Niharika Vattikonda, a senior 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. She will be the 47th student representative to the School Board. Her priorities for the year ahead include making mental health a priority in schools, creating fair grading and workload policies to reduce student stress, increasing equity in academic achievement, and empowering students to identify and work with the School Board to solve the issues they find most pressing in their schools.
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. “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.” 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),” including 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 been dedicated to serving her community, both within school and out of school, for as long as she can remember. As a junior, she served as TJHSST’s representative to the Fairfax County Student Human Rights Commission and chair of its Diversity in Literature project, and she hopes to continue her work next year. 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. In school, she is the Director of Internal Affairs for Coding Lady Colonials and CSterhood Mentorship Program, President of the Girls Learn International chapter at her school, and a national award-winning delegate with the TJHSST Model United Nations team.
Outside of school, Vattikonda loves working to expand access to computer science education and to help teach younger students how to code. As a sophomore, she founded Teens Transforming Technology 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, and she worked with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Center for Women and Information Technology to help expand her impace. For her work, Vattikonda was recognized as an #include Fellow at the Stanford 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.
Vattikonda looks forward to working with all stakeholders in FCPS, especially with students, to make sure we are solving the most critical issues that directly impact the quality of education, and she is excited for the 2017-18 year ahead!
Contact Niharika Vattikonda
Executive Administrative Assistant