Champaneria families produce four top Seaford High School grads in 14 years

By Lynn R. Parks

Last week, Smita and Nitin Champaneria sat in the bleachers at Seaford High School graduation and listened as their child was honored as class valedictorian. But this was nothing new for them. Neha Champaneria was valedictorian of the class of 1995. Her brother Amay was top student when he graduated in 1997. And the youngest of the family, Reshma, a member of the class of 2000, followed in her siblings' footsteps. In addition, their cousin, Aarti Champaneria, daughter of Vasanti and the late Ashok Champaneria, was SHS valedictorian in 1987. "We value education very much as a family," said Smita Champaneria. "I'm a firm believer that if God gives you a brain, it is important that you use it to its full potential, for your advantage as well as for the community's advantage. It is a crime if you waste it." Smita Champaneria has her bachelor's degree in microbiology with a minor in chemistry. Her husband has a bachelor's in mechanical engineering and a masters' in mechanical engineering. He also has a master's in business accounting. Ashok Champaneria, Nitin's brother and a 15-year member of the Seaford School Board, died in 1995. He had bachelor's and master's degrees in chemical engineering. Like his brother, he had an MBA. Vasanti Champaneria has a bachelor's degree in psychology and is a real estate agent for Cooper Realty. Nitin Champaneria brought his family to Seaford from Wilmington in 1977, when Neha was 3 weeks old. He is a senior research associate in the research and development department at the DuPont plant in Seaford. His wife works for a medical billing agency in Lewes. They are both natives of India.

"When I came here, I realized that I needed a degree from this country," Smita Champaneria said. She earned an associate degree from Delaware Technical and Community College, Georgetown. "But that was not enough. So I self-taught medical technology, took the national registry exam and got first place." And it is that example, she said, that was important in raising her children. "I would not tell my children to do something I had not done," she said. "I talk with conviction. When Neha was learning to twirl a baton, I learned how to do it so I knew how hard it was. When the kids learned to Roller Blade, I learned too. When they learned to ski, I learned too. I wanted them to know that you can fall, but you will still learn." She said that it is also important that children and their parents understand their potential. "I see a lot of kids around who don't know their own potential. Their parents don't know their potential. Of course then, their expectations are very low. Kids will not achieve in those circumstances." Nitin Champaneria said that in addition to academics, his children were involved in community service. "We are put on this earth to make a difference," his wife added. "Education is very good for your mind, but you have to feed your soul too. Only good deeds feed the soul." She said that she wants her children to be successful but to remember that success is not the only thing in life. "Being a good person is important. Being helpful to people in need, being modest about your accomplishments, being supportive." Her husband has similar hopes for his offspring. And he adds one thing: "I hope they always keep their dreams high," he said.