In a chat with Ranjani Saigal
If the year 2002 is one in which your child graduates or maybe sometime soon in the coming years, then here is a New Year resolution that you could make - to take a few tips from Vikas Goela, a freshman at Harvard University Vikas has an impressive resume, his accomplishments, include a perfect 1600 score in his SAT's, he is a Lucent Global Science scholar 2001 , Presidential scholar 2001 and winner of the National Alliance for Excellence ( Alex Award). I am impressed by his charming good looks, a pleasing smile and a voice laced with exuberance and confidence In a short period of his academic life he has set an example of what hard work and self motivation can achieve.
When I meet him at his home in Andover, I ask him the secret of his motivation and his achievements. "Hard work and nothing else", says Vikas. A student of South Elementary school and the Doherty Middle School , Andover ,Vikas followed his brother Navin's footsteps to the reputable Phillips Academy. Here Vikas found his niche, for it prepared him well academically and allowed him to tread beyond the boundaries of science and sport, music and discovery.
I listen attentively as Vikas rambles away in his quiet unassuming way. There is a nod here and a shake of the head as he outlines his ambitions and the path that he wishes to take. Technology and its uses are truly fascinating and figure prominently in his conversation. It is this interest that spurred him on to intern for two summers at Tradeloop and Fidelity. At some point Vikas says, he would like to be an entrepreneur. "I would definitely one day like to have my own company " At Lucent Bell labs he had the opportunity to work with other likeminded students in developing a product for the future. Here they invented a handheld safety device that was portable and helped track the safety and goings on at the home front. The National Alliance for Excellence (ALEX) Award that he won gave him the opportunity to meet Dean Kamen , an inventor in his Manchester based company.
"So then to be an entrepreneur , leader what is the motivating factor" I ask Vikas and he is quick to answer. "An appetite for learning, not only in academics but other extra curricular activities." He asserts that it is very essential that one must give a chance early in their student life to be exposed to various activities as this helps hone skills that one has an aptitude for. "In his case to participate in as Principal Trumpeter in 4 Phillips Academy ensembles (Orchestra, Band, Wind Ensemble, Jazz Band)and to be part of the Phillips Academy Varsity soccer and squash player, all have given him a sense of responsibility and help acquire leadership skills. Presently at Harvard, Vikas is the Trumpeter in Harvard University Wind Ensemble and Herald Trumpet Trio.
Vikas' advice to kids is " do whatever you are interested in , expose yourself to a lot of activities early on and focus on the things that you love. " According to him, one can really go very far this way. Hard work is the mantra. For example, in writing the SAT's Vikas feels, "it is not your IQ which matters, but how hard you work on the test". The CTY exams(Center for Talented Youth) which he took in 7th Grade were very useful and it made him aware of what tests were all about. He recommends it strongly as he says they give a good idea of what to expect and how to prepare for the exam.
Vikas attributes a lot of his accomplishments to his parents, Geeta and Jitendra Goela" mom and dad always drove me to different places, encouraged me and exposed me to a lot of things ". Parental guidance is essential because "without the initial push and encouragement, a child cannot be the best judge of what is out there so you may miss out a lot of things."
To Vikas the transition from Philips Academy to Harvard University was excellent since both have a variety of resources, the students are self motivated and the curriculum at both places had a lot to offer. I was curious to know how he manages his time and Vikas sheepishly admits that he is still working on it although a 11th grade teacher at Phillips Academy has instilled in him the responsibility of turning in assignments on time.
"How about politics ? did he think he would enter into it some day" and Vikas emphatically denied "Oh No" His thoughts on Sept 11 were that it has brought the people and the community closer. He has had the chance to shake hands with President George Bush , at a forum in Washington and has participated in various community service programs like the 'Youth Exploration in Science' and helping out kids in the dorms as a tutor.
As an Indian parent of two children growing up in America I had one final question to ask ? Was there anything that the Indian parents must be aware of or do differently in their approach or attitude towards their children here ? Vikas answer is very positive and he feels that most parents are doing the right things for their children and our origin and heritage is something that one must be proud of.
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