Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - June 10, 2011

Nilofer Chollampat

'Meet as many people as you can'

Defying any stereotype of the Facebook-crazed teenager, Gunn's Nilofer Chollampat says she's gone through high school getting to bed just about every night by 10:30.

"I know it sounds really weird, but I've managed," she said, adding, "It's really hard, actually."

Chollampat plans to major in chemistry at the University of California at Davis and then to graduate school to become a pharmacist. Eventually, she'd like to be a hospital administrator.

She'll most miss the teachers and friendships she's made at Gunn.

She'll least miss having to wake up at 6 a.m. so she and her brother can leave her house by 7:19 a.m. and beat the traffic to campus.

"If I leave at 7:30, I don't get here on time," she said.

Chollampat threw shotput as a member of Gunn's track team for three years but left the team this year to pursue an after-school job she obtained through Gunn's Work Experience Education Program.

Now, each afternoon she drops off her brother at home and heads to the Palo Alto law office of Grant & Gordon, where she files, photocopies, runs errands and helps with other odd jobs.

On campus, Chollampat been involved for at least two years in diversity issues and this year is one of Gunn's four Diversity Commissioners.

"They wanted to have people to represent all the diverse students because there are so many here at Gunn," she said.

Though born and raised in Palo Alto, Chollampat is the daughter of immigrants from Kerala, India, and speaks the southern Indian language of Malayalam at home.

"We do events to promote all different backgrounds," she said of her diversity work, including a Martin Luther King Assembly and, in alternating years, International Week, a major event.

Chollampat's stress-management advice?

"I'm thankful not to be a procrastinator," she said. "If you manage your time, then obviously your life will be a lot less stressful.

"I'm not exactly organized, but I'm not a procrastinator."

To a new student at Gunn, she would advise: "Meet as many people as you can.

"Obviously, a lot of students stick with people they know best, but there are a lot of great people here. It's kind of nice to say hi to different types of people — people you don't normally converse with — and keep up with them."

—Chris Kenrick

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