“You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.” – Michelle Obama
Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
Hi there. My name is Aashka Patel and I am a senior at Morris County School of Technology in the Academy of Computer and Information Sciences.
I am a strong advocate for women’s rights globally (especially their right to an education). I am involved with Girl Up, a UN Foundation, that lets girls advocate for girls’ education, health, safety, leadership, and their need to be documented globally. I co-founded my school’s chapter to fundraise, advocate, and educate about issues that affect women in developing countries. Through Girl Up, I even had the chance to interview one of my girl heroes, Malala Yousafzai, during the NY premiere of He Named Me Malala.
I also love hackathons. After attending a few hackathons and building web applications, an Android app to help college students with budgeting, and a VR simulator to promote safer ATM transactions, I decided to bring the experiences to my school. I co-founded hackMCST (hackmcst.tech), a high school hackathon, to build a stronger hacker community in my region and create a space for those who love coding and making. We have gotten over 150+ attendees in the past, and we’re growing.
Politics also run in my DNA. I have been involved in student government all of my life. I helped reform my school’s student government by pushing to get involved in the New Jersey Associations of Student Councils and even coded our website. After serving as the Class of 2018 Vice President, I currently serve as the Leadership Chair. I also currently intern for the Morris County Democratic Committee, working for the Michael Soriano for Parsippany Mayor Campaign and the Phil Murphy for NJ Governor Campaign.
In my personal life, I love binging YouTube videos, eating lots and lots of food, and live on power naps. I also may have an unhealthy obsession with cheesy sitcoms and spicy food.
A fun fact is that I had the amazing opportunity to live in Gashora, Rwanda for three weeks, and I developed a love for plantains even though I despise bananas.
What # would define your life journey?
Favorite website / app:
You can always catch me on YouTube watching clips of late night shows or on my email communicating with someone regarding organizing hackMCST. And if I went somewhere gorgeous or intriguing, there’s a good bet you’ll see me posting pictures on Instagram.
Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
Kerry Eberhardt, the Director of Programs at my high school, is an inspiration to me. She has been there every step of the way in my high school journey starting my freshman year when my co-founder and I first went to her proposing to start a hackathon. But, I mainly look up to her because of who she is. She is an educator who truly wants the best for students. She brought NJ Maker’s Day to our school because she wanted to showcase the talents of the student’s at tech. She brought the concept of design thinking to Morris Tech students to better prepare us for the workforce. Everyday she works to help Morris Tech students succeed in their future aspirations, and without her I would not be where I am in technology. Ms. Eberhardt is a true force of positive change.
Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
I have always been compared to others around me. My grades, my achievements, my failures, my lifestyle, my everything were never good enough. I never believed I was good enough and always believed that I needed to be better. And to some extent, that belief helped get me where I am because I always saw the room for improvement and made changes for the better. But, that belief also had a negative impact. To this day, I find myself constantly comparing myself to others and have developed an extremely competitive nature. However, I am working to accept that I am who I am and that competition is healthy to only a certain extent.
But, to all other women out there, please don’t compare yourselves to others. Your achievements and failures have shaped you to be the great person that you are. And the only person that you should compare yourself to is the person that you were yesterday.
Doing something I love and that changes society for the better.