Meet sophomore Sulekh Mitra, Boy Scout and martial artist

by Sophie Yang, ’19

This summer, sophomore Sulekh Mitra traveled to India, visiting family in the bustling city of Calcutta and four hours away in Asansol. In Upper Arlington, Mitra walked his dog Bryce every day in Godown Park, took lessons in a martial art and spent a week in June living on a boat with his friends.

From family to friends, Mitra found solace in communities in every part of his summer.

“I like having that sense of pride, just being able to spend time with people,” Mitra said.

Mitra’s experience living on a boat with friends—a “High Adventure” trip to Florida sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America—was one he didn’t hesitate to sign up for. For nine years, Mitra had been a member of the Cub Scouts and later Boy Scouts. Between weekly Monday meetings and campouts, Mitra had formed deep connections with Boy Scouts around Columbus and was glad to make memories on the Florida trip with some of his closest friends.

“There was really no context. We just lived on a boat, and we went snorkeling. I touched a sea turtle,” Mitra said.

Florida was not the first time Mitra had attended one of the Boy Scouts’ annual High Adventure trips. He traveled to West Virginia with the organization two years ago and plans to canoe in Minnesota for two weeks next summer. But Mitra’s most exciting trip, he said, was last summer when he and fellow UAHS sophomores Adam Kahle and Jacob Shanklin flew to Philmont, New Mexico, and hiked on a wilderness ranch spanning over 140 thousand acres.

“A bunch of friends and I hiked through New Mexico for two weeks. We definitely got over 100 miles, and we hiked a mountain. It was cold and windy,” Mitra said. “It was a real bonding experience.”

During his time in Boy Scouts, Mitra has developed skills like starting fires, treating snake bites and saving people from drowning, though none he has has had to use in the real world. Now 15, Mitra has worked his way up six Boy Scouts ranks, jumping through ones like “Tenderfoot” and “First Class” to reach “Life Scout,” the last designation before the top “Eagle Scout” level. To become an Eagle Scout, Mitra must complete a capstone-esque project before he turns 18.

“One of my friends is already working on his Eagle Scout project,” Mitra said. “I’m thinking about making fundraisers to buy bulletproof vests for dogs, like the canine unit [of a police force].”

Mitra came up with the project—which he intends to start next summer—after thinking of his labrador retriever Bryce and those like him who may be placed in danger as police dogs.

“Upper Arlington doesn’t have a canine unit, but I’m thinking about working with Officer [Jon] Rice and reaching out to Hilliard or Dublin to help their canine unit,” Mitra said. “I’m an animal person, and I don’t want them getting hurt in any way.”

While scholarship opportunities and college admissions motivate Mitra to become an Eagle Scout, he said he is most inspired by friends who have already reached the rank.

“I see them and I’m like, ‘Hey, they’re there.’ So I should work as hard as I can to get there,” Mitra said.

Mitra started the Cub and Boy Scouts programs at 6, around the same time his parents introduced him to activities like piano and guitar. But while Mitra dropped guitar lessons after a year and stopped piano in middle school, he said he has never considered quitting the Boy Scouts path due to the community he has built there.

“Of course [I wouldn’t quit],” Mitra said. “It’s a great way to spend time with my friends. We just talk about campouts and stuff.”

Beyond Boy Scouts, Mitra has found a community at the Oriental Martial Arts College, a Reynoldsburg studio where he began studies in Taekwondo nine years ago. An only child, he took up the martial art alongside his mother and father as a bonding activity and said he found a second family among the studio people.

“They really cared about my dad, my mom and I,” Mitra said. “I got passion and drive from Taekwondo because it was a physical activity, and I continued until I was a black belt.”

Though Mitra’s mother stopped Taekwondo due to a busy schedule, Mitra’s father still practices it. And this August, Mitra moved on to a new martial art, Hapkido, which focuses on pressure points and defense rather than the kicking and punching that are central to Taekwondo.

“If someone grabs you on the street, [Hapkido teaches] the fewest movements you can make to defend yourself,” Mitra said.

Mitra has chosen to study on Saturdays at the same studio, and like with Boy Scouts, he said he doesn’t see himself leaving anytime soon, in part due to the people.

As Mitra moves through sophomore year and begins looking to the future, he said he hopes to find a community as strong as his current family and friends wherever he goes.

“My family, they’re here for me no matter what I do. But my friends are always there if I’m not with my family,” Mitra said. “In my mind, family doesn’t have to be a blood relationship.”

This profile is part of an Arlingtonian series in which Upper Arlington students are randomly selected, interviewed and profiled. Read more student profiles here.