By:  Emma Curcuru

Nithya Balakrishnan. Smart, well-read, intellectual, compassionate, ambitious, woke, confident, passionate, activist, lover of space, expert of coding, and the proud daughter of two hard-working immigrants. A member of Diversity Club, Student Government, Model Un, and Girls Who Code. And that's only just the beginning.

I’ve known Balakrishnan since elementary school. We were in the same kindergarten class back at Collins. I wish I would have known when we were five years old that I would be writing a feature about her 11 years later. I would have probably would have paid attention to her a little bit more throughout grade school.

Balakrishnan’s life is far from simple and ordinary. She’s traveled around the world, having been to seven different countries; her favorite being Italy.

“Going to places like Rome and seeing the Colosseum and the arts and the museums was like going back in time,” she says, “I really like art and culture, and I love history.”

Balakrishnan credits her mom as the biggest influence she had growing up. When her parents came to America, “They were the only people of color living in Saint Ignace Michigan in 1998. They learned a lot of English and culture through watching sitcoms like Seinfeld and Friends,” says Balakrishnan.

Her mom is the biggest influence on her because “she has been through a lot. She didn't finish college until after my little sister and I were born. She went to night school. She’s an accountant now.” Balakrishnan admires her mom’s struggles, having to study learn the culture and take care of two toddlers, without the help of any family or friends.  

Other than cooking, there's not much Balakrishnan can't do. Her lack of culinary skills is made up by her expertise of coding. Every Wednesday from 6:15 to 9:15, Balakrishnan will be found in a GRCC computer lab, surrounded by college students, taking a computer programming class. She said that one thing she is eager to do this year that she has never done before is to “be able to pick a coding project and see it through and make something. I just want to create, something from nothing. Start to finish.”

One thing that makes Balakrishnan so terrific is the passion in her voice when she talks. Especially when she is talking about something she is fascinated with, like space. “I love space and physics.” When Balakrishnan talks about space her eyes widen, the pace of her words accelerates, and her tone becomes much more excited. Her whole body seems to reflect the passion of her voice, like the idea of space gives her a thrill of adrenaline. Watching her and listening to Balakrishnan talk, you have no choice than to share her excitement, even if you know nothing about space.

Balakrishnan is a woman of many great qualities, but the best, most important one, would be her character. Balakrishnan knows what is right and wrong, and she stands up for what she believes in. She is not afraid of what anybody thinks. She is true to herself. She will stand when everyone else is sitting, and she will do what's right even if it is hard. Nithya Balakrishnan is going the change the world, and when she does, how lucky am I that I was in her kindergarten class.       



Nithya Balakrishnan, Staff Writer