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Determined New American student, Ranjita Sarki, proves what hard work can amount to

Written by
Dilys Pierson

August 17, 2021


Ranjita Sarki photo

Ranjita Sarki, who graduated from Colchester High School this spring, is a soft-spoken and modest young woman who nevertheless makes quite an impression. 

Her VSAC outreach counselor, Liam Danaher, said she was one of the students who had the greatest impact on him during the past academic year, even though he’s never seen her face. 

“I met Ranjita this year only over Zoom. She’s a ‘camera off’ student, so I’ve never seen her in real life, which feels like a wild COVID nuance as a counselor,” Danaher says. “But I’ve been constantly impressed with her dedication, hard work, empathy, and enthusiasm for her future this entire year.”

Ranjita says she always thought high school would be really important, given the significant life decisions you make during that time. She definitely made the most of it, even though her high school career was nothing like she had envisioned — and that was all before COVID. 

“I was supposed to go to Burlington High School,” Ranjita recalls. “BHS had a lot of Nepali people, and I was excited to go there. My people everywhere!” she says with a giggle. 

However, the Sarki family ended up moving to Colchester just before ninth grade, which catapulted Ranjita way out of her comfort zone. Looking back, she realizes the move turned out for the best. 

“In the Burlington schools, I could connect with my own people in our own language. But I would always be speaking Nepali,” she says, noting that her mastery of English accelerated after the move. 

Ranjita’s family originally hails from Bhutan, though she was born in Nepal, and the family lived there until she was 8 or 9. “I don’t remember a whole lot about Nepal, except that it was a beautiful place,” she says. “My parents chose to come to America because they wanted to give us a better life. They saw America as a light, a place that’s free.” With a handful of relatives already living in Vermont, the Sarkis chose to make Vermont home as well. 

“I really have so much respect for my parents,” Ranjita says. “With no actual knowledge of the English language, they started work” — her dad at a meat factory, her mom at a store — “and their English sometimes sounds better than mine!” she laughs.

“At first, I didn’t understand what anyone was saying. I was confused most of the time,” she says, recalling how she watched lip movements and hand gestures, studied the alphabet, and started to piece things together. 

As Ranjita got older and moved up through school, her journey toward choosing a career path was very typically American. “Like every other kid, I had a change in my career interest every two seconds,” she recalls. “My parents wanted me to enter the medical field. At first I wasn’t interested. It seemed like too many years of studying. But then I tried out some programs that were medical-related, to get a feel, and I actually enjoyed them a lot.” Ranjita took introductory health care courses at the Center for Technology–Essex and Burlington Tech Center throughout her high school years, and as a result of her final course as a senior, through BTC, she was able to obtain her LNA license this summer.  

She’s thrilled to be starting at the University of Vermont’s School of Nursing this fall. She’s had her sights set on UVM since shortly after arriving in Vermont, though she admits that her reasons for wanting to study there evolved as she got older. 

“When I was living in Burlington, there was something in our neighborhood called Dream Club, organized by UVM students. They would take us to the beach and other fun places, and I had this idea that people at UVM are really nice! Now my reasons have changed. It’s close to my family, they have a really strong nursing program, and I wanted to go to a school that has a great reputation.” While Ranjita got into other good schools, she said committing to UVM was an easy decision.

But getting there was hard work. 

“I remember I was taking my class at BTC last fall, and I was only in school for two days a week. It was chaotic,” she recalls, and it was difficult to find time to work on her college applications.

“Two weeks before applications were due, I freaked out,” Ranjita remembers. “I said, ‘I don’t know if I can do this!’ But working with Liam was such a big help. I kept asking, ‘Hey Liam, can we meet? Can we meet?’ I ask a lot of questions. If I don’t understand, I don’t leave you alone. I’m very persistent.” 

Danaher attests to Ranjita’s determination. “She worked so hard to get into the UVM nursing program, and she applied for a million scholarships. She made it her mission to cover room and board with scholarships and had the grades and hard work to back it up.” 

“I applied for a lot, a lot, a lot of scholarships, because I didn’t want my parents to have to pay a single penny,” Ranjita says. “I figured, I’m able to get these scholarships because I’m a good student. I wanted to see what this year of hard work could amount to.” 

“My parents are working really hard. I’m not saying I don’t need their help, and they’ve been my biggest supporters. But if I can go to college on my own, then they can use the money they’re saving for something else,” Ranjita says — perhaps to send her three younger siblings to college or to promote their new restaurant, Himalayan Kitchen and Bar, which recently opened in Shelburne. 

“We serve Nepali, Indian, and Vietnamese food, and we’re doing really well,” says Ranjita, who also works in the business. “I feel like the timing was good, because people are starting to go out again, and they’re dying to have food from different cultures.”

As far as what motivates Ranjita to work so hard and take so much responsibility upon herself, she says it comes from within. 

“Sometimes people tell me that I’m a little too hard on myself, but that’s what gets me going. Also, because my first language isn’t English, it’s easy for people to say, ‘Oh, she gets all the help and resources, so it’s really easy for her.’ When people say that, I get even more determined,” she says. 

And though she says she’s shy by nature, she’s also willing to put herself out there to further her education. “One thing I’m confident in is that I’m always willing to learn, and I think that will take me very far in my life.”

Need help with pursuing your career goals and education needs? VSAC is here to help you. Serving our community is at the heart of all we do. During this ever-changing time, we remain available and committed to help you navigate all your career and education needs.

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