By Dev Jaiswal
Samir Mallya does it all — math, comedy, ice skating, teaching — all while excelling in school and earning a spot at a top university.
“Passions are made to pursue,” says Mallya, who plans to attend UCLA this fall.
Mallya credits his high school program’s flexibility as the reason he was able to do all of his co-curricular activities. He graduated from California Connections Academy Southern California, a free online public school.
Mallya started at Connections in sixth grade. He most appreciated being able to schedule his own school day. Not having to set aside a specific six-hour block for classes allowed Mallya additional time to pursue his passions in concert with his academics. The seeds of Mallya’s blossoming at Connections began the year before when he was enrolled in-person at Farragut Elementary School in Culver City and met a classmate who invited him to go ice-skating.
“She was a figure skater and she just invited me to a get together at the Culver Ice Arena, which at that time was two minutes away from my house,” Mallya says. “I didn’t really think anything of it. I had been ice-skating probably a few or a dozen times in my life. But I went and I just really liked the feeling of being on the ice and moving across the ice. So we decided to start group lessons. And then from there, it just took off.”
And took off it did — Mallya transitioned into private classes and was soon competing. He has earned a spot at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships every single year ever since. His highest finish at nationals? Seventh!
“We had no plan, so it’s not like I was expected to go to nationals every year,” Mallya says. “So the first year I was eligible, I was pretty surprised that I did make it to nationals because… it was just like a scenario or a best case scenario… And then after that, I think nationals did become more of my goal for each season.”
Mallya explained that although the season itself only lasts May to January, the actual time commitment is much higher. Like any professional sport or any high-level academic competition, top finishers practice the entire year.
“I’ve trained six days a week for the past seven years, and sometimes my days were as long as 12 hours with the athletic activities spread out during the day,” Mallya says.
The difficulties of this arduous schedule necessitated Mallya’s transition from Farragut to Connections but also taught him how to face stressful times on the road to pursuing his many passions.
“Obviously there are times that I’m stressed with athletics or academics or all of the stuff that I have to do,” Mallya says. “Now each time I do feel that way, I know the best thing is just to focus on the work. … Times of stress always pass, so just focus on what you can do in that moment.”
Farragut, however, was still immensely impactful on Mallya. It catalyzed an interest in mathematics. Mallya attended Farragut’s after-school math program, where he studied advanced topics and participated in the L.A. County Math Olympiad. From there, Mallya was accepted to the UCLA Math Circle in fifth grade and has been enrolled in the program ever since. When he entered high school, he was invited to teach classes for younger students in the circle.
“That was like my introduction to teaching. I learned how to work with the kids, and I learned how to explain things in many different ways to make sure that everybody was on the same page at the end,” says Mallya.
Mallya believes strongly in the interconnectedness of things, saying that “a lot of the time our activities influence each other” and that one activity may lead to another unexpected one. Ice skating had another surprise in store for Mallya other than the national stage — theater, and then comedy.
“The way I started doing standup comedy was that I was in Theatre on Ice. It helped me gain a lot of confidence and [I] became really close to a lot of my teammates. I started making comedy scripts involving the team and my teammates,” says Mallya. “I shared my script with a couple of my friends and they really liked it, and then we shared it with the ice skater coach, and she also liked it. And then I ended up performing it at our biggest event of the last year.”
Mallya manages his own YouTube comedy channel and looks forward to joining a comedy or improv club at UCLA. He plans to study mechanical engineering and pre-medicine in the fall.
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