Like many during the early COVID-19 lockdowns, Tavisha Khanna ’22 found herself in her backyard more often. She started a small garden and, inspired by a neighbor, began raising and releasing monarch butterflies.
In the moment, amid so much uncertainty, it was a cathartic experience, she says. But the work eventually spurred Tavisha to look for ways to have a broader impact—a theme that runs through her years at La Jolla Country Day School, thanks, she says, to the classes, programs and guidance of the school. “There’s so much support at school from teachers,” Tavisha says. “It’s never, ‘Are you sure about this?’ It’s always, ‘How can I help?’”
Tavisha had been interested in environmental issues long before COVID-19. And when her family moved from Thailand to California just before her sophomore year, Tavisha capitalized on opportunities at LJCDS as soon as she enrolled. She joined the school’s Green Team and was elected co-president, working to establish LJCDS’ new reusable utensil program at the cafeteria, among other projects.
Her work at home with the butterflies also sparked an interest to do more. She tried to expand her research on monarchs and milkweed, which is critical for their survival. But she found it difficult to find a space that would let a teenager volunteer or research such a niche topic.
For Tavisha, then a junior, that frustration sparked an idea during the Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship class. As she learned about user-centric design principles, she built her own app that lets high school students find volunteer or research opportunities based on their interests, age and location. She eventually pitched her idea to the Torrey Explorers Fund, LJCDS’ venture capital fund for students, and won funding. The app, PitchIn, is currently in development.
Connection and advocacy are threads that run through Tavisha’s other activities at LJCDS. “Advocacy is a big part of my personality that drives a lot of the things that I do,” she says.
As a multi-year, award-winning member and captain of the Torrey Mock Trial team, she learned to use powerful language to express herself. As a Student Council co-president, she lobbied administrators about student needs. And as she’s explored her interest in computer science and design, she’s built websites for a variety of school groups, so they could expand their reach on campus and beyond.
The next stop for Tavisha is Dartmouth College, where she plans to study environmental science, computer science and human-centered design—a path charted, in part, because of her experiences at LJCDS.
“Having the opportunity and the resources and the people around me to take my ideas into things that actually happen,” she says, “is a big part of why I continue to stay motivated to do a lot of things.”