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     All flights have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was the news that changed the life of senior Chris Kalapurackal. Kalapurackal was preparing to move to America with his parents and two sisters in 2020 but had to leave as soon as possible.

     “The flight I was on was the last flight before COVID shut down the whole airport, so it was luck for me to catch that last flight and come here,” Kalapurackal said. “My journey here was really stressful and unexpected.”

      When Kalapurackal speaks with peers it is hard to tell that English is not his first language, and few would realize it is only one of the many languages he speaks.

      “I’m really fluent in Malayalam which is my native language,” Kalapurackal said. “We speak Malayalam at my house because [my parents] want me to retain my heritage and cultural background.”

     He also knows Arabic, Hindi, French and Spanish. Learning English was a challenge for Kalapurackal, however, with resources such as YouTube and his robotics team, it became achievable. Kalapurackal joined Pitt Pirates Robotics shortly after moving to Greenville. 


Photo by Carson Fraley

     “I had two to three months before school actually started… robotics at this point was a club I could join to kill time,” Kalapurackal said. “It soon evolved to be more than that.”

     During freshman year, many of the older team members quickly took him under their wing and helped Kalapurackal adapt and strengthen his English and technical skills.

     “After joining robotics I got a community of friends, learned how to improve myself and I gained new skills,” Kalapurackal said.

     He now holds leadership positions on the team as the scouting captain, where he is responsible for collecting data and analyzing other teams to create strategy. Joining the team has proven to be a great decision Kalapurackal made four years ago.

     “It has evolved from a place to kill time but is now a place to spend time with my second family,” Kalapurackal said.

     Pitt Pirates Robotics introduced Kalapurackal to a group of friends who have helped him adapt to America and achieve success in high school. This group of students push one another to go outside of their comfort zone and take on challenges. 

     “It has provided me with a group of friends that I really appreciate,” Kalapurackal said. “Having a competitor to try and challenge yourself has helped me take my mind off the fact that I just moved here and has pushed me”.  

     Aside from speaking six languages and building robots, Kalapurackal can be found engaging himself in the community. His family moved to America with hopes of improving the lives of their three children and providing a stronger education, and he has taken advantage of the opportunities Rose has to offer.

     "I am [vice president of] Mu Alpha Theta...and EpiSTEMe; I'm [also] highly involved in Asian culture society, many other honor societies and FBLA,” Kalapurackal said. “Most of the clubs here I've participated in or been involved in.” 

      He is currently working on two personal projects including an automation system to ease daily tasks for the elderly, such as turning off the lights and watering plants. Additionally, Kalapurackal is designing and 3D printing wheelchairs for dogs which he began in a Pitt Community College engineering class.

      Kalapurackal feels Rose has prepared him for the next chapter of his life and provided him with irreplaceable opportunities. 

      “Rose has opened up leadership positions for me where I can rise up and help people … and adapt and overcome challenges,” Kalapurackal said.

      Moving to a new country amid a pandemic, learning a new language with only a few months before starting high school and juggling academics and extracurricular activities have molded Kalapurackal into a motivated and resilient individual.

      “The ability to jump back after every challenge is not common, some people give up but I don't find quitting as an option,” said KalapurackaI. “I want to continue to do my best.”

      Kalapurackal will be attending East Carolina University next year as a Brinkley Lane Scholar with an engineering major. Many of his peers say they want to leave Greenville for college, but Kalapurackal is excited to stay here for four more years as he still considers himself new to the area.

      “I can pursue more options with that scholarship and get to explore this town more,” said KalapurackaI. 

      Looking back on the past four years and forward to the next, Kalapurackal is proud of his journey and story. 

      “It's impossible for the guy four years ago to imagine I would do all this and accomplish all this… that's something I’m proud of,” said KalapurackaI.

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