there were a lot of differences in how you were treated, based on where you came from, and your ability to speak English properly, and how dark your skin actually was, if you could blend in just a little bit, the way you dress. There are so many things,” Nepal said. “I think all those different things contributed to me wanting to do more work on this.”

This year, Nepal said she and the other committee members have worked on self-education and understanding personal biases, brainstorming goals and making an implementation plan. The group brought in New Hampshire Listens to facilitate staff trainings, and formed subcommittees to focus on different areas like curriculum and student discipline.

“It taught me a lot about how not only our school works but how the district works on a higher level, and understanding how policies like that can’t just happen at the blink of an eye,” Nepal said. “There’s a lot of political stuff that goes into that too. But when people have a shared common interest and goal you can actually get a lot out of that.”

Nepal said keeping student government activities going during COVID-19 was challenging, and student interest waned. Many high schoolers, who had spent all day sitting in front of a computer for remote classes, did not want to attend club sessions online.

“Half of the fun is being able to meet in the room in the morning and maybe somebody bringing donuts, or something fun like that,” said Nepal, who was a fully remote student herself for most of the winter. “That’s how you really kind of get everybody to be engaged, so it was hard.”

When school returned to fully in-person on April 19, involvement increased significantly. She and her fellow class board members and school staff have a socially distant prom planned for seniors Thursday, which Nepal says is shaping up to be a “big success.”

Amid the energy of her student involvement, Nepal has been thinking a lot about her own identity and the challenges of being a teen in the age of social media.

“You see so many things, whether it be on TikTok or Instagram, on social media’s hard to separate yourself from everyone and see yourself as a person rather than being part of a group,” Nepal said. “I think it was a challenge to realize that you can’t just mold to be what other people want you to be, and you have to stand up for your own beliefs even if it doesn’t necessarily line up with what other people think.”

Nepal, who will attend Brown University in the fall, plans to pursue biomedical engineering, a passion she fell into unexpectedly after a teacher encouraged her to take AP Physics II, a class she didn’t realize she would end up loving.

“Having a teacher be like, ‘no, you have potential in this, you should follow through with it,’ I was like, ‘okay, I’m going to put my best foot forward and I’m going to make sure I can do this to the best of my ability,’” Nepal said.

Nepal says she is excited for graduation, although the bittersweet “feels” are creeping up as the date draws near.

“With remote learning, it kind of felt not real for part of it, like we weren’t really seniors, we were just going through the motions,” Nepal said. “But these last couple months the majority of kids have been in person. It’s kind of finally starting to feel like we’re in the final stage.”

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