In a world where the bumptious and the brassy, the bossy and the self-promoting triumph, Rahul Nagvekar may have the chance of a snowflake in a blast furnace.
Fortunately for the unassertive winner of the National
Geographic Bee, his mentors know him better.
“With his background, the way he was brought up is quite
different from other children,” says Karen Fisher, his piano
teacher from the second grade onward.
“He is a young man with a lot of determination and char-
acter. He works very hard,” she says, adding that while Rahul
had interests, he did not play favorites with them. “It is all
important to him.”
She also noticed that while other children played soccer or
relied on other diversions, “he was more focused on educa-
This was a problem his teacher Michelle Sebesta also had
to deal with.
“I had to encourage him to play out-
side,” she says, adding that Rahul pre-
ferred the library or the computer.
“He was different from children of his
He is still very different from chil-
dren his age.
When asked about people India
Abroad could speak with about him,
he sent over the names, complete with
full names, contact details, the context in which he had dealt with them,
even the best times they could be
But he also named great mentors
Patricia Hardy and Marci Deal, the
coordinators of the Texas State Geography Bee, and his teachers in middle school, especially Lisa Francis and
Lawrence Anderson, who both organized the school geography bee every
year he was there.
Francis traveled to Washington, DC,
and was there when he won.
Then there was Pete Yackus, the
social studies coordinator in Fort
Bend Independent School District,
who moderated four of the five school geography bees he
took part in.
And Donald Simmons, with who Rahul took competition
math club classes, and who let him use time in his class to
prepare for the Geography Bee nationals.
Fisher believes a lot of what Rahul is achieving is thanks to
“His parents are very supportive — very supportive. He
comes every week for an hour’s lesson and (at least one of)
his parents are here the whole time,” she said, adding that
while other parents did love their children, they would go
about their lives during the music lessons. “They like to
know what I’m telling him to do and why.”
It perhaps goes without saying that anytime Rahul plays
music in public, they go with him.
The family is into classical Western music, often taking
season tickets to attend classical concerts.
“I’m very proud of him. This is a young man who has top
‘Rahul always had a thirst
The teenager — who one teacher calls a very special
young man — has made a unique place for himself in the hearts of
his teachers and mentors, says P Rajendran.
Rahul Nagvekar’s teacher Lisa Francis, right, traveled to Washington, DC, and was there when
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTES Y: THE NAGVEKARS
Karen Fisher, Rahul’s piano teacher from the second grade onward,
adores her student for the fact that despite his talent ‘he is not a young
man with a great ego.’
grades at school and still can go into all these competitions,”
Rahul always attended the free performances Fisher
organized at nursing homes and retirement homes. Because
she was not good at it, he would diligently type up the music
programs of these recitals, she said, adding that parents,
who often accompanied him, would join in, too.
The families were close enough for Rahul and his parents
to attend the surprise birthday party Fisher’s daughters
organized for her.
“When he actually made progress through different levels
(of the Geography Bee), his father called me long-distance to
tell me,” she said.
Rahul was always an avid reader, Fisher said, a view that
has Sebesta’s backing.
“Rahul always had a thirst for knowledge,” Sebesta said.
“He was always opening a book or asking questions.”
And many of those related to geography.
Sebesta described Rahul as extremely gifted in all subjects.
“Back when he was in the first grade he was able to pres-
ent a PowerPoint presentation based on family experiences,”
she said. Rahul was six then, adding to the chorus of com-
ments about his precocity. “He was gifted beyond his years.
I think his ability to present his knowledge to others was
unique. Children would ask him if he would be a professor
some day — because he was knowledgeable in so many dif-
Sebesta also ran a choral production at school, where
Rahul would have the longest speaking part and open and
close the shows. He was picked purely because of his will-
ingness and ability to speak before an audience.
Fisher is perhaps still his biggest fan.
“Rahul is just a very favorite, special young man for me,”
she said. “He is not a young man with a great ego. He does
not think overly highly of himself. He is just a very nice, nice
young man.” ;
SPONSORED B Y