Best friends since kindergarten, LAHS Student Body President Soumyo Lahiri-Gupta, left, and Vice President Justin Dunn look back over their achievements as high school graduation draws near. Photo by Rebekkah Varjabedian
Soumyo Lahiri-Gupta and Justin Dunn have been best friends for 13 years – they met in kindergarten. Now seniors at Los Alamos High School, Lahiri-Gupta is student body president and Dunn is vice president.
With just weeks until they graduate, the young leaders took time to reminisce about all they have accomplished during their last year together before heading off to different colleges. Lahiri-Gupta will attend the University of New Mexico to major in political science and Dunn is heading to the University of North Dakota to major in commercial aviation.
“Over this past year, we have made many changes and accomplished a lot and I believe it has affected the student body in a positive way,” Lahiri-Gupta said. “I am the type of person who cares about the happiness of people and I want people to be happy. The more smiles that I am around, the better environment I am in. If I can make people smile, I see no reason not to. That has been my primary motivation for everything that I did this year. Everything that I did was based off of what other people, mainly the student body, wanted. Every project or proposal that I did was because students voiced their opinions that they wanted something changed.”
Like Lahiri-Gupta, Dunn said he took a lot of pride in making the school a better and more hospitable place for students.
“After all, we do spend seven hours per day, five days a week at the school.” Dunn said. “It is the students’ second home, and we need to make sure that we’re happy with where we live.
Lahiri-Gupta explained that he always used student surveys to make sure he was doing exactly what the student body wanted and used those survey results to create his agenda.
“Another motivation for me this year has been that I wanted and needed to leave a legacy at LAHS,” Lahiri-Gupta said. “I wanted to make sure that everything that I did would leave a lasting effect to benefit future students of LAHS. I feel like I have accomplished this with everything that I did this year. I hope that everything I did this year made the students happy, because in the end, that is all that really matters!”
“There were a lot of things I saw that could be done to improve the overall morale of the students this year, and with Soumyo being an awesome partner, I believe that I too was able to leave a legacy at LAHS,” Dunn said. “I hope that the changes we made this year continue into the future years, and I hope that the students continue to be happy and take pride in LAHS.”
The Dunn and Lahiri-Gupta partnership has resulted in some rather significant accomplishments, which they describe in their own words:
Changing the Dress Code: The prior dress code at Los Alamos High School had been a problem for students for many years. This was primarily because it was out date. We went around with a survey gathering opinions on the dress code and what the students wanted to see changed in it. Keeping the students’ concern in mind, we proposed a new and reorganized dress code to the school board. They encouraged us to continue working on our proposed dress code to refine it. We did so, working with not only the student body, but also with the staff and administration of Los Alamos High School. We had to jump through a lot of hoops to get this done but we finally created a proposal that was an agreeable dress code for everyone (students, teachers, staff, admin, parents). This new dress code is now in effect at Los Alamos High School and will be put into the Student Handbook for next year. This is probably one of the biggest things we have accomplished this year. This alteration and revamping of the Dress Code set the precedent at LAHS that the student voice matters.
Compliment Cards: We did this project twice this school year: right before finals of first semester, and right before the AP exams this semester. The main idea behind this project was to give every single student a compliment. We created paper forms, or compliment cards, that students could fill out with a complement to send to another student or staff member. Both times we took on this project, we sorted each and every compliment that came in, along with some help from other students at the high school. The administration at LAHS gave us a list of students both times so that we could make sure that each and every student received a compliment. We also had to make sure that the compliments arrived at the right classes for distribution. The first time we took this project on, we received over 2,400 compliments and we came very close to reaching our goal of giving at least one compliment to every student in LAHS. The second time we took on this project, we received over 3,000 compliments and we reached our goal to give every single student in the school at least one compliment! This project was extremely popular among the student body.
Spring Pep Rally: During the summer, Soumyo conducted a survey of the students to find out what they wanted to see happen during the 2013-2014 school year. One of the most wanted activities was a spring pep rally featuring the spring sports. On March 13, 2014, we delivered on this request. This spring pep rally focused not only on our spring sports, but also on the clubs and teachers. Specifically, the pep rally was centered around two teachers: Gary Houfek and Joy Handsberry. The spring pep rally was a huge success with both staff and students having a wonderful time!
Lunch on the Lawn: This year, we orchestrated 3 weeks of Lunch on the Lawn activities spread out over the school year. For each week of Lunch on the Lawn, we held fun activities outside in the courtyard of LAHS. Activities included playing frisbee, hula hoops, music, and even a dunk tank! We also distributed free cupcakes to the students for one of the days’ activities. Before AP exams, we extensively helped out Ms. Ovaska with putting on a consecutive three week long Lunch on the Lawn! It created a friendlier and fun atmosphere at the school.
Music over the Announcements: Traditionally, the Student Body president and vice president go on the intercom and deliver the daily announcements to the school. We decided to spice up these announcements this year. Every day for announcements, we played a 20-30 second snippet of a song right before we started reading off the daily announcements. We received requests for songs to play over announcements from both staff and students throughout the year. Even though it was a small change, it became one of those things where you may not notice it every day, but has a wonderful long-term effect on the students and the school.
Soumyo Lahiri-Gupta, left, and Justin Dunn joke around as their last year at LAHS is coming to an end. Photo by Rebekkah Varjabedian