By Sean Delaney
Hari Chand Balachandran Pillai a student at Emery Collegiate Institute has achieved the remarkable feat of finishing his graduating year with a 100 percent grade point average.
As Pillai looks forward to post-graduate studies at Queen’s University, we sat down with him to discuss his motivations, and plans for the future.
EVV: Tell us about your academic journey and what has motivated you?
Hari: I would say I did set out a goal to get the best mark I can, and for me that’s going to be 100 percent. Throughout my high school years, I maintained pretty much in that range of 90 to 95, and I think having a good base in Grade 9 and 10 has helped me a lot in Grade 11 and 12. A lot of that stuff you learn carries over and makes your life easier to study the new concepts. So, I always had a goal in mind to have 100 percent. But to be honest, I didn’t think I had a chance. I thought I would land in that 90 to 95. I was so surprised. It was definitely a journey. There were ups and downs. I was concerned during some drops in my grades, or bad results, but I would find a way on the next test or exam to make an improvement. I think if I didn’t do well on final exams, I wouldn’t have got 100 percent for sure.
I knew it was something I was capable of if I put the work in. If I stayed dedicated to the task and pushed toward it, knew I could accomplish it.
EVV: How do you balance academic commitments with extra curricular or personal interests? Does school come first?
Hari: Yes, for me, school always came first. At school itself I would try to have an extra curricular program each day. Then lunch was a quick thing for me, I would eat and move on to the next thing to get done. So whether peer-tutoring, student council hero club, or Reach for the Top, I would have something everyday, and had fun in those clubs. But in terms of priorities, there would be times I would be a bit lacking, would see a mark drop and would spend more time on academics. So, I did miss the odd club meeting, letting the teacher know I needed to focus on a test, or something. But those were rare.
EVV: What role did your parents play in this?
Hari: My parents are integral to my learning, and in a good way. Whenever I need help with something I would always ask them. Or when I’m spending too much time on school, or wasting my time, they’re just letting me know. They would motivate me to get my work done, they would help me with ideas. They were part of my high school experience, and I’m glad they were. I felt I always did a lot better with them backing me up.
EVV: Tell me about some of your other roles, leadership, volunteering?
Hari: One of the main things I did in the community is volunteer at Humber River Hospital at the info desk and as an inpatient volunteer. I was placed on cardiology and respiratory floors. I would walk around talking to patients, if they needed support, and at the info desk with people coming into the hospital.
It was a great chance to meet interesting people. I met a number of people in university for sciences, developed mentor relationships. It was really productive for me.
EVV: As you transition to the next phase, what are your aspirations and career goals?
Hari: I’m going to Queen’s University, looking at a focus on science and then the medical field.
EVV: Tell me about mentors and teachers of interest at Emery Collegiate, and your time there.
Hari: Emery Collegiate was an amazing school. I got to meet a lot of great people. Ms. Palermo, the principal at Emery Collegiate, she was amazing. When I met her, I was able to talk to her immediately. I started through the York mentorship project, and that’s when we first met. She gave me a lot of advice, a lot of support and help. She gave me opportunity to do the Focus on Youth program and I was also able to be part of different events at the school.
Ms. Davidson, Ms. P, the admin at the school with Ms. Palermo were always motivating you. Always encouraging you to move forward. I never had a negative experience and always look forward to my conversations with them.
My biology teacher at the school, Dr. Lebana, and the guidance counsellor at the school, Mr. Chester. They were also great.
EVV: Tell us about your other hobbies:
Hari: Basketball for sure. I like to bike. Theres a trail near my house that I frequent, and another trail I like to go to. In my spare time I play some games with my brother, that’s fun for me.
EVV: What advice would you give to other students?
Hari: Never be afraid to ask questions. I feel like asking a lot of questions has been really helpful to me. To your principal, teachers, I was able to gain a lot of opportunities by asking. The worst thing that can happen is they can say no, so ask a lot of questions.