Bhavreet Dhandi was the student representative to the Saugerties school board for the 2016-17 school year. Though her academic focus in high school was largely grounded in science and mathematics, Dhandi said the experience gave her an appreciation for other areas of study.
“It is like government and politics in a way,” she said. “You never really think about what goes into running a school district. I got to see the numbers and taxes and the budget, and there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that people don’t know about. Especially students, because we don’t focus on any of that.”
Each school year, a member of the student council is selected to serve as the student representative to the school board. Dhandi, treasurer of the Class of 2017, said she enjoyed serving in the role, which served as a liaison between the student body and the school district.
“I would go and give them little updates on what was going on in the high school,” Dhandi said. “Basically, they wanted to know what the student body was doing and what was happening in the school. If we had any dances, major games, blood drives, things like that. If anything was happening that they could attend, like plays, I would let them know.”
There was some trustee turnover and occasional fireworks at some meetings of the school board. It was a period of transition.
“At times it was harmonious, but there were a few meetings where there was a lot of tension and everyone was kind of on edge,” Dhandi said. “For the most part, it was pretty smooth. And it felt very organized. Everyone knew what was going on for the most part. No one was ever very shocked by anything because they all had a general idea of what was going on.”
She found the entire experience interesting. “Honestly,” she said, “everything was new for me.”
Dhandi prepared meeting reports for the school board. These were assignments for a government class.
Born in India, Dhandi went to Grant D. Morse Elementary for a few months after her family came to the United States. She completed elementary school in the Valley Central school district and returned to Saugerties for junior high school. She graduated last month from Saugerties High as the third-ranked student in her class, behind only valedictorian Anna Marie Armstrong and salutatorian Lilith Haig.
As a seventh grader, Dhandi wasn’t initially sure about Saugerties. “At first I wasn’t really such a big fan of Saugerties because I was used to all my old friends [at Valley Central],” she said. “But honestly, the people here made it home for me. I made all of these friends. And I love all the teachers and everybody here.”
Once settled into school in Saugerties, Dhandi took advantage of the many offerings that would help prepare her for college and career. “Ever since I was a kid I’ve always wanted to be a doctor and go to med school,” she explained. “So I’ve always found science interesting and I took every single science class the school had to offer that I could fit into my schedule. I think there was only one science class I didn’t get to take.”
Might she be planning to stick around to take that one last science class? Dhandi laughed. “No, I’m done,” she replied. “I’m ready for college.”
In the fall, Dhandi is off to SUNY Binghamton, where she’ll study biology as an undergraduate.
“It was between SUNY Binghamton and UCLA,” she said. “I loved both schools. UCLA, it’s UCLA, but SUNY Binghamton was way better than I expected when I visited. It came down to the money for me. It’s way more affordable, and with med school in the future I had to plan accordingly. Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded going to California for college. I’m totally open to new things. I don’t have a problem adjusting. But this is nice.”
Until college begins, Dhandi can most likely be seen at Total Tennis on Old Kings Highway, where she’s a camp counselor during the day and works in the kitchen in the evening.
“I basically spend a lot of time at Total Tennis,” said Dhandi. She played for the Saugerties High varsity girls’ tennis team as a sophomore and junior, but stepped away during her senior year to focus on academics.
Alongside Mum Queen Hannah Spoljaric and Madison Perri, she was a member of the Mum Court last October.