Trustee embodies leadership, determination

By Daniel Hernandez, Social Media Editor

A well-recognized face on campus is Shreejal Luitel.

He is a professionally presented student with a firm grip to his handshake and cannot be caught without a pair of headphones around his neck.

His voice can be heard from afar and his impacts are distinguishable.

At 17 years old, Luitel is currently a Middle College High School senior who is aiming his studies toward computer sciences and business.

He is captain of the Contra Costa College speech team and co-chief executive officer of richmondCodes.

The latest addition to his profile is becoming student trustee of the Contra Costa Community College District where he represents 52,000 students from all three colleges on the Governing Board.

He is originally from Kathmandu, Nepal.

According to Luitel, the pivotal moment in his life was an introduction to technology.

“The first time I held a cellphone was when I was 6 years old,” he said

His father bought a phone to make a call to his grandmother that was six hours away from their home in Kathmandu. “I found it extraordinary,” Luitel said.

He and his family immigrated to the United States in 2009, right at the peak of the recession. His parents had to work minimum wage jobs for extended hours to support themselves and their family.

“I was frightened that I couldn’t speak any English. In third grade I was very fortunate to have a teacher like (Philip) Casanares who was able to teach me,” he said.

He gives credit to Casanares for being crucial to his growth and development.

At Bayview Elementary, Casanares would give Luitel books on astrophysics and astronomy, which fascinated him and sprouted his interest in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM).

Luitel sought a challenge coming to MCHS. Graduating from high school with a diploma and an associate degree would make him the first in his family to attend college.

“Another highlight was me coming into Middle College and meeting someone like Mr. (Randy) Carver,” Luitel said.

Speech professor Carver is an influential mentor to him and suggested Luitel run for the student trustee position.

“I’ve been his coach for the speech team. Outside that, we have been able to develop what I think is a very close teacher-to-student relationship,” Carver said.

His sophomore year is when he began making progress in his career. He met Carver in 2017 when Luitel’s curiosity brought him to compete for the CCC speech team. Since then, his leadership has brought the team success and created a close-knit bond between teammates while also giving the team public exposure.

During that time, Luitel and Associated Student Union President Preston Akubuo-Onwuemeka became close friends. “My brother and my best friend” is how Akubuo-Onwuemeka describes their relationship.

They exposed a lack of representation and education for studies in STEM for low income students and decided to create their non-profit, richmondCodes, which teaches coding.

Together they have hosted numerous events such as “Hour of Code” and “Code it,” with the support of Microsoft, Pandora, Autodesk and Hack The Hood. They also visit local elementary schools to provide coding lessons to students.

“I wanted to be able to do well in academics, but that was a limitation. If you come out of high school with straight A’s without making an impact — it doesn’t matter,” Luitel said.

During “Hour Of Code,” richmondCodes’ first coding event, he had this breakthrough concept of personal success and frames it this way: “Reducing socioeconomic disparity for me is success.

Frankly, there is still a lot more to do, but I will make a dent in the universe.”

Middle College High School teacher Steven Ross said, “Shreejal seems to have a very clear idea about what success is for him. He’s definitely got a silver tongue — he got that gift of gab and I think there is a lot of confidence that he has in navigating the world.”

Luitel’s ambition is driven by a quote from Steve Jobs, who said, “We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise, why even be here?”

For Akubuo-Onwuemeka and Luitel, challenging the status quo is what keeps them moving forward. It fuels them toward making an impact by teaching skills that to revolutionize the future for students and breaking socioeconomic barriers.

Aman Butt, secretary of ASU and a good friend of Luitel’s, said, “I can definitely say that in the future, a lot of people are going to know his name. A name that is common in a lot of households like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.”

So far, what Luitel has learned from being speech team captain and student trustee is understanding the importance and distinction between being compassionate and empathetic. He describes these traits as fundamental for being a leader. Those skills allow for one to do more and improve relations with the people he interacts with.

“I see Shreejal making a conscious effort to suck the marrow out of life, just through and through. I do not see him settling and I don’t see him becoming apathetic,” Carver said.