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Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

‘She never does anything halfway’

Freshman strives towards valedictorian, MIT
Provided by Kalyani Gifford
Gifford smiles in costume with fellow actors Eden Wilson (9), Olivia Gutierrez (10), Rachel Carrillo (11) and Aiden Gross (10) after performing in Bellaire’s annual 24-hour-plays.

She scrolls through photos and compilation videos on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology website, clicking through picture after picture of dorm rooms. This is what gives her comfort.

And she’s only in fourth grade.

Since her elementary years, freshman Kalyani Gifford has known what she wants. Since fourth grade, she has hoped to end her high-school career as a MIT-bound valedictorian. She said her plans stem from internal motivation rather than parental pressure.

“It’s really a personal goal,” Gifford said. “I mean, my parents tell me to get good grades and study, but in general, they’re kind of like, ‘As long as you learn the material, grades matter less.’”

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Although Gifford has cherished the idea of being valedictorian for years, she doesn’t have an issue with the idea of others at Bellaire who share the same goal.

“I don’t mind because that means that there’s tons of other people who are really smart and who are going to do great things,” Gifford said.

Bellaire’s class of 2022 had a record-breaking 13 such graduates, which Gifford appreciates.

“I honestly think that’s really amazing: the fact that there are that many people who can be valedictorians,” Gifford said.

But Gifford’s dreams extend beyond high school rankings to her future career choice.

“I want to do some form of medical research, particularly for various cancers,” Gifford said.

The person she looks to for inspiration the most is her mother.

“She came from India and she’s a physics and engineering professor whose research has applications in early cancer imaging,” Gifford said. “She just became a full professor which I’m very proud of.”

Gifford plans to follow a path in a field similar to her mother’s.

“My mom’s career definitely did influence what I would like to be growing up,” Gifford said. “It made me much more interested in science and math. Watching my parents work with imaging and technology for cancer and seeing those impacts led to me wanting to help find more solutions and research for the field.”

While she works toward her college and career, Gifford also spends her time in school exploring her interests in theater, debate, French and volleyball. As the junior varsity officer for theater and a recently inducted member of the French National Honor Society, she is already involved in the Bellaire community.

When it comes to managing time for homework, extracurriculars and other aspects of teenage life, she advocates for having a plan and choosing subjects of interest.

“I’m very big about planning,” Gifford said. “But other than that, [it’s] more just interest in the stuff that I do that keeps me going.”

Freshman Josephine Eltzschig, a friend of Gifford’s, admires her ability to balance her classes and extracurriculars.

“What she does and how she works, it’s very inspiring,” Eltzschig said. “She does her work but she also still has time for her theater and debate and volleyball. I think she’s really good at [managing] her time. She always seems like she has time for everything, and she always submits all her assignments on time. She has a good balance of everything.”

Gifford stresses the importance of making time for other activities besides academics.

“Don’t worry about your grades too much,” Gifford said. “Enjoy free time, especially over the weekend. You need free time. Get some sleep.”

Freshman Ishani Kaushik, another friend and classmate of Gifford’s, recognizes the effect she has on the people around her.

“I think that all of her teachers would agree that she puts in the effort to, not just learn the information and do what’s expected, [but also] make an impact on the other students and the teacher in the class,” Kaushik said.

Her French teacher Marina Butorovic said she likes having Gifford in her class and that she “loves the French language.”

“She’s really a positive impact to the whole class because she always brings energy to the classroom,” Butorovic said. “She’s always ready to help others.”

Regardless of whether her plans change or stay true to her fourth-grade dreams, Gifford will continue to influence the people around her.

“Everything she does, she gives it her 100%,” Eltzschig said. “She never does anything halfway.”

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  • R

    Rini DasNov 11, 2023 at 7:08 am

    Very nice write-up about our dear Kalyani… Wonderful ?

  • T

    TanviNov 7, 2023 at 6:44 pm

    I love the headline so much!! Super interesting reading about Kalyani!

  • V

    VAISHAKH M VNov 6, 2023 at 8:06 pm

    Proud of you kalyani ❤️

  • C

    Claire BNov 5, 2023 at 4:16 pm

    Lovely feature, Shyla! Kalyani is literally so nice, and it’s interesting to read how determined she is when it comes to her academics and future too