Humans of Harker: Time well spent

Anmol Velagapudi searches for real connections


Alysa Suleiman

“The way I see myself and [what] I pride myself [in] is not be[ing] subjected to one group of friends. Now, it’s tougher to do so online, but I still have another semester. I just want to end on a good note with everyone, and I don’t want to hold grudges or any regrets,” Anmol Velagapudi (12) said.

He’s the quiet kid, modest and a good listener. But he knows everyone in the grade, and everyone knows him. 

The considerable shift from middle school to high school brings with it considerable changes, whether they be increased academic intensity, altered goals and interests or different friend groups. For Anmol Velagapudi (12), accepting that change was, at first, a difficult concept to grapple with. 

So when senior year rolled around, Anmol made it a personal goal to get to know every single person in his grade, whether they were friends he had grown up alongside since kindergarten or peers he met on freshman orientation day, by the end of the year.

“I feel like I’ve known everyone in my grade for more than four years, and I think that’s more than enough for me to consider that more than an acquaintance,” Anmol said. “I hate knowing the fact that I couldn’t spend enough time with them if I had the opportunity to.” 

Anmol came to this realization when, in the first few months of freshman year, he had absentmindedly brought up another person in a conversation with a friend, and that friend had no recollection of whom Anmol was referring to. 

“I was shocked, and actually a little angry,” Anmol said. “I don’t understand how you can sort of forget about or just not know this person at all and how their whole existence at school just meant nothing to you. Ever since then, I decided that I would always try to be nice to everyone in a way that I feel comfortable.”

Rather than viewing this ‘approach all’ method as a hindrance towards developing closer friendships, Anmol “value[s] having the opportunity to meet and get to know almost every single person in [his] grade.” With this in mind, Anmol hopes to use his time wisely as high school comes to a close. 

“The way I see myself and [what] I pride myself [in] is not be[ing] subjected to one group of friends,” Anmol said. “Now, it’s tougher to do so online, but I still have another semester. I just want to end on a good note with everyone, and I don’t want to hold grudges or any regrets.”

Anmol this goal particularly reachable in journalism, a class he originally signed up for on a whim. Through the reporting cycle in journalism, Anmol became much more comfortable reaching out to different people and found himself enjoying the process more each time. 

“[Journalism] allows you to make more connections,” Anmol said. “I felt way more comfortable talking to upperclassmen and to [under]classmen and making friends with a wide variety of people, rather than just talking to the regular clique.” 

With variety in mind, Anmol strives to share different headlines with his news journals in class rather than just political issues or mainstream news. Oftentimes, his news journals feature stories on animals and the environment.

“I hated having the same news journal as someone else. I personally spent more time looking for an abnormal one, whether it was related to climate change or animals or just funny stories,” Anmol said. “But I do think one thing that fit in pretty well was topics on climate change  because I felt that we never talked about it enough.”

Journalism has also given Anmol the chance to develop his own personal growth, whether that  was growing his confidence or expanding his worldly knowledge.

“The ability to go talk to people about issues that may be rather daunting to some other people, I don’t think the regular person outside of journalism can do that effectively, and I like that sort of skill,” Anmol said.

Only after four years in the newsroom did Anmol realize how little he used to pay attention to current events circulating globally or locally. Now, he’s proud to say that journalism is “one of the most important classes a person can take.”

“Once you have that ability to notice a problem, it allows you to actually initiate and try to fix the problem, whether that’s done concretely, or through writing, or educating or just social media influence,” Anmol said. “I think the journalism program especially at Harker really opens your eyes, really makes you notice the problems and really makes you take those steps rather than passively waiting for other news sources to break that story for you.”

With knowledge in his mind and confidence in his heart, Anmol began taking those steps towards creating active change, one word at a time. 

“It feels fulfilling, knowing that I’m able to tell stories that people don’t necessarily get a chance to express,” Anmol said. “I finally understood how important it is to create an equitable society through fair reporting, spreading correct information in this ‘fake news’ culture.”

Anmol initiates these changes at his own pace, and although he rises to challenges in an unconventional manner, the effort is certainly apparent: for example, obtaining a motorcycle driver’s license when everyone else he knew was focused on passing the conventional car license test.

Eventually, though, Anmol found that the motorcycle lended him a form of escapism from the hectic hubbub of high school stress. 

“When I tried it, I found it really therapeutic,” Anmol said. “But I do understand the responsibility that a bike comes with: I have to be completely focused. Otherwise, not only do I put the lives of other people at risk, but I put my life especially at risk, and I don’t take that for granted.”

Sweeping off on solo drives brought Anmol to the realization that, despite his pursuit for genuine connections, he prefers the “introvert lifestyle” and appreciates recreational time alone. 

“The thing about being an introvert is that they get their energy from being with themselves in a lot of ways less than they get it from being around other people,” upper school biology teacher Mike Pistacchi, Anmol’s adviser, said. “I think Anmol has this very rich, intellectual and creative life that’s going on in his head that he doesn’t necessarily want to spout out to everybody all the time, but it’s definitely there.”

Specifically, one way Anmol spends quality time is through video games, through both playing and creating them. Before his motorcycle, playing video games was his other integral form of escapism, as well as a pastime that he could enjoy alone or share with friends. Furthermore, the wholehearted effort Anmol places into the genesis of each game translates towards every other aspect of his life, from finishing the simplest homework assignment to planning the most elaborate party to surprise a friend. 

“[Anmol] rarely complains about the amount of work he does, but he always does it. Even when we’re making video games, he’s the one to make us make time outside of work for it,” close friend Srinath Somasundaram (12) said. 

 Anmol’s meticulous efforts also exist in strengthening his friendships because he truly hopes that each moment he spends with his friends are memorable and authentic.

“Anmol is always making sure that there’s a day where everyone can attend and have fun as a group together, whether that’s planning early exactly when and what exactly we’re doing,” another close friend and neighbor Arjun Virmani (12) said. “He wants people to actually have a good conversation with him and make it worth their while.”

Arjun also says that almost everyone who knows Anmol shares this perspective. Even in Anmol’s own attempts to forge genuine connections with others, he never forgets to remain a genuine and compassionate person to those who rely on him.    

“He’s loyal and steadfast and a person you can always count on to be by your side,” Srinath said. “He’s also a really good listener. I notice that he’s the one listening to all of us talking, thinking about what it actually means and giving us good advice.”  

From growing up in an academically and economically competitive environment, Anmol wishes that he will always remember to live in and cherish each moment.  

“We’re in the middle of Silicon Valley, the fastest growing city in the world. I think this translates to a fast-paced and stressful life,” Anmol said. “[With] everything put together, there’s going to be a lot of stress and time pressure, but I think this is also where it can bring the best out of people.”