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Student Stories

Senior Spotlight: Sonika Patel

“Pick up side projects when you get a chance. You learn a lot about yourself, your strengths, and your collaboration and communication style with others.” Senior Sonika Patel is a lifelong learner and shares how she motivates herself to push through challenges with determination and grit.

Tell me a little bit about your journey to the Academy? 

When I applied to college, I had interests in all three disciplines— programming, design and entrepreneurship. I’ve always been an ideator and creator, so when a USC ambassador visited my high school and introduced this new program, my friends immediately turned their heads to me and said you must apply for this program. The Iovine and Young Academy was the perfect opportunity for me to develop my ideas and work on projects end-to-end.

Describe a passion project you’re currently working? 

Currently, I’m working on creating a venture studio called Hatch as part of my Garage Experience. For one of our projects, I’m working with my friends on designing, developing and launching an app called "chommie," a peer-to-peer services marketplace in South Africa. From getting items delivered to assembling furniture, this app helps individuals earn local help when they need it.

Is there a leader or mentor who inspires you? 


Everyone knows Harriet Tubman is my biggest inspiration — I even have a life-size cutout of her. Every day, I remind myself of her unbelievable experiences and grit to lead over 300 individuals to freedom despite a perilous time and place, and I use her stories as motivation when I’m faced with a challenge.

Is there an inspirational quote you live by?

"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world." - Harriet Tubman

What advice would you give to a freshman?

Pick up side projects when you get a chance. You learn a lot about yourself, your strengths, and your collaboration and communication style with others.

Describe one thing most people don’t know about you?

I play the keyboard and tabla.

What is one thing your parents taught you that you’d like to share?

Be a lifelong learner, be unique and don’t ever let success get to your head.

Favorite class at USC and why?

Case Studies of Innovation with Professor Belz was undoubtedly one of the most challenging and enjoyable classes I’ve taken. From analyzing startups to creating and launching a startup with my fellow Academy students —all within two weeks — we learned about entrepreneurial strategies in a multidisciplinary, practical way.

Fun Facts

What are the essential things you always keep in your backpack?
Headphones, hot sauce and highlighters.

Favorite app or website?
Hands-down, Yelp. I’m constantly on the lookout for new and highly-rated restaurants.

Favorite way to de-stress:
Dancing to Daft Punk and Bollywood music.

Guilty Pleasure?

Midnight Thai tea mochi. 

Thank you, Sonika!