Class of 2020 Spotlight

All Niskayuna High School Senior Spotlights

Leslie Perlee Spotlight

Lauren Moran Spotlight

Ivian Owens Spotlight

Calvin Wetzel Spotlight

Finn McCullough Spotlight

Davie Emmanuel Penid Spotlight

Aimee Bostwick Spotlight

Maria Rivera Spotlight

Kaylee McGill Spotlight

Anjalee Modasra Spotlight

Ben Yao Spotlight

girl sitting on lawn

Anjalee Modasra

What are your after school plans?
I will be attending UAlbany for one semester and then transferring to Binghamton University in the spring of 2021. I will be pursuing Public Policy and I hope to pursue a 4+1 Masters program at Binghamton and get my Master of Public Administration. 

Is there a particular moment or memory that stands out for you during your time at Niskayuna High School?
I honestly wouldn’t be able to pick just one because there were a lot of things that I’ll never forget. One of them was a fundraiser that Student Congress and myself organized back in January to raise money for Hurricane Dorian. We organized a Trivia Night that was overwhelmingly successful and we were able to raise a lot of money for the cause when we weren’t expecting a lot of participation. There were over 100 students and about 20 teams participated. It was an amazing night and we received a lot of really good feedback about the night. We had been hoping to potentially plan another one to raise money for the Australian bushfire crisis, but unfortunately, that plan was halted because of the current pandemic.

I am told you were a student representative to the BOE, how was that experience?
Being a student representative on the BOE has definitely been something that changed my high school experience and opened up my eyes to so much more about what the real world is like. I think one of the biggest things this position has done for me has caused me to major in Public Policy in college. For as long as I can remember, I had a strong desire to go into marine biology and become a marine biologist in my future. At the beginning of senior year,  I realized that I actually wanted to go into Public Policy. Through my position as a student representative I have done a lot of work with Student Congress, and with various clubs and district level committees to make our educational environment more equitable for all students. I realized that after one year of representing students on the Board that my passion is and will always be properly representing all opinions and all voices, and making sure those voices are not only heard, but are listened to. Later on in my life I want to do work on a state/federal level to pass effective laws against things like the gender pay gap, discrimination in the workplace, etc. This position has also taught me so much about being mature in the face of adversity,  about understanding multiple perspectives and making sure they are taken into account, and about making decisions that do as little harm as possible. I think it’s been one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had at Nisky.

What do you love most about singing? Favorite memory?
The thing I love most about singing is the connection that I have made with so many of my peers in the choral program and the sense of family that I have experienced. Sharing the love of music with so many other amazing students is something that I have cherished for all 4 years of high school and especially now. Through virtual meets we are still finding ways to stay connected through music and support each other through this difficult time. One of my favorite memories was when we learned a song called “Stars” by Sara Tesadale for the Choral Festival last March and as a part of the performance we learned how to play crystal glasses filled to different amounts of water to create different pitches, as the accompaniment for the piece. It was one of the coolest and most interesting pieces I learned and performed while being in the Niskayuna choral program. The other memory that I will never forget was when we performed “Light In The Hallway”–an original song written by the a cappella group Pentatonix– for our first concert. I had suggested the piece to Mrs. Catalano in the summer of 2019 and when she told me she really liked the suggestion and wanted to do it, I was so excited to be able to learn the song with my fellow classmates and friends and later on perform it for the community at our first concert. 

Is there an achievement or contribution that you are most proud of?
One of the things I am most proud of is having been able to help create a more equitable environment at the high school in the past four years of being at Nisky. As a member of clubs and committees that work directly to create this environment, I have always tried to do what I can to make sure everyone feels heard and that everyone is being treated the way they should be regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, ability/disability, etc. 

What was your favorite thing about high school?
My favorite subjects were music, English and history/government. Music has always been something that I’ve cherished in my life and has been another outlet of expression for me. The English and history/government classes that I have taken in the past two years have also been really amazing classes. I have always loved American history and the AP English 11 and SUPA English classes were a lot about topics that are relevant to our current society,like racism, sexism and feminism, something that I found I was very interested in when I started high school.

Were you a part of any sports, extracurricular activities, clubs, etc.?
I have played tennis since I was in 6th grade, playing on our school JV and Varsity teams starting in 7th grade and playing on a team outside of school called 15-LOVE. I am also the secretary of Sisters in Solidarity, a club founded last year that discusses the issues that women of color in today’s society face on a daily basis. I have been a member of Nisky Friends, Be Aware Stay Engaged (B.A.S.E), French Club and National Honors Society. I have also been a part of the Environment and Culture Advisory Committee, and the Start Times Committee. 

If you could give your freshman self advice, what would it be?
I would tell my freshman self to remember that you have to leave yourself time to live your life and have fun. High school is about learning new things and getting involved but it is also about finding fun in your life and making sure that you enjoy the high school experience. There are so many amazing opportunities at Niskayuna and taking advantage of those if you can is important, but also making sure that you don’t overload yourself is just as important.

Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?
I hope to have just finished getting my MPA and have a job working for an agency/non-profit organization like the ACLU and working on issues related to racism, sexism and discrimination.

What will you miss about high school?
The biggest thing I will miss are probably the people. The amazing teachers and staff at Niskayuna and the amount of support I felt from them made my high school experience amazing. The connections I made with so many teachers and students are ones that can never be replicated because they are so special and had such a huge impact on my life and my education.  I feel like without those relationships and connections I would be a very different person than I am today.

Anything else you would like to share?
I miss all of my classmates and teachers and hope that we have a chance to reunite for the last time before us students go our separate way.

What piece of content (TV show, YouTube channel, book, etc.) do you think everyone should know about and that you recommend and why?
If I had to pick one (which I would never be able to do because there are so many amazing TV shows I am watching right now) it would probably be a TV show that was recently added to Netflix called Community. It’s a hilariously genius show about a group of people who attend a college called Greendale Community College. Almost every episode is a spoof/satire on different TV show and movie genres and includes every cliché aspect of the genre that is being satirized. If a particular episode isn’t a spoof on something it has amazing jokes and an amazing plot line. If you have the ability to watch it, I would highly recommend it!


boy in suit

Ben Yao

What are your after school plans?
My post-graduate plan is to attend the University of Pennsylvania in their dual degree Huntsman Program in International Business (B.A. in International Studies and a B.S. in Economics) pursuing a double major in Finance and Business Analytics.

Is there a particular moment or memory that stands out for you during your time at Niskayuna High School?
One memory that stands out is playing in the pit orchestra in my freshman year for the high school’s production of The Phantom of the Opera. The show was fantastic and I’m very happy to have been a part of it.

I am told you are an amazing musician who has played in countless high school groups as well as ESYO. Have been involved in Student Congress for years as well as a successful member of the Debate Team. A member of the Varsity Tennis Team as well – could you go into how and why you joined those clubs and your favorite memory?
I joined ESYO after I had attended the Christmas concert of their percussion ensembles and I was just enthralled at the beauty of their performances and their virtuosity. I knew after the concert that ESYO was a program that I wanted to be a part of and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made as I’ve found some of my best friends there. A stand out memory from my time in ESYO would have to be playing Pines of Rome at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. Too epic for words. I joined the Debate Team again because I had seen the excellent students that had been produced by the club before and I wanted to be a part of that environment. A stand out memory for me from Debate Club would have to be all the late-night grinds before our national tournaments. I joined Student Congress because I wanted to effect actual change at a higher level for the student body. A very warm memory from Student Congress would be how we put on the memorial for Mr. Flood and just how we came together to organize that event. Lastly, I joined the tennis team since I had played tennis as a kid and I knew that tennis was a place that I could excel. A lot of my friends were also on the tennis team so that was definitely a plus. A memory from my time on the tennis team would have to be the Sectional Tournaments which are always a blast.

Is there an achievement or contribution that you are most proud of? Besides all the material and extracurricular-based awards and accomplishments, I think I’m most proud of having gained the respect of my teachers and having developed a reputation as a good student. The connections I have with my teachers is something that I truly cherish.

What was your favorite thing about high school?
It’s really quite hard to say what my favorite thing about high school is. On the one hand, I love Mr. Hughes’ turtlenecks and Mr. Peters’ pen which is always on his ear, but I’d have to say that my favorite thing about high school are the vast variety of connections that I was able to make in each and every activity that I took part in.

Were you a part of any sports, extracurricular activities, clubs, etc.?
Just as a quick rundown: in school I was Student Congress President, Varsity Debate Team President, and Editor-in-Chief of the school newspaper. I’m also a part of the Varsity Boys Tennis Team. Outside of school, I serve as the Principal Percussionist for ESYO’s Symphony Orchestra and their Youth Percussion Ensemble. I’ve also conducted research at UAlbany and am a proud Eagle Scout. I am also a debate coach at the Chinese Community Center and part of a skit team.

If you could give your freshman self advice, what would it be?
My advice would be to walk the path where the great men before you have walked. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel of success. Study more history and learn from the greatest historical leaders, commanders, and thinkers.

Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?
I hope to be living in New York close to my siblings working in consulting and/or my own business.

What will you miss about high school?
I’ll definitely miss the feeling of comfort I had walking into school each day and sometimes roaming its empty halls.

Anything else you would like to share?
I’d also just like to share that I am seriously thankful to my parents for sacrificing their careers and moving to the United States from China to provide me and my siblings with greater opportunities. Without them, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

What piece of content (TV show, YouTube channel, book, etc.) do you think everyone should know about and that you recommend and why?
I think everybody should watch Wong Fu Productions (YouTube channel), specifically their series Single by 30. Wong Fu Productions has been an impetus for Asian-American representation in Western media and they are definitely people that I look up to.