Fitch High senior manages to be friendly, kind while taking school, studies in stride

Fitch High School senior Jayesh Bokhiria works a shift in his family's convenience store last week in Norwich.
Fitch High School senior Jayesh Bokhiria works a shift in his family's convenience store last week in Norwich. Sean D. Elliot/The Day Buy Photo

Groton - Jayesh Bokhiria's priorities differ from those of a lot of 18-year-olds about to graduate from high school.

"I don't have my license," said Bokhiria, who will attend Clarkson University in the fall. "I didn't have time to take drivers ed. I think I will get it this summer."

Bokhiria is driven by kindness and knowledge.

"Try to be nice is the best thing," he said. "That is what you want people to do to you. And have a good education. With that everything is possible. Nothing is impossible."

He demonstrated both when, at the end of an interview, he was asked about his plans for an upcoming weekend.

"I have to do some college forms tonight," he said. "I will study for my tests on the weekend and read about computer networks. To me, the fun thing is learning.

"Thank you for your time. Is there anything else I can help you with today?"

He also planned to put in some hours at one of his father's two gas station convenience stores in Groton and Norwich. His mother is a nurse at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London.

"There are a lot of nice kids," said Leah Cunningham, Bokhiria's school guidance counselor. "He's different. He is so appreciative of anything you do for him. At first you think it's an act. It's not, though. He's genuinely that courteous.

"He makes an immediate impression on you."

Bokhiria came to the United States in 2007 from India. English was not among the five languages he spoke.

Russ Stewart, his math teacher, said Bokhiria completed a full year of math lessons in one semester. With the course work done, Bokhiria used the extra time to help other students and hone his English skills at the same time. He eventually became Stewart's student teaching assistant, through which he discovered a passion for that profession.

"So the math not only helped his English a lot," Stewart said. "It helped him develop a lot of friends, too."

Bokhiria, prom king in both his junior and senior years, said his accent became the ice breaker that helped him make friends.

"When people say I sound funny I just went with it," he said. "I'm not the kind person to take things too serious. So I laugh too."

He even has a signature greeting.

"I couldn't remember somebody's name so I said to everybody, 'Hey, Buddy.' My friends said I sound funny when I say it, and they try to say it to me like I say it. 'Heyyy Buhhddy.' Now it's cool to say like I say it."

Bokhiria, who hopes to someday be a chemical engineer, a network administration manager and teach computer science, said he loves the school staff. He credits Stewart with inspiring his passion for learning and teaching.

"I was not a big fan of school until Mr. Stewart," he said. "He taught me so much, how to work hard and not fall behind. My education is my life."

Outside the classroom Bokhiria's schedule included indoor and outdoor track, cross-country (where, he said, he made friends and learned teamwork), being class treasurer and vice president, Key Club, Students Against Drunk Driving, the math and science clubs, and working part time.

Robotics team coach and physics teacher Brian Chidley said those obligations didn't leave Bokhiria the necessary time to fully participate with the Aluminum Falcons, but Bokhiria had fans on the team.

"We're a pretty serious group when we're working, getting ready for a competition," Chidley said. "But Jayesh could walk in and everyone would stop to greet him."

Jaya Bokhiria, class of 2011, who was working the counter at "Jo's," the family store on Route 184, could only laugh when she was asked about her brother's likeable nature and studious attitude.

"He's pretty famous at school," she said. "He is a comedian. At home he's funny too, but mostly, he studies. He likes to learn things."

Last summer Jayesh worked as an intern for the school district's information technology department, repairing hardware and installing software throughout the district.

"Anything with computers, I can do," he said, seemingly unaware of the strength of his declaration. "It's easy."

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