Q&A: Stanford sophomore Sathvik Nori runs for a Sequoia Union High School Board spot

Oct. 3, 2022, 7:15 p.m.

This summer, instead of filling his time with internships and research, Sathvik Nori ’25 prepared for an election. Nori, a Stanford sophomore from San Mateo County, is running in the Nov. 8 election to represent Area D of the Sequoia Union High School District (SUHSD).

His opponent is Jo-Ann Byrne Sockolov, a human resources executive whose website boasts a “20+ year career making public education better for all students in our community” — about as long as Nori has been alive. Nori, on the other hand, is the only board candidate who is a product of SUHSD schools and is a former student trustee for SUHSD.

Nori graduated from Menlo-Atherton High School in 2021 and previously attended Hillview Middle School. At Stanford, he’s interested in studying computer science. He has received endorsements from State Senator Josh Becker, the San Mateo County Democratic Party and the San Mateo Daily Journal, among others. The Daily spoke with Nori about his candidacy for the school board, what motivated him to run and his plans if elected.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

The Stanford Daily [TSD]: Why are you running for SUHSD Board?

Sathvik Nori [SN]: As a high schooler, I was the chair of the San Mateo County Youth Commission and the student trustee for SUHSD, where I represented 10,000 students at school board meetings. I saw firsthand how important it is to have a school board that’s engaged and accountable to the community, especially to those people who might not have the privilege of constantly advocating for their children. I hope to bring a fresh perspective to the school board, one that’s accountable to school sites. I have a unique perspective in that I would be the only person on the board who attended SUHSD schools, and in my race, I’m the only person who currently has a family member attending a SUHSD school. 

TSD: Are there any experiences at SUHSD schools that especially influenced you?

SN: Throughout my time at Menlo-Atherton High School, I was lucky enough to have a lot of teachers who are really amazing, inspired me with a love of learning and put me on the path I’m on right now. At the same time, I’m a commissioner on the San Mateo County Juvenile Justice Commission, whose role is to serve as a public watchdog for youth who are incarcerated in San Mateo County. A substantial portion of the incarcerated youth come from within the boundaries of Sequoia Union High School District, mainly East Palo Alto and Redwood City. Ironically, a lot of them either went to or were supposed to go to the same high school as me. So I’ve seen a completely different perspective on the school system. That really does allow me to represent all students, and one of the reasons I’m running is because I want to ensure that all students have as good an experience and gain as much from our school system as I did.

TSD: How are you juggling the election with being a full-time student? And if elected, how do you plan to handle your new responsibilities?

SN: The school board is a part-time position, where they meet twice a month. I’ve also served on many other boards and commissions in San Mateo County, so I’m not too worried about juggling it. But campaigning has been really fun. The campaign kicked off in June when I met with some of the other trustees who are interested in helping me out and it’s been really fun to meet hundreds of community members, local politicians, teachers and students, and hear their perspectives.

TSD: What is the most pressing issue facing your district?

SN: The fundamental problem facing our school districts is the struggle to educate students who come from such different backgrounds. On the one hand, you have students who come from some of the most privileged backgrounds in California, but at the same time, you have students who come from some of the most at-risk backgrounds. If you go to Menlo-Atherton, you’ll see that the people taking honors and AP classes does not reflect the true demographics of the school.

TSD: How would you address this issue?

SN: The answer is not to bring the top down but to bring everyone up to the top. I’m committed to encouraging students from these at-risk backgrounds to have the support they need so that they can take these rigorous courses that prepare people for post-secondary education. I also don’t believe everyone needs to go to a four-year college, so I’m committed to increasing vocational opportunities. Fundamentally, though, offering more choice to students — whether it be more tracks, electives, or class offerings — is something I really care about. I want our district to deal with problems of equity face-on and create an innovative culture where we come up with ideas for how to solve these problems.

TSD: Is there anything else you would like to convey to Stanford students about your candidacy?

SN: It’s important for young people to get involved in politics, especially in education. I was surprised at how many people in the county were willing to support me, and I think it’s because a lot of people feel like getting more young people involved in education policy is important. We need young people who have recent experience in our schools to get involved, so we give the best education possible to all students, regardless of their backgrounds.

This article has been updated to reflect that Nori was the chair of the San Mateo County Youth Commission not the Santa Clara County Youth Commission. The Daily regrets this error.

Karsen Wahal ’25 is a writer from Arizona. He’s interested in studying economics and political science. Contact Karsen at news 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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