A Love for Reading
While he keeps a busy schedule, Sahith also knows how to find time to explore interests and enjoy the little things in life. For one of his college essays, he wrote about the perfect Saturday: him sitting on a bean bag chair with a good book and a glass of lemonade, and his dog lying somewhere in the vicinity. He enjoys reading the classics, citing A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne as his favorite book.
Sahith says he inherited his love of reading from his father, who keeps a vast personal library with a variety of books from different countries. This love for reading and other cultures led Sahith to volunteer at the library. Most days he helps reshelve books, but sometimes his unique background allows him to play a special role in serving the library’s visitors.
“I live in a very Telugu-speaking area, which is the language I speak at home. This is helpful when working with grandparents who take their grandchildren to the library. I’m able to help translate. I’m able to help them meet each other and talk to each other. And I help them find books that they’re trying to learn English together with,” Sahith says.
The Art of Public Speaking
Sahith is a skilled speaker—so good that he competes internationally in World Schools Debate.
“Debate has been my life,” he says. “I’ve put hours and hours, years and years, into the program.”
World Schools Debate is a younger version of debate that has been around internationally for 30-40 years, but only recently gained popularity in the U.S. during the late ‘90s. Unlike traditional formats of debate like Lincoln-Douglas or Policy, World Schools is a dynamic format in which debaters tend to base arguments more on specific issues rather than theory or procedure. It’s also more interactive than its traditional counterparts.
“It’s a lot more on the spot. It’s a lot more thinking on your feet, and it’s a lot more entertaining. I think it’s more fun because you’re allowed to be your own style of debater,” he says.
Since World Schools Debate is a newer style to the U.S., it’s not surprising that Sahith and his friends were pioneers in bringing it to Coppell High School. He says that Coppell High School has always had a strong debate program, but when he joined as a freshman, the team was more centered around the Policy format.
“Coppell didn’t have a [World Schools] team when I first came here, but me and my friends—we made a team. Now, we have over 45 people who compete,” he says.
During sophomore year, Sahith and his World Schools team competed in the Slovenia International Tournament, and they placed 16th out of about 180 teams. Two years later, in his senior year, Sahith debated on Team Texas at the Winter Heritage Open, hosted by Team Croatia. They placed 16th there as well, but he said it was a much harder circuit out of about 240 teams. In that tournament, his team tied with Team USA. Individually, Sahith did quite well, placing 8th speaker overall out of about 700 competitors around the world.
Sahith wrapped up his high school career with one of his greatest achievements yet. He and his team participated in the Texas Forensics Association (TFA) competition in Houston. They brought home the gold, placing first in the state.
Sahith has coached debate to younger students. He works part-time at Coppell Debate Academy, and he’s also a coaching assistant for his school’s program, which involves coaching the underclassmen. As he closes his chapter on the Coppell team, Sahith is excited to see younger students carry on the legacy.
“It’s really gratifying now to see our younger teams going to tournaments, doing well at those tournaments, and even winning. There’s a continuity here that I helped create,” he says.
World Schools Debate isn’t available in the U.S. at the college-level, but Sahith is interested in continuing his debate career by competing in British Parliamentary Debate, which also has an international circuit.
Preparing for College Admissions
Sahith started test prep classes at KD the summer before his junior year. At that point, he already had a foundational knowledge of test content. But he struggled with managing his timing.
“I was a really bad test taker,” he says. “I would rush through things. I would make really stupid mistakes, and I think KD helped iron out a lot of that by helping me practice and holding me accountable. That was the biggest thing that probably helped me, giving me some structure to the way I was learning.”
Sahith also worked with a KD college counselor, Steve Peifer. Sahith applied to 15 different schools, and each school had different essay requirements. Sahith worked closely with Steve to rewrite, edit, and proof essay after essay.
“Mr. Peifer was outstanding,” Sahith said. “He challenged me a couple of times… But I think more than anything, he held me accountable, which is something that I really thrive on… There were a couple times when I felt validated, and it helped alleviate some of my concerns.”
For students who are intimidated by the essay portion of applications, Sahith offers these words of advice, “Planning out a little bit ahead of time, being able to structure… and setting deadlines for yourself can help you be able to work through the editing process… The biggest thing is don’t leave it until it’s too late.”
UT on the Horizon
Sahith earned acceptances from various colleges on his list, including SMU, Texas A&M, UT-Austin, Indiana Bloomington, UCLA, Emory, and NYU. After much thought, he chose the University of Texas at Austin as his new home for the next four years. One of the things he looks forward to the most is making new friends.
“College is more about the people you meet than anything else,” Sahith says.
In ten years, Sahith says he hopes to have a law degree and potentially work at a law firm in a big city like Chicago, New York City, or Los Angeles. But the future is unclear, and he has multiple career interests and ideas for how he could apply a law degree. Right now, he plans to keep an open mind as he moves to the Forty Acres this fall.