Just three weeks into Arnav Sood’s student body class presidency at Henry M. Jackson High School, the pandemic shuttered in-person events and courses.
“I think more than anything else he was just kind of — he was the right person at the right time for us,” ASB advisor and calculus teacher Jason Gadek said. “I mean everybody, everybody’s dealing with like so much from a mental health perspective, and he always was able to be centered and focused, and really just kind of able to support people and kind of encourage them.”
Along with always seeking out academic challenges, Sood will be remembered for playing a critical role in heightening the sense of community and inclusivity at Jackson High School.
Sood first got involved with ASB his junior year as class president, later being elected school president his senior year.
“You didn’t see people like me in student government,” he said. “So I felt like that’s when I realized that there needs to be some sort of change.”
Sood said he recognized that as a more serious, academically driven student he didn’t fit the mold of the stereotypical “peppy” ASB leader.
Gadek said that behind Sood’s more serious shell, “I could tell that he obviously had the right head, and I could tell that he had the right heart, and it was just a matter of trying to like figure out how to get that out.”
Sood said he wanted to diversify ASB to better represent and support all students.
“First I wanted to … reach out to … any sort of kid who felt underrepresented in high school,” Sood said. “That was like my first goal, like I put together a couple events … trying to reach out to those type of kids.”
Sood created and piloted an event called “Breakfast with ASB.” For students who couldn’t participate in after-school activities, because of work or family, the morning event was a chance to connect with others.
When the pandemic forced things online, Sood organized and led virtual competitions, live and recorded pep assemblies and even coordinated ways for students to give back to those affected by the pandemic through food drives and fundraisers.
“We pulled off, I think, more than any human ever would have imagined you could have done during a pandemic,” Gadek said. “It was a pretty remarkable year.”
In response to the nationwide discussion about police brutality and systemic racism, Sood said, ASB worked to create a student equity board, with representatives from Black Student Union, Gay Straight Alliance and a Latina/Latino leadership group.
“We got a student representative from all of those, and so they basically met and kind of just provided feedback to ways (ASB) could become more inclusive and honor people’s differences,” Sood said. “That’s something ASB, especially at our school, we want to focus on that.”
The ASB also had an assembly to inform the student body about the rising number of hate crimes that the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities have faced since the pandemic began. Sood said ASB has been working to raise awareness for different groups’ cultural celebrations and holidays.
In high school, Sood dove headfirst into a full slate of classes and activities, including Advanced Placement courses, ASB, speech, debate and mock trial. As he heads to the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington, he hopes to bring the same passion and use it to build a skillset for his future career.
Sood has some parting advice.
“No matter what you do, have fun while you’re doing it,” Sood said. “Don’t get stuck doing something that you don’t like … at every step of the way, like, don’t wait until the next year, or next decade to enjoy life … just enjoy life, in the moment — that’s what I’m all about.”