There are still only 24 hours in a day, but Sunjay Chawla seemed to defy that fundamental fact about time.
He captured five state tennis titles in Mississippi, holds his high school’s record for most goals in a soccer game (eight) and won several golf tournaments.
His academics aren’t too bad either. Sunjay graduated in May as his school’s valedictorian, scored a 34 on the ACT and will attend Southern Methodist University in Dallas with $188,000 in scholarships.
Sunjay’s accomplishments in the classroom and on the court, field and course are why he was named the 2019 male Wendy’s High School Heisman National Winner, beating more than 42,000 other competitors. He picked up his award in December — and met Kyler Murray, that other Heisman winner — during an event televised by ESPN.
Though he didn’t know it at the time, Sunjay was the last-ever recipient of the High School Heisman award. In March, Wendy’s announced the program was ending after 25 years.
Five paragraphs in, and I haven’t even gotten to my favorite part: Sunjay is an Eagle Scout.
He earned Scouting’s highest honor as a member of Troop 4200 of Greenwood, Miss., part of the BSA’s Chickasaw Council.
Sunjay says that balancing school, sports and Scouts took careful planning. But he never felt like Scouting took time away from practicing his serve or studying for a test. In fact, Sunjay says Scouting made him better at both.
“Scouting taught me the importance of discipline and leadership that helped me be a better athlete,” he tells me. “I worked hard and followed the rules in the games I played, which is a skill I learned from Scouting. I tried to lead by example on the field, which I also learned from Scouts.
“Both of these made me a better athlete and person.”
Acing time management
Sunjay didn’t want to give up sports or Scouting, so he found time to fit both of these extracurricular activities around his schoolwork.
“The most important thing I did was hone my time management skills from a young age,” he says. “I wasted the least amount of time possible so that I could put a lot of effort into all three areas.”
Still, Sunjay had to make some tough choices. Sometimes that meant missing a troop trip, tennis practice or a meeting of the Spanish Club.
“But it was worth it in the end,” he says. “Being able to balance all three required sacrifice, and once I accepted that, it made it a lot easier to do.”
His advice to other Scouts struggling to find time for everything: Eliminate the excess.
“Cut out all the time you waste,” he says. “Learn how to be as efficient as possible and minimize the dillydallying, because that is a skill that everyone needs for the rest of their lives.”
Hustling, but not hurrying
Sunjay and his troopmates helped keep each other motivated to earn the merit badges required to become an Eagle Scout.
“In order to successfully obtain merit badges, my friends and I had to be organized and show a good work ethic to fulfill the requirements,” Sunjay says.
This skill, like so many learned in Scouting, helped Sunjay become a better student.
“To get all my assignments done, I had to rely on what I learned in Scouts,” he says. “I also learned to have fun while doing stuff I was required to do. Scouts showed me that getting tough merit badges could be fun, so I went into difficult classes with the same mentality.”
Giving back to others
The most rewarding Eagle Scout service projects are often the ones where the Eagle hopeful has a personal connection to the work.
For Sunjay, that meant finding an Eagle project that involved tennis.
Sunjay’s dad used to practice tennis on a wall in an impoverished part of town, but officials took down the wall after it was vandalized.
Sunjay built a new wall in its place, giving beginners a place to learn the sport he loves so much.
“Walls are free to hit on, so anyone could use it,” he says. “I figured it would be a good idea to put it back up so that kids of the new generation could have an equal chance to play.”
But Sunjay wasn’t done. He helped launch the Love Tennis Club for Beginners and spent more than 100 hours providing free tennis lessons to underprivileged children.
“I had an absolute blast doing the project with my friends,” he says. “I know it is something I will be proud of for the rest of my life.”
Thanks to Holly Cooper of the Chickasaw Council for the blog idea.