As Ilina Logani likes to say, if you’re writing, you’re thinking.
By that standard, plenty of thought went into Logani’s commencement speech for the Gonzaga Prep graduating class of 2018.
After several fruitless rough drafts – writing is about the journey, after all – Logani found the voice that won her the top prize for English at the Spokane Scholars Foundation.
On June 3 at the Spokane Convention Center, she delivered a powerful message to 2,000 people about … Google.
Her main point: The answers to life can’t be found on a search engine, especially when her generation faces challenges such as climate change, social justice and campus shootings.
“I know people, conservative and liberals, who are done and ready to do something about it,” Logani said. “It’s about not lying down and becoming desensitized. Apathy is the worst thing that can happen to a society.”
Logani’s other message: There’s a big difference between knowledge and education.
She found both at Gonzaga Prep, where Logani scaled the academic heights in subjects as diverse as biology, history, literature and Spanish.
“I don’t think I could have made a better decision than to come here,” said Logani, the daughter of two physicians who emigrated from India and took their residencies in Atlanta with an eye toward joining relatives in Seattle.
“We made it to Spokane,” said Logani, who started at St. George’s School but found more scope at G-Prep.
Her favorite place is Room 14. That’s where teacher Mike Carroll teaches English and leads Destination Imagination, a club devoted to creative problem-solving.
During her sophomore year, Logani and her team solved problems so well they won the state title and participated in the national competition in Tennessee.
“I don’t know of another school in Spokane where I could have attended,” Logani said on one of her final walks down the halls of G-Prep.
“She navigates everything pretty well,” said her counselor, Dennis Kukuk. “That’s what we need in young people: to think clearly and communicate with each other, and she does that very well.”
Logani took those skills to a higher level last year in Ithaca, New York, where she was one of a handful of high school students in the Telluride Association Summer Program hosted by Cornell University.
They came from across the country, and like Logani, brought excellence in all disciplines.
Almost a year later, Logani still sees the experience as life-changing, a chance to think globally.
“Social justice is one of my passions, and TASP brought that out,” Logani said as she related the community-service projects undertaken in Ithaca.
One project involved correspondence with prison inmates, an exercise Logani concluded might have helped the students “more than the people who are being served.”
However, it raised awareness. “I think I’ve realized the barriers we’ve put around marginalized people,” Logani said.
At one time, Logani was one of them. Her grandfather suffered in the dislocation arising from the India-Pakistan partition of 1947. When her family arrived in Spokane in 2009, the city had a tiny Indian-American community of 50.
Now they number several hundred. “I’m the elder sister to most of them,” said the 18-year-old Logani, who is all but fluent in her parents’ native Hindi.
That’s not good enough for Logani, who has visited India twice in the past five years.
“I have an American accent,” she said with a vow to improve.
Logani’s ambitions are wide. This fall, she’ll enroll at Emory University in Atlanta, which she chose for the setting as much as the academics.
“It was a tough decision,” said Logani, who also considered Cornell. “But you can learn so much from being in a big city – it’s the perfect balance for me.”
Academic balance might be a bigger challenge, with a double major in international relations and molecular biology.
“I can try to do both,” she said.
And she hasn’t given up on Google. In closing her commencement speech, Logani wished her fellow graduates well and promised to look them up.
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