Even as a kindergartner just learning to write, Canoga Park High School valedictorian Urvi Patel remembers being fanatical about making straight A’s.
As she moved from elementary school to junior high and on to high school, the 18-year-old Urvi, whom friends and family call “Mini” because she was tiny when she was born in Ahmedabad, India, translated her quest for perfection into late nights of studying, flawless homework and exemplary grades.
“Fantastic is putting it mildly,” said Mariana Stark, Urvi’s Academic Decathalon coach. “Nothing will get in her way.”
“She’s one of the most intelligent students I’ve had in 25 years of teaching,” said Mike Weigand, her Advanced Placement biology teacher.
Urvi, who moved with her parents and older brother to Canoga Park when she was 2 years old, said her parents’ example and encouragement motivated her to work hard in school.
In the early years, she said, her family struggled, first living with relatives, then working long hours until they could afford a modest apartment of their own.
Urvi’s mother, who worked as a psychologist in India, took community college courses in accounting when she arrived and eventually found work as an accountant.
Urvi’s father, who was an accountant in India, does the same work for a reinsurance firm.
“They are very hard workers,” Urvi said, her voice quiet in the spacious living room of the two-story house that has been her home for several years.
Urvi sometimes stayed up finishing her homework until 2 a.m., long after most of her classmates were asleep. In her spare time, Urvi, who will attend UCLA in the fall and plans to become a doctor, volunteered for community service projects.
If she has a regret about high school, it’s that she worried too much.
“I think I’ve taken my life a little too seriously,” she said. “Sometimes I’m a little too hard on myself. By having to work so hard, I think I missed out on some things.”