Humans of Harker: Calm and composed

David Melisso leaves an impact behind the scenes


Devanshi Mehta

“I want to have been the one to at least help create several organizations. I want to create more of a culture as well and change it towards one of collaboration, rather than competition. Everyone is trying to compete against one another, trying to get the best grade, trying to get ahead on this project, but what I’ve learned after taking all these classes and doing all these projects is that we can do a lot more working together than trying to be the best ourselves,” David Melisso (12) said.

As David Melisso (12) sits in his Study of Visual Arts class, face resting on the palm of his hand, a sense of calm seems to surround him. Sporting a classic outfit – dark washed blue jeans, a dark blue polo shirt with a red-banded watch around his wrist – it is evident that David is eager to learn whatever his teacher has to teach him, even if visual arts isn’t one of David’s main interests.

The only senior in an otherwise freshman-filled class, David puts his “superiority” as a senior aside to mingle with the freshman around him, exchanging laughs, even playing video games with them during free periods. Over the course of this year’s robotics build season, David has gotten to know many of these freshmen, particularly through robotics, where he advises them on how to scout at competitions.

While David formally holds the position of VP of Website Design, he has taken more of a hands on role this year as a part of the mechanical team and as the head of scouting. To David, scouting is all about gathering data on other teams.

“When we scout other teams, we try to find out what they are good at, what are their weaknesses, how can we counter them, what do they go for,” he said.

Part of David’s role as head of scouting entails managing about 12 to 18 people each tournament and making sure that people have something to do at all times. Instead of just designating roles to others and sitting back, David takes a much more hands on approach to leadership.

“In my mind, the worst leader is someone who isn’t willing to do the job that they are giving to other people. An idea I try to prove to everyone I’m working with is that I’ve done what you are doing, and I’d take your spot, but because I’m managing all these other people, I can’t do it all myself. So instead of telling them to do it, I’m doing it and getting them to help. It’s that kind of mindset,” he said. “I’m still scouting every match myself, I’m not laying back, I’m taking data down, and I’m still working.”

David also sees his leadership role as an opportunity to pass on all the knowledge he has acquired through the years before he leaves the Harker community.

“I mentor people in robotics, HarkerDev and CTF. My motivation for doing so in these organizations is that I’m trying to keep this information alive in Harker, instead of just keeping it with me. Whenever I work with a freshman, I try to give them as much technical advice as I can, such that they are ready to perform upperclassmen tasks. When freshman work with upperclassmen, I think they should have an upperclassmen mindset and upperclassmen maturity, so I try to give them that as well, telling them things like what’s a good way to handle things. I really want to impart my knowledge to as many people as possible, and I try to give all the freshman I talk to an advantage by providing them with information that otherwise they would have to go out and find themselves.”

Aside from robotics, David is involved in HarkerDev, the association responsible from creating features that Harker students use everyday, such as Bell Schedule, Food Court, Course Planner and more. David and his fellow senior HarkerDev members played a key role in the transformation of HarkerDev into an official organization recognized by Harker. But out of all the features created when he was a part of HarkerDev, David is most proud of Harker Pay, a feature that allows Harker students to conduct transactions with a simple scan of a barcode, much more easily than before.

“One thing in particular that’s very noticeable is how much more that clubs and organizations could fund themselves through fundraisers after they started using Harker Pay, because it’s just so much easier to pay for something. I was so happy because I allowed other people to do what they want, it’s a platform that’s useful to other people,” he said. “I was very proud of myself because I had helped these people. Before, it was not that they couldn’t sell, it just now they can sell a lot more. We improved their lives and the selling process, and people are generally happy with it. And to me, that was very satisfying.”

While some people may appreciate David for being a great mentor or leader, two of David’s closest friends, Jason Huang (12) and Sayon Biswas (12) value him for his dependability and outgoing nature.

Jason admits that initially, when he first met David in 6th grade, he thought that he was “the jokey type of guy.” While Jason believes that this still holds true, he has discovered that more about David, particularly his dependability, empathetic nature and loyalty, three qualities, that according to Jason, make David such a great friend, describing him as someone who he can always rely on “to cover his back.”

Sayon admires David for his kind heartedness.

“He’s the rock that I’ve always been able to go back to. He’s always been one of my closest friends here at Harker, and I was actually new to Harker as a junior, and David was one of the people I could reach out to early on,” he said. “Even coming into this year, anytime I have had any sort of dilemma or something I wanted to share, David’s usually one of the first people I reach out to.”

Sayon also appreciates how David approaches pressure situations.

“He always keeps a very positive attitude when it comes to things, and under pressure, when he has a deadline to meet or something, I’ve noticed this with robotics especially, he’s one person who always keeps his cool,” Sayon said.

According to David, what has allowed him to approach academics in a stress free manner is very simple: just loving everything he does.

“I try to put a lot of focus into academics, but I found that to do so, I need to find a way to make myself care about it, I have to find something interesting about a topic for me. Having it be fun is something that makes it less stressful. It’s more like I’m doing this because I want to, not because I have to, and that takes a lot of stress away,” he said.

In addition to his other STEM based interests, David enjoys programming, particularly because there are so many resources available outside the classroom that make it easy to learn.

“In other subjects, you can’t advance as quickly on your own. There’s so much on the Internet about computer science on every topic, and it’s so easy to understand. I could learn CS quickly and then teach other people my ideas and communicate with them way more effectively,” he said.

Most of his interests and extra curriculars – robotics, HarkerDev, CTF, – involve teamwork and collaboration, which is something that David feels is of immense benefit to everyone.

Personally, David feels that he works best with people who have similar interests but are not necessarily like minded, particularly those who have “different perspectives of the same knowledge.” David not only values collaboration for its obvious benefit, “more minds generally mean to have a higher chance of generating a good idea”, but also as a moral support.

“When you collaborate, you want to work more, you are incentivized by not just the grade but because other people are depending on you. It’s a great way of making yourself more attached to a project,” he said.

As STEM focused as he may be, David has become interested in a subject that he had thought to be boring for most of his life: history. Just as he enjoys working with people for new perspectives, he has particularly become fascinated with the amount of angles from which history can be interpreted.

“I have been becoming very interested in history. It’s something I like to explore, watch videos and read articles about in my free time. Some of it spawned from my friends who are very much into history, and some of it spawned from teachers who encouraged me,” he said. “What I didn’t realize when I took history was how much in detail and how many accounts we have, how much we understand different people’s motives. I feel that history is often portrayed very linearly in our textbooks, almost like its a movie, the bad guys are there and the good guys step in and they win. It’s not that that’s untrue, it’s just that it’s only one way of looking at things. Nowadays, I try to also understand its modern day implications, how it interacts with us today. If I’m not actually working on something, history is something I can fool around with.”

In addition to crediting his teachers from playing a key role in making him love the things he does, David believes Harker has played a key role in his development as a person and his interest.

“Harker has given me so many opportunities to do what I want. You know, there are requirements, but after you complete those, they give you a platform to do whatever you want. It has let me explore what I want to do, and the people that surround me everyday just motivate me to do things and continue to work hard. The Harker community as a whole has really pushed me to make the most out of my Harker experience,” he said.