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.