Return to Headlines

Lava Panta (Marvin Ridge High)

What are your most and least favorite subjects and why?

By a massive margin, my favorite subject is English, even though my interest is in biology and psychology. My love for English is simply because of our teacher Lindsey Arant. She is an amazing teacher. Even though I have a natural inclination towards reading and writing as a hobby, I enjoy this topic because Ms. Arant provokes an engaging conversation. She knows how to ask the right questions. 

We read a book recently that had a confusing first chapter with references you wouldn’t understand fully until finishing the book. Ms. Arant’s asked us, “Why was the first chapter so confusing?” My answer was that it was confusing because that is how childhood is generally, especially if you come from a complicated family. Sometimes you see and know things but don't understand why they matter until you get older. It's like having a very thin curtain around your life as a child.

It was a simple question that helped the class understand the context of the book. It is my second year of having Ms. Arant as a teacher, as I am in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. It’s a great program that builds community among the students and teachers. 

There is a competition for my least favorite subject; physics and Spanish. I don’t hate either of them. They are just challenging in different ways. I speak Hindi and Telugu but it doesn’t make learning another language easy. The best way to describe my Spanish is that it sounds like broken English. Native speakers would probably be horrified. 

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be and why?

My parents came to the United States and lived here for some time. I was born in New Jersey and, later, we moved back to India for 10 years. We returned two years ago so I’ve been a student at Marvin Ridge High since my junior year. At this moment, I’d like to travel back to India to see my grandmother. We used to drive eight hours every few months to visit her in the village where my father built her a house.

My grandmother and I are very close. When my dad’s sister passed away I was just born. My grandmother had lost a kid and then I came along. My mom told me that I was her light in the darkest of times. Everyone says I’m the apple of her eye and can do no wrong. Most days, we speak in the morning before I go to school and before I go to bed. 

I always ask her about the TV shows she’s watching. They are like soap operas. She loves to tell me about them. They don’t always make sense but it’s fun to talk about them with her.

What careers interest you?

I’d like a career in psychology. 

What clubs or activities do you participate in? And why? 

My friend, Brock Tesfaye, and I created a club, well, I am working on making it an official club before I graduate so I can leave a legacy. It’s called PAPS (Practical Application of Psychological Science). It started when I joined HGAPS (Helping Give Away Psychological Science), an organization with chapters across the country. Many are college undergraduates who work in psychological research.

My friend and I have been working on machine learning and suicide to help understand what behaviors can lead to it and how it can be prevented through AI algorithms. We found some interesting patterns and data. This research can help clinicians and researchers have more context behind cases. It can help with prevention and treatment.

I really wanted to create a high school chapter that could bring resources and information to interested students. Our group has about 50 to 60 members and we teach them the skills we learned from the HGAPS program. We meet on Mondays and discuss the latest techniques and strategies. Some of the things we talk about are writing grants, structuring a paper, and we provide other tips.

Last year, Brock and I spent a lot of time attending conferences and speaking with experts. We did it to get this up and running. Brock is the smart one and I’m the charmer so it works. 

If you had to choose between spaghetti or pizza, which would you choose?

I would choose pizza simply because of the sheer variety. There are so many different flavors and toppings you can get. I like anything that is crazy spicy so extra, extra, extra jalapeños. Put as much as you can legally put on a pizza. That’s the amount I want. Bring the heat.

What three words best describe you?

  • Creative - I like writing. I remember for our college application we had a common app essay and asked Ms. Arrant to check it. She said it was one of the best she had read and that it could be publishable. I also wrote a piece for her birthday and added my creative flare to it. The last line read, “You are a butterfly that I hope continues to dazzle and provide shelter for all of us students when it rains.” 

  • Smart - I am a deep thinker. Back to the question from the book we read in class, I gave an answer comparing it to childhood. It brought up thoughts of family history, secrets and the unknown.

  • Kind - There is no point in being a mean person. Every person has their issues and problems. If they have an off day it doesn’t mean they are a bad person. There have been times when I haven’t been the best person. Knowing that, how can I judge someone else? My mother always says, “Before looking outward, it is always important to look inward first.” The things you may find annoying in someone else are probably something you’ve done, too. Let’s be honest, there’s a 99 percent chance you’ve done the same. If others can let you off the hook, then do that for others. 

What is your happiest school memory?

My happiest school memory is sitting in Ms. Arant's class and talking to her. You can tell her anything, and there is no judgment in her classroom. She has a deep understanding of human nature. She has a nuanced understanding of people, recognizing that they are more than their biggest mistake.

What advice would you give your parents or teachers?

First, I’d tell my parents to keep doing what they are doing. If I could give one bit of advice to my dad, it would be to be more understanding. He had a much tougher upbringing than me. It’s like having calluses on your hands. Calluses are formed by pressure and can be hard to get through. Surviving difficult circumstances takes grit and he succeeded because of it. You don’t get awards and thanks for your struggles. In our culture, men are less affectionate because they are taught to be responsible. I love my dad; he is the best. 

My advice to teachers would be to be more like Ms. Arant. People like her are rare. If people were more like her, we’d probably have world peace.