Student member joins planning commission

In addition to being a political junkie, a low-key puzzler, and a sophomore at Colchester High School (CHS), Prinsha Neupane is the newest student member to join the town planning commission.

The selectboard voted to appoint Neupane, 14, as a new member of Get Engaged, a program which gives students an opportunity to participate in town government. Through the program, students in tenth through twelfth grade can serve on a variety of town boards including the planning commission, the conservation commission, the recreation advisory board, and many others.

“I like seeing what the people around me care about, what they’re interested in, and what they’re willing to speak out about,” said Neupane on why she applied to the program. “I like the fact that I’m going to have some sort of voice in what happens in my town.”

As far as using her own voice, Neupane sees it as her civic responsibility. “It’s important. If you don’t speak out for yourself, who will? If you’re not going to use your voice, especially in a country where you can, then what’s the point? Exercise your rights, man.”

This passion for civics shines through to her other interests as well, including activism and politics. For example, the only thing that kept Neupane from marching in last year’s Women’s March in Montpelier was the fact that she’s not yet old enough to drive. “It’s difficult to get around, especially as a 14-year-old,” she said. But lob any social issue at her—women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, reproductive rights, immigration—Neupane is not afraid to debate.

“I look at a lot of jobs that center around either finance or law, but they’re all for companies that are either nonprofits, they promote social activism, or they promote LGBTQ+ awareness, health, etc.,” she said. As far as the future goes, Neupane hopes to attend Princeton and find a job working in finance or law. She’s already taking college classes as part of a dual enrollment plan through CHS and she hopes to intern at a local law firm next summer.

But Neupane doesn’t think she is alone in this early planning. “I think these days young people are starting to look further to their future. I think they’re looking at colleges and jobs earlier, and earlier,” she said.

But Neupane noted that there are pros and cons to this mindset. “I feel like starting earlier puts you into a box. Maybe there’s a career you would have enjoyed more and paid about the same, but you missed it because you had a one-track mind since the sixth grade. But at the same time, some kids really enjoy that sense of stability, of knowing where they’re going. I think it depends on the person.”

Despite this criticism, she puts herself in the group of kids who have been planning since sixth grade. Although in Neupane’s case, she’s been planning even earlier. “I switched around my career options a lot. When I was really young, 6,7,8,9, I wanted to be an Ambassador, hopefully for India or China,” she said. Now she’s more interested in law because she’ll have “more power to change things.”

“I refuse to be anything but the best,” she said. “Part of it’s growing up in an Asian household, part of it is that my dad is a teacher—a lot of factors went into it. But I don’t like being second place to anything. I don’t like trying to emulate or imitate other people. And I’m enough of a history junkie to know that behind every person you think is good, there’s definitely something wrong with them,” she laughed. “If I didn’t have that stress I wouldn’t function as a person.”