Swathi Ganesh has an unusual extra curricular activity: She sits on the Collierville Environmental Commission (CEC). As a senior at Collierville High School (CHS), Swathi is the commission’s only teen. She became involved through Youth Leadership Collierville. “The commission looks at environmental issues in Collierville and notifies the mayor,” she explains. One example of the commission’s work: responding to community requests for bigger recycling bins.
Swathi, who hopes one day to become a doctor, shares her interest in the environment with classmates, too. She and her friend, Greta Roberts, started the Environmental Club at CHS. Last month, club members held an Electronics Recyling Drive to dispose of electronics. The two founders discovered such an activity requires organization. First, they had to get a permit from CHS to hold the event, then find a faculty member to sponsor it, arrange for volunteers to staff it, and finally, make sure a collector could pick up the donations and dismantle them for recycling.
How will their project help the environment? “Those dead electronics won’t end up in a landfill,” Swathi answers.
The Environmental Club also has an ongoing project. The problem evolved this way. Yes, the high school provides recycling bins, but students use them for trash as well. Consequently, the bins’ contents have added to the school’s refuse collection. In exchange for a promise to pick up bins, the City of Collierville asked students to make sure they contain only recyclables.
How does sorting trash help the environment? “CHS has about 2,000 students. If each has a bottle of water a day, that’s 2,000 plastic bottles that won’t end up in a landfill.”
The 17-year-old, who describes herself as kind, motivated, and hard-working, is third in her graduating class of 458. Her course load includes six AP classes, though “some students take seven. The competition [at CHS] is fierce,” she notes.
Her 4.6 GPA didn’t just happen, of course. “I wish!” Swathi says with a sigh. After school activities end, she comes home, takes a break, begins homework, eats dinner, and then resumes her six hours of study, perhaps making time for a run “to ease the stress.”
Each AP class requires about an hour of homework per night, or two, if a test looms. Her studies also include reading. “A lot of kids don’t read the books. They just listen to the lectures and think they’ll do okay. They won’t.”
Swathi outlines the assigned reading chapters, something that helps her with memorization. Although she studies a lot, her life is balanced. “On the weekends, I make sure I go out with my friends,” she says, “and my passion is Indian classical dance.” She also enjoys driving a gift from her father, a new red Mustang convertible.
Born in India, Swathi and her parents became U.S. citizens when Swathi was in fourth grade. Her younger sister Shruti was born here. Their father works in IT with FedEx, their mother is a part-time as tax consultant.
Swathi has applied to 17 colleges to study chemistry. She estimates she has 13 years of schooling ahead before reaching her dream of becoming a pediatric surgeon. But with her positive outlook, those years will likely be rewarding ones: “Who wouldn’t want to learn? Hard work always pays off.”