Sharanya Pastapur introduced herself to the Forest Hills community in her own way


When volunteer work is envisioned, it’s safe to say it isn’t regularly associated with getting your hair braided; however, for senior Sharanya Pastapur, it was once a small part of her volunteering life. 

“There is one kid that for some reason really, really likes long hair,” said Sharanya about her time volunteering at the Comprehensive Therapy Center. “And my freshman year, I had super long hair. She would just come up to me and start braiding it just out of nowhere.”

While this is a seemingly rather unusual ordeal, Sharanya experiences many such encounters as she racks up National Honors Society(NHS) hours.

When she moved to the district her freshman year, Sharanya was searching for a good way to become immersed in her new community. Volunteering, which gave her NHS service hours, also helped her get involved in the community.

“Over the summers,” Sharanya said, “I went to this place called Comprehensive Therapy Center, which is basically like this daycare for disabled children. I just ended up really connecting with kids, which is pretty funny, because I don’t typically like[kids]. I just ended up liking the experience so much that I went back every year.”

Being in this seemingly unusual environment has been a major learning curve for Sharanya.

“I think I’ve learned how to be more patient,” Sharanya said. “Especially because I didn’t like kids at first, but you can’t just start yelling at them. So definitely patience. And then also seeing kids themselves as real people and not just these dolls, I guess. I think a lot of people idealize that, and especially working with disabled kids, we do see the more negative aspects of taking care of your child.”

In this new opportunity, she was immersed in a completely different learning experience.

 “It gives you a wide variety of kids to work with,” Sharanya said. “When we say ‘disabled,’ it’s anywhere from like, completely wheelchair-bound, can’t do anything really for themselves, to maybe having mild allergies, or diabetes or something and their parents just have work for the day and they just can’t come to pick them up. So it also helps you bring in that sort of skill set.”

Sharanya has also spent some of her time outside of the regular school day as a part of the band at FHC. Her leadership abilities have given her an opportunity to help others through the unique band season due to COVID.

“I’m a squad leader for the flute section,” Sharanya said. “Last year with COVID and everything, we didn’t really have a marching season. It was kind of like we just stood and played, and there wasn’t really anything going on. But this year, it was full-on back. And being in leadership after that year off, it was almost like you had to teach yourself everything. After a year off, it’s hard to remember everything. And I think that almost helps more with teaching the freshmen and everything just because it’s like you’re learning it together.”

Learning and adapting is not a far-fetched notion for Sharanya as it isn’t for many high-schoolers working through the pandemic these past few years.

Without seniors last year to teach the juniors the ropes of the marching band, as well as limited marching, seniors had to take it upon themselves to understand this role of leadership they were to assume.

While the spread of COVID took much of last school year away, Sharanya is thankful for just how much more grateful she has become this year. She was able to appreciate her senior year in band.

“I moved freshman year so having that band experience was a way for me to kind of find a groove and like find my friends and everything,” Sharanya said. “All my closest friends are in band. You know, with people that play instruments, there is a solidarity there just because you enjoy the same sort of things.” 

Band has provided something for Sharanya that she was searching for: like-minded people, her niche.

In moving rather late, Sharanya was tasked with adapting late. Through band, and volunteering she has grown and found her people.

Continuing on to her next chapter in life, she hopes to find her people in her new environment. Hopefully, some time will be left for hair braiding too.

“The changes of the future come again and again in recycled newness,” Sharanya said. “Try to greet it as an old friend.”