Austin Patel declared as class of 2019 valedictorian

Drake Goodman

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What started as a Social Issues project freshman year transformed into one of the central components of senior Austin Patel’s life. After initially volunteering at the Corte Madera Library for the mandatory community service project, Patel started hosting classes there once a month to teach middle school students how to code.

“That’s been really meaningful volunteer work that I’ve been doing because my dad taught me a lot about coding since he is a computer programmer and now I get to share that knowledge with other people,” Patel said.

Patel has since been named the 2019 valedictorian. He has a 4.55 total weighted GPA, having taken 13 Advanced Placement (AP) classes and five honors classes in his four years at Redwood. He also attained a 4.61 total academic weighted GPA, and between sophomore and senior year he had a 4.82 total academic weighted GPA. Patel will attend the School of Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley next school year as a Regents scholar, studying electrical engineering and computer science.

This honor was not something Patel always wanted to achieve, but rather a byproduct of taking classes he was genuinely interested in.

“A lot of the classes I took were interesting to me, so it doesn’t seem like it’s a strenuous amount of work. It wasn’t a burden, but an opportunity to learn more and challenge myself, so because of that, I just enjoy what I do and have time to do other things [outside of academics],” Patel said.

Drake Goodman
Receiving the distinction as valedictorian for the class of 2019, senior Austin Patel obtained a 4.55 total weighted GPA in his four years at Redwood.

For Patel, his high school experience was much more than achieving a number on a transcript. In addition to attaining stellar grades, Patel was a team captain for the cross country and track and field teams at Redwood, as well as the co-president of the Model United Nations and Programming Clubs. He also interned at the Buck Institute where he studied HIV testing and taught middle school coding classes. Essentially, Patel believes high school was about fostering relationships and being passionate in learning.

“I realized that there is so much more than what happens in the classroom and that the true value is spending time with friends instead of sitting and doing homework. I tried to manage my time the best I can to make sure I never missed my friends’ concerts, dance recitals or anything else they had because that was what was most important to me,” Patel said.

According to Ernesto Diaz, Patel’s Honors Advanced Algebra teacher and Programming Club advisor, Patel’s good-natured character makes him both a great individual and a role model for others.

“He’s absolutely wonderful: doesn’t have any problems helping people when he can, proactive, always has a wonderful smile and [is] a positive person,” Diaz said. “Yes, he’s academic, but when I think about him, I’m not thinking about a GPA, I think about a kid who is curious, intellectually generous and hard working, who has interests outside of school.”

Diaz believes one aspect that makes Patel shine is that he is able to interact with others, which is evident in his relationships and experiences in the Programming Club and in teaching coding.

“He might come with an idea, but he’s willing to propose something and let other students in the club lead or go forward and he doesn’t impose. He’s always present and his contributions are always essential, but they aren’t noisy and he doesn’t occupy all this space,” Diaz said.

Senior Achinthya Poduval has known Patel since second grade, and since then they have grown close to one another. What started out as a more competitive relationship in the beginning of high school transformed into a brotherly bond, according to Poduval.

“We took similar classes so we worked together on projects, but at the same time each of us envied the other in a light-hearted way for a couple of things,” Poduval said. “The whole thing about valedictorian was that freshman year I was talking to him one day and said, ‘Dude, I really want to be valedictorian.’ He responded right away saying, ‘No, I’ll do it instead.’”

Over time, Poduval noticed Patel’s disciplined and focused nature. At the end of junior year, he also observed how Patel concentrated on strengthening relationships in addition to remaining strong academically.

“Freshman through junior year he put in a lot more work than the rest of us, and senior year he learned how to chill out a little bit. He learned that he needed to spend some more time with family and friends … so it was a real growing point for him,” Poduval said. “Overall, whenever he puts his mind to something, he gets it done. It’s amazing how much discipline he has because if he has a goal it will be accomplished.”

In addition to being motivated and dedicated in learning, Patel has applied these attributes to running, especially since he was a captain of both the cross country and track and field team senior year.

“Running is strenuous because I’ve been running consistently every day for the past four years, but it definitely is a way to de-stress. Being the captain, I tried to take greater responsibility on the team like driving people home after practice. I was really grateful for the opportunity to take care of the team that has taken care of me for the past four years,” Patel said.

Outside of school and his extracurricular activities, Patel also interned last summer. While interning at the Buck Institute researching HIV testing, as well as the effect drug testing has on HIV infections, Patel met a computational biologist. After taking AP Biology his senior year, Patel was delighted when he realized that he could combine his interests of biology and computer science going forward.

“In the future I hope to combine biology and computer science in creative ways and come up with new ideas in something like healthcare. I think it’s really cool that I can have an impact on helping other people,” Patel said. “Biomedical research focuses on diseases and whatnot, and computer science can help me analyze data in biology to help me achieve whatever goals I have or products I’m trying to make.”

Patel ultimately believes that being named valedictorian is a smaller part of a larger accomplishment of his experiences in high school.

“Over time, I just learned that there’s so much more out there than just amassing knowledge from taking all these classes. High school is about all of the fun opportunities and spending time with friends and family,” Patel said. “I think it’s easy to get caught up in quantitative things like GPA, but we need to look at the bigger picture.”