Niharika Vattikonda Elected to Serve as Student Representative to the Fairfax County School Board

News Release
April 04, 2017

Niharika Vattikonda, a junior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST), a Fairfax County public school, has been elected by the countywide Student Advisory Council (SAC) to serve a one-year term as student representative to the Fairfax County School Board, beginning July 1.  Vattikonda will participate in School Board meetings as a nonvoting member, filling the position currently held by Laura Chu, a senior at TJHSST.  She will be the 47th student representative to the School Board.

Vattikonda hopes to ensure that students’ voices are heard and that their suggestions to improve and enhance School Board decisions are implemented to benefit all Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) students.  She proposes hosting informal town hall-style meetings as well as webinars via social media to provide information on new policies and School Board actions, and to identify problems within the school system that have not been addressed.  And she hopes to raise awareness among students on the budget challenges faced by the district.

“Students are best able to identify the most pressing issues that affect their education,” states Vattikonda, “and by allowing student input and promoting student initiatives to solve issues, we would be training students to take on active leadership in their communities, a skill that will last long after graduation.”  She cites a program at TJHSST, Mental Health Awareness Week, that is organized by students and promotes self-care to reduce stress, as an example of student engagement and leadership.

Vattikonda also wants to focus on “creating more equitable grading and workload policies to prevent unnecessary stress and anxiety for students.” She says that evaluating the positive and negative influences from changes in the grading policy, how it has improved student learning, and consistent implementation should be a focus.  She also wants to “work on creating a comprehensive set of homework-workload recommendations for all classes (regular, honors, AP-IB).”  These recommendations would include stipulations on how long homework should take, assigning homework only on a class day, and providing the ability to work with teachers in the event that multiple assessments are scheduled on a single day.

Vattikonda has served as a TJHSST representative to the Fairfax County Student Human Rights Commission and chair of its Diversity in Literature project.  As a member of the executive organizing team of HackTJ, Vattikonda helped plan a 500-student hackathon, offering corporate sponsors the opportunity to engage directly with students to expose them to careers in technology and offering students the chance to develop a product from beginning to end while developing leadership, problem-solving, and communication skills.  And as founder and CEO of Teens Transforming Technology, she had the opportunity to work with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where she learned how to represent multiple parties and reach compromises.  Teens Transforming Technology was established to teach students—particularly girls and minorities in low-income neighborhoods—about computer programming and to encourage these students to continue studying computer science with support from mentors.

Vattikonda was an #include Fellow at the Stanford University She+++ Fellowship Program, where she presented her initiative to bring access to computer science to underrepresented students; was nominated to be a Changemaker at the White House United State of Women Summit; and was a student representative to the White House Conference on Inclusive STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) Education for Youth of Color.  At TJHSST, she is the webmaster and publicist for Coding Lady Colonials and CSterhood Mentorship program; an award-winning delegate with the TJHSST Model United Nations team; events director of Inspiring Femgineers; president of the TJHSST chapter of Girls Learn International; and founder of the Teen Thoughts on Politics blog.

Vattikonda is currently enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) macroeconomics, AP microeconomics, AP physics C, AP U.S. history, AP Spanish language and culture, AP computer science A plus data structures, multivariable calculus, matrix algebra, honors English, and mechanics and electricity and magnetism.  As a senior at TJHSST, she plans to take AP government and English language, mobile and web application development research lab, mobile app development, web app development, geosystems, AP Spanish literature, elementary differential equations, and probability theory.

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For more information, contact the FCPS Office of Communication and Community Relations at 571-423-1200.