Humans of Harker: A vibrant presence

Lisa Barooah embraces wonder and thinks big


Anna Vazhaeparambil

“I’ve always thought of myself as a leader. But [my experiences in high school] and the sense of responsibility have transformed me from someone who just had big ideas to someone who could actually see those ideas be implemented,” Lisa Barooah (12) said.

Describing her favorite quirk of close friend Lisa Barooah (12), senior Hannah Sobczyn instantly cites her spontaneity and individuality, as she recalls Lisa’s ability to spice up any conversation.

“She knows the most random facts in such great detail, and it always cracks me up. We could be talking about global warming, and she’ll start talking about the Golden State Warriors,” Hannah said. “And everyone looks at her with such intrigue and is like, ‘I have no idea what you’re saying, but I can’t take my eyes off of you.’”

Lisa’s vibrant, captivating presence in even the most mundane of conversations parallels her presence within the upper school during the past four years. As co-CEO of DECA, president of the Harker Spirit Leadership Team (HSLT) and starting player on the varsity girls lacrosse team, she has made her unique mark as a leader in her community.

Lisa first joined DECA in her freshman year as a competitor and was drawn to the possibilities and excitement associated with the trips and events. Over the years, she has grown to understand her role in DECA as one that she can expand and deepen, taking on more than what was expected of her with enthusiasm and drive.

“[When I first joined] I liked DECA as a whole — I liked meeting upperclassmen, the conferences were fun,” Lisa said. “What really changed junior and senior year is that, not only do I do the job description, but I have started looking for ways to improve what we already do.”

With this opportunity of leadership comes a responsibility to innovate — constantly. As a leader, Lisa has gone above and beyond to work to improve the current systems, such as changing DECA’s sign up form from a handwritten form to an online document.

“I’ve always thought of myself as a leader,” Lisa said. “But [my experiences in high school] and the sense of responsibility have transformed me from someone who had big ideas to someone who could actually see those ideas be implemented.”

Rhea Nanavati (12) met Lisa in freshman year where they played on the lacrosse team together, and she has recognized how Lisa goes above and beyond in what she does.

“You can see how committed she is to the things she loves, and she puts a lot of effort into them — you can see that she isn’t trying to put [these activities] on a transcript, she actually cares about all the work that she’s putting into it,” Rhea said.

In addition to being a leader, Lisa enjoys spending time with her community as a team player. Lisa has enjoyed being in lacrosse not only because of the enjoyment of the sport but because of the people she gets to interact with and actively work with.

“I wanted that feeling of having a team and that’s what drew me to lacrosse. You bond in this different way,” Lisa said.

Through spirit, Lisa has found another way to engage more deeply with her community and spend time with those around her. As the upper school prepared to return in-person this spring with Spirit Week, Lisa led HSLT in organizing activities and collaborating with the senior class council and Student Activities Board (SAB) to make their ideas a reality.

“So often people are very academically focused, and we don’t take enough time to have fun and appreciate spirit weeks,” Lisa said. “[Spirit] really does bring the community together and it’s a fun bonding experience, connecting with the community.”

Lisa is also involved in artistic pursuits, specifically painting and dancing, both of which she has participated in ever since she was young. She has embraced these forms of art as a means of forming and developing unique ideas.

“[These artistic activities] are the reason I’m as creative as I am, and that translates into different events. For example, we’ve done spirit events about blind painting and karaoke events,” Lisa said. “Creativity in your art form translates into when you’re building a business product [because] you have to be creative to address business gaps.”

Anvitha Tummala (12), who has known Lisa ever since she was 5 and has worked with Lisa as the co-CEO of DECA, appreciates Lisa’s exceptional creativity while planning and brainstorming for events.

“She definitely has the most creative mind, and I always count on her to make our DECA meetings more fun and interesting,” Anvitha said. “When we discussed plans for our in-person DECA meeting, Lisa came up with really fun activities, which was really impressive to see.”

In addition to these activities allowing Lisa to deepen her creative self, Lisa has enjoyed art simply because of its cathartic and calming abilities.

“When you’re playing an instrument or painting a piece, you’re not thinking about anything else,” Lisa said. “It’s like meditation, where it gives you an outlet: you go to art and let it out, it’s a resetter.”

Lisa has used her art to express and emerge from the difficulties she has encountered with her world, such as issues of climate change or her experience as a woman in business and leadership.
One of her collections, a dark-scale set of paintings of a deer, a woman and a lion, depict the clinical labels given to women in leadership, and the difficulty of navigating this realm as a woman.

“Being a girl in business, you’re placed into two labels: either you’re submissive, and you don’t argue, and you don’t contradict, you’re docile, or you’re aggressive, and you debate, and you’re placed into this stereotype,” Lisa said.

Lisa has faced challenges, such as tearing her ACL and having to miss a season of lacrosse to have surgery and recover from the injury. But she has taken these hardships as moments to learn from and opportunities to take a step back for reflection.

“It made me reevaluate priorities and think more holistically about the big picture — [in] junior year, I was getting caught up on the little things, and it was a reality check where I calmed down and realized: in the long run, we’re all going to be okay,” Lisa said.

As she looks deeply at the world around her, Lisa enjoys being able to connect with a variety of people, making connections and sharing space with people who might have very different outlooks than she does. Through her leadership positions and the activities that she participates in, Lisa has found that she can meet new people and cherish new relationships.

“I try to surround myself with a very diverse set of people, and going the breadth of all the things I do, I interact with people who are very different,” Lisa said. “From everyone I learn something. Something I’ve learned in high school is that there’s no competition, it’s about the community.”

Additional reporting by Anna Vazhaeparambil.