Windermere Prep freshman interviews Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak
| 2:10 p.m. September 17, 2015
West Orange Times & Observer
WINDERMERE — The moment she found out Steve Wozniak was coming to Orlando, she wanted to interview him.
Sarina Khemchandani, a ninth-grade student at Windermere Preparatory School, had interviewed high-profile people before, but never anyone as prominent as the co-founder of Apple.
Khemchandani, a fan of Wozniak, read his book “iWoz” when she was 12. She found his contact information on his website and sent him an email requesting an interview.
Later, her father contacted Wozniak.
It wasn’t until Wozniak had arrived in Orlando that he agreed to the interview, to the shock of the entire Khemchandani family. Sarina had less than a day to prepare.
The family met Wozniak in the lobby of the Orlando hotel at which he was staying. Khemchandani set up a camera her grandmother gave her and began the interview, which has been picked up by prominent news organizations such as Business Insider, Daily Mail and TIME Magazine.
“It was just so amazing,” Khemchandani said.
The video is divided into three parts, with part three being the most popular with more than 42,000 hits on YouTube. This number does not include the people who view the video on the Daily Mail’s site, which secured rights from the Khemchandanis to post the video independent of YouTube.
Khemchandani asked Wozniak a variety of questions, ranging from his thoughts on Apple to education. Wozniak spent nearly an hour with Khemchandani. And his answers have attracted international attention.
When Khemchandani asked Wozniak what role Steve Jobs played while Wozniak was overcoming hardware and software issues, Wozniak responded with an answer the Daily Mail reported.
“Steve Jobs, he played no role at all in any of my designs of the Apple I and the Apple II computer,” Wozniak said in the interview. “He wanted to be important, and important people are always the business people.”
But Wozniak was far from criticizing Jobs.
“Steve Jobs was my good friend, the businessman,” he said.
During the interview, other people in the lobby recognized Wozniak and began to gather around, making the room loud. Khemchandani tried to ignore the background noise, telling herself that she could edit the noise out later. Wozniak was polite about the commotion, starting his sentences over when he realized it was too loud.
When Khemchandani asked Wozniak where he attended college, Wozniak said he went to a variety of schools. He downplayed the importance of needing to go to a big-name or Ivy League school and emphasized that the work of the student — not the prominence of the college they attend — determines success.
Wozniak himself spent hours designing computers through trial and error. He thinks students who want to be successful should find something they are passionate about and work at it. Those students should go beyond the work they are assigned in class and required to complete.
“Getting the advice from Steve Wozniak is so inspirational to so many students,” Khemchandani said. “It could even plant a seed for the next great innovation, like maybe a cure for cancer or a way to help the environment.”
REACH A STUDENT
Khemchandani has spent hours outside class pursuing her interests, which led to the interview with Wozniak.
The interview was arranged for Khemchandani’s site, Reach a Student. In the fall of 2014, she started the program for students at Windermere Preparatory School. Students go to reachastudent.com, where they ask questions — anonymously if they choose — to other peer mentors. These mentors range in age from middle-school students to college-age WPS alumni, and they receive community service hours for the work they put into the site. Students ask questions about the rigor of challenging Advanced Placement classes, on-campus clubs, sports and other things about life at WPS.
Khemchandani gives each of her mentors a pin, which they can wear on the blazer that is part of their school uniform. At the end of her interview with Wozniak, Khemchandani gave him a pin. Wozniak smiled and said that if Reach a Student was around when he was in school, he would have been a mentor.
After she saw the success of the mentors, Khemchandani launched the blog and video portion of the site, which she said is the most popular part of the program. The blog also covers topics many students and parents are curious about.
Her first high-profile interview was during a family trip to Hong Kong this summer. WPS had just been purchased by Nord Anglia Education, and many parents and students had questions about the company. The Khemchandanis found out that the Nord Anglia headquarters were located in Hong Kong, and she was able to set up an interview with Andrew Fitzmaurice, the CEO of Nord Anglia.
Nord Anglia owns 42 schools across the world and is a publicly traded company on the stock market. After the interview, Khemchandani was inspired to keep the interviews going.
“I think interviewing him gave me the confidence to push Reach a Student further,” Khemchandani said.
The interview also helped the WPS community to understand the company that just purchased their school.
“The parents had a lot of questions,” said her father, Sunil Khemchandani.
Khemchandani felt her interview helped answer some of the concerns parents had about the change.
Nord Anglia International School is in Hong Kong, so Khemchandani was also able to interview the principal, a teacher and a student at that school.
Nord Anglia encourages students to be ambitious, and WPS Headmaster Thomas Marcy said Reach a Student does just that.
“Sarina is an exceptional young person,” he said.
Other administrators agree with Marcy.
“It’s an honor to have been a part of Sarina’s journey,” said Mary Beth Davies, WPS middle-school director. “I had the opportunity to get to know her and watch her grow into a confident, talented young lady. She has left a legacy on our campus with her commitment, drive and quest for excellence.”
In addition to answering student and parent questions, Khemchandani likes to interview successful people to inspire students — whether they are the cofounder of Apple or a hard-working student at WPS.
The interview with Wozniak also has drawn attention to the Reach a Student site. Students from other schools have asked to start a Reach a Student for their school. Some students have contacted Khemchandani, sending her a list of famous people they want her to interview.