By Anshika Patel (YES 2019-2020, India, placed by Greenheart in Lake Stevens, WA)
Teaching Outstanding Youth (TOY) is an initiative that I started with my friends. TOY aims to increase access to education and bridge the rural-urban gap by teaching students from nearby villages. We have 25 tutors working continuously with approximately 100 students each academic year. The students, who are in grades 1 to 12, are from the same villages— located near my boarding school, Vidyagyan Leadership Academy—as their tutors.
We teach the kids in batches according to their standards. We engage them in several fun activities and sports to maintain their health. We also try to inspire their curiosity, give them collaborative tasks, encourage them to learn from their surroundings, and enhance their communication skills through experiential learning to provoke them to think critically.
Through peer learning, team activities, and collaborative tasks, we have induced the feel of community and harmony. We have made the academic curriculum more comprehensive by including arts and crafts classes. We also organize counseling sessions for the kids that help them to make informed choices. Talent shows for the kids on weekends include poem recitation, singing, painting, and storytelling sessions.
At the beginning of the program, we faced challenges such as a large gap between knowledge and application, lack of vocational skills, the reluctance of parents to send their girls out of the house, and low attendance rates. When the pandemic hit, we moved classes online, which resulted in a smaller number of participants. But nothing could dampen my team's spirit to overcome these obstacles.
Our team makes sure that we meet the parents once a week and give them weekly progress reports of their kids. This has helped parents understand how their children are benefiting from the program. We’ve also engaged the community in supporting our program. We receive leftover stationery supplies from the nearest government schools. Funds collected through selling paintings and other crafts are utilized to buy masks, dictionaries, grammar books, stationeries, etc.
We not only grow personally when we teaching kids, but we also help more people in a better and more informed manner. Through our efforts, we intend to eliminate people’s prejudices and narrow mindsets to make our society a better place in which to live. Our goal is to create a group of informed, well-groomed students, who in turn will inspire others to think and do better.
When I started this initiative, I had no clue about its future. But the skills that I gained during my exchange year, particularly leadership skills and public speaking, helped me to expand this project to approximately 30 villages. During my YES year, I even took AP English so that, when I returned to India, I could help our students in the best way possible. Thank you to my AP English professor who helped me to expand my knowledge of English.
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