Volunteering for four years with the annual Thanksgiving Food Drive at Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington helped open Krishna Najjar’s eyes to the challenge of hunger, both locally and globally.

The member of Archbishop Carroll’s class of 2018 will be attending The Catholic University of America this fall and plans to major in environmental chemistry, so he can make an impact in addressing this problem.

“I want to help with the food crisis we have in the world,” he said in an interview. “If we understand how to better treat the earth and the food we grow, maybe we can help end this international food epidemic, because there should be enough food to go around.”

The food drive at Carroll is believed to be one of the largest student-organized food collections in the country. In 2017, students there collected and distributed about 25,000 pounds of food to more than 300 families. Najjar joined students in distributing food bags in the community and collecting the donated food, and later between classes, joining friends in sorting out the food.

“I didn’t realize how many people needed help,” he said, adding that “the food crisis spoke to me” and has shaped his goals for the future.

Najjar said the issue comes down to a simple question – “Why can’t everyone have food on their plate? That’s something everyone needs.”

He noted that his mother, Ruqaiyah Najjar, earlier worked as a restaurant manager, and he works as a server at a restaurant in Georgetown, and that has given him another perspective on the importance of food in people’s lives.

“Learning what it means to serve and be served was something I learned not only form my mother, but also from my school,” he said.

His mother in recent years has worked in the news industry and is now a producer at Fox News, and he said her example has taught him, “You have to be able to find and search for answers and see how you can help out.”

Summarizing what he has learned from his experiences at Archbishop Carroll, Najjar said, “Being at this school taught me how to be more caring and open-minded. This school taught me how to open myself up, see beyond the walls of school and what I want for myself. Carroll taught me to be a better version of me, and I’ll never forget that.”

The 18-year-old Washington resident earlier attended Holy Family School in Hillcrest Heights. At Carroll, he was in the “Row of Honor” in the top 10 percent of his class, and during his senior year, he took calculus classes at nearby Catholic University.

Najjar participated in the rigorous International Baccalaureate program at Archbishop Carroll, and in his IB math classes, he studied pre-calculus, trigonometry, statistics and algebra.

“When I was at Catholic University, I had no trouble at all in my calculus classes. I understood the material,” he said.

Another of his favorite IB classes was music composition. “We wrote our own pieces. It gave us a lot of musical and artistic freedom,” he said.

The IB diploma candidate said the program helped him develop time management skills. “I know how to go at my own pace with my work,” he said.

Also at Archbishop Carroll, he served as president of the student council and was an activities chair. Those experiences, he said, “taught me how to be a leader” and lead a group of people toward a goal.

At Carroll, he danced, acted and gave speeches at the annual Christmas show. He also learned the importance of teamwork as he participated in Carroll’s Latin dance team, which performed at school and in local festivals. As a member of the school’s robotics team, he learned skills like programming and how to use a 3D printer.

Praising the school’s community, Najjar said he gained friendships that will continue even as his high school journey ends.

Katy Dunn, Archbishop Carroll’s principal, said, “Krishna is a perfect example of the value of a Catholic education to drive growth and opportunity.  He has grown from an unsure, bright, freshman into a confident and courageous senior.” And just as he was at Carroll, Dunn believes Najjar will be a leader at Catholic University.