Nesa ’24: The supportive and academically challenging community is what truly drew me to Oak Knoll.
Oak Knoll senior Nesa Shamdasani ’24 joined the school as a freshman after attending public school in Little Falls, NJ. Though her commute by train can take well over an hour one way, she said, “It is a decision I will never regret. My family and I strongly believe in getting a good education in a community of like-minded people in order to succeed. The supportive and academically challenging community is what truly drew me to Oak Knoll. Once I set foot on the campus, I knew Oak Knoll was my first choice.”
This is Shamdasani’s first year in the student ambassador program. “I was interested in the role because it felt like the perfect way to give back to the school and community that has given me so much these past four years. By actively representing my school and sharing my experiences with prospective students and parents, I think visitors can better understand the wonderful community here,” she explained.
When touring campus visitors, Shamdasani feels connected to the chapel in Grace Hall. “I enjoy talking about the chapel,” she related, “I can highlight how I am not Catholic but still feel so welcome in the Oak Knoll community, and even though I’m not Catholic, there are so many ways for me to get involved in faith life. Fellow students and teachers in my theology class often ask me to share Hindu teachings and values. I also have the opportunity to participate in Masses and am a Campus Ministry representative offering a new perspective to faith life at Oak Knoll.” Initially hesitant to share her perspectives, Shamdasani found that Oak Knoll teachers and students openly embraced her culture and faith traditions.
Outside of the classroom, Shamdasani is involved in a diverse set of activities. She is a Cross-Country Captain and runs in Spring and Winter Track. Her love of art also prompted her to start a Craft Club and Photography Club, and she is a tutor and peer leader. “Serving as a peer leader makes getting to know the younger students exciting, and being a role model for them is something I enjoy,” she shared. She is co-manager of the school newspaper Untucked and a writer for La Vista, Oak Koll’s Spanish newsletter. Shamdasani has also taken part in youth leadership opportunities on a national scale, participating in the Close-Up Empowering Female Voices program in her first year and the HOBY leadership program in her sophomore year.
In her junior year at Oak Knoll, Shamdasani took advantage of the partnership between Oak Knoll, the University of Pennsylvania, and Schoolyard Ventures and participated in the Social Innovators Program. During the initial program, she worked to prototype a solution to bridge hygiene gaps between nonprofit organizations and the homeless community. Following the program, she formed a nonprofit organization to continue those efforts on an increasingly wider scale.
When asked what she will miss the most when she leaves Oak Knoll, Shamdasani said, “I think the quote ‘the people make the place’ is accurate for Oak Knoll. The faculty, staff, administration, and students are unequaled. The dynamic student body is rich with people from all backgrounds and experiences, which makes the community here unique. Everyone feels like they have a place and purpose at our school, which makes every day coming to class so fun.”
Even her long commute to school has provided Shamdasani with the opportunity to serve as an Oak Knoll student ambassador. “I can still remember that once I was waiting at the station and had an Oak Knoll sweatshirt on, and a parent of a high school freshman asked me if I went to Oak Knoll. He was the first to ask me this question, but I was excited to share how much I liked coming here. I told him the commute never felt like a chore and is a happy part of my daily routine to get a well-rounded education. I explained to him that the education and resources at Oak Knoll have pushed me to be the best version of myself,” she explained.