Each month, Central Penn Parent features a child who is doing great things. They pitch in to make a difference in their schools, places of worship and throughout their communities. They are a blessing to those around them—yet their efforts often go unrecognized. We want to thank them for a job well done! Each child receives a cape and a prize package from our sponsors.
If a teacher at East Pennsboro High School needs help with technology, they call Shankar Dandapat.
He is a wizard with computers and can manage sound and lighting for any play, concert or event.
Shankar is also a student.
The junior at East Penn occasionally gets called out of class to assist teachers and staff with setting up their projectors and other technology. For Shankar, it combines his love of tech with his selfless nature. “If I could help 30 kids learn while maybe I miss a little bit of a lesson, it’s totally worth it,” Shankar said.
He’s also involved in the National Honor Society, Math Club, Inter-Club Council and Cross-Age Teaching, which is a drug prevention program taught by high-schoolers at East Penn Middle School.
“It’s almost common knowledge that when it comes to a volunteer-based organization, Shankar’s going to be involved,” said Andy Williams, band director at East Penn.
Williams heard about Shankar from the middle school and has worked with him in the booth of the auditorium for four years. Together they manage the lights, sound, video and other capabilities for the school’s plays and concerts.
Shankar has also done the music and lights for school dances and pep rallies.
“It’s extremely rare to have someone that’s completely selfless,” Williams said. “I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a self-based thought from him. Instead of doing something onstage where he gets the recognition and visibility, he’d rather do theater tech where he doesn’t.”
In April the music department shocked Shankar with “Shankarfest 2014,” where they applauded him and recognized him for his service to the theatre and music departments. They also surprised him with a music video they made to the Pharrel Williams song “Happy” in which they dance and show that Shankar makes them happy.
The junior was humbled and smiled throughout the “Shankarfest,” and said he felt out of place when he was sitting in the front row watching the video rather than in the booth playing it.
“The students love him,” said music teacher Lisa McIntyre. “He’s part of the family. He’s just a great kid.”
Shankar has been doing computer stuff since he was a kid, and in fifth grade he helped set up a projector to show a project he had done. The teacher didn’t know how to do the projector, so Shankar took care of it.
Over the year, teachers have asked him randomly for computer help, and last year it culminated in an internship over the summer where Shankar helped roll out the new computer system at the school.
“I’m so into it so taking a sacrifice doesn’t feel like it,” Shankar said. “It’s like they say ‘you’re not going to work if you love what you do.’ I’d come early to my internship; I really loved it.”
He said he hopes to turn his love of technology into a career as a computer engineer or computer scientist, and he hopes to go to Carnegie Mellon University.
Although he technically has more than a year left, Williams joked that the teachers have a plan to fail Shankar so he can never leave. Williams said he and the staff don’t want to imagine a world without Shankar.
Kurt Bopp is assistant editor/web of Central Penn Parent.