Grewals’ Graduations Span Generations
When siblings Meeta and Karan Grewal of Falls Church were growing up, they compared school grades and competed to see who performed best. As they grew older, the importance of education became a running theme in their family, given to them by their parents as they moved from India to the States.
“In India, survival is very hard without education,” said Pammi, their mother. “When we came here, our focus was that the children should finish their education. We used to tell them that we came to this country to get the best education.”
This May, the Grewal family saw their dedication pay off, celebrating graduations for three students in their immediate family. Daughter Meeta, 27, completed dental school at New York University in the top 12% of her class and son Karan, 21, graduated from Virginia Tech with a Bachelor’s degree in accounting. Even father Varinder, 54, received a Master’s in Math Education at Virginia Tech.
Varinder said that it was coincidence that there were three graduations in the same year — a happy coincidence, at that. His daughter and son were already attending NYU and Va. Tech, respectively; and he hopped on board, entering in the two-year teaching program at Va. Tech’s Falls Church campus. He worked during the day at Wachovia and took evening classes.
“Education looks hard at the beginning, but once you set your goals, it’s possible to achieve,” Varinder said of going back to school after almost 22 years. During the program, he taught algebra for three months at Marshall High School in Falls Church as part of a teaching internship, and held a second, two-month internship at Holmes Middle School in Annandale, Va., which he found both valuable and rewarding.
Meeta finished dentistry school in India, but needed to complete three more years in the States to obtain licensing. After coming to Falls Church, she studied for a year and then left for NYU to specialize in dental surgery. At first, she wasn’t keen on repeating some of the same study; however, Pammi said, “She realized that getting education in this country means something. Now she feels that it was the right decision.”
Meeta chose NYU because it was one of eight universities in the United States that offered the dental program. She said that American schools, with their state-of-the-art equipment and first-rate professors, have a reputation that “there’s no end to what you can achieve if you’re ready to put in the effort.”
Karan finished his undergraduate degree in the aftermath of the Va. Tech tragedy. Coincidentally, since August 2006, he was a suitemate of Cho Seung Hui, the student who killed 32 students and then himself on April 16th. Karan said the event was “very surprising and shocking” and that he, like most of those in close proximity to Cho, “didn’t know [Cho] that much, didn’t talk to him much.”
After the shootings, Karan continued going to classes. He said he didn’t consider leaving school, especially as he would be graduating that May. Instead, he and fellow classmates wanted to keep their routines and lives as normal as possible. Karan considers living in Blacksburg for four years one of the most special aspects of his college experience — living away from home and learning independence.
“[My motivation was] just getting it done,” Karan said.
The Grewals moved here less than six years ago, yet they seem very much at ease in the Falls Church community, as evidenced especially by their fluent English. Varinder and Karan immigrated to the United States from New Delhi, India in October 2001 on Varinder’s older sister’s sponsorship. Pammi and Meeta followed in March 2003.
They chose Falls Church because it was, for them, a family center, with Varinder’s mother living in Reston, Va., one of his sisters in McLean and another in Centreville, Va. They’ve grown to love Falls Church, its perfect size — not too big or too small, easy access to a big city, good facilities and Fairfax County’s top-notch education system. Varinder found a job at a Wachovia Bank and Karan attended J.E.B. Stuart High School, which was within walking distance of their home, and everything just seemed to fall in place.
The Grewals’ roots helped them to transition easily to life in the States and to ultimately “get it done.” In India, the family moved around extensively because of Varinder’s 30 plus years of service in the army. Consequently, the family didn’t find the move as a very big change. Also, in Indian schools, the medium of instruction is English. The importance of education in their family, furthermore, shaped their work ethic.
To pay for all three schoolings at the same time, the Grewals shifted their priorities to concentrate on what mattered most to them: education. They cut down on excessive forms of entertainment and didn’t go on long vacations. Varinder continued working, as did Pammi. She works three jobs simultaneously: three days a week of preschool care at Dulin United Methodist Church, two days at the management office of apartment complex Munson Hill Towers and four-to-five days as a radio broadcaster with Voice of America. Meeta took out some loans and Karan had saved up some money from a part-time job he had during high school.
With three recent graduates in one family, it’s hard to contain the excitement stemming from their academic accomplishments. Varinder is looking for a teaching position in a Fairfax County high school. He’s considering going on to a doctorate program in education but wants to take one challenge at a time. Meeta will continue living in New York, begin working as a dentist at Staten Island University Hospital and looks forward to more schooling — an additional specialization that she hasn’t decided on — next year. For Karan, a new stage in life unfolds as he starts accounting and consulting work this fall with Deloitte, an accounting firm in McLean.
Pammi couldn’t be prouder.
“It’s a good feeling among the family, that they are enjoying each other’s competition,” Pammi said of the family members learning from each other and pushing each other to keep going. The three celebrations this May attest to the results.