in a world where there are more phones than people, more than a billion children still lack at least one basic necessity of life (food, home, healthcare). we found this morally unacceptable, and are working with teams that prepare them for success by donating not money, but time as a virtual mentor. you can too, right from your home. got courage?
“I’d be happy to grab coffee sometime … but don’t get your hopes too high about me leaving teaching,” he wrote back.
I stared at this message for a minute, grinning. I had known Miles from my days at Verb Surgical (a Google/Verily Surgical Robotics venture with J&J), and was trying to get him on our next venture’s R&D team. Except he seemed completely unfazed by the dazzle and attraction of yet another futuristic mission.
Two days later, we were having breakfast at a hillside cafe in Hayward, where I listened intently to tale after tale of impassioned mentoring and setbacks and eventual successes from his classroom at the Latitude 37.8 School. It sounded very hard what he had set out to do, and most of my industry skills would likely have failed in his context. Still, I kept looking for analogies and points of relevance between his newfound love in teaching after a few enviable high tech gigs. Eventually I gave up, and just listened. His eyes lit up whenever he spoke of a student from his class. He would smile even brighter when he talked of the tough times he faced setting up the curriculum for the first school year. At some egg biting point during this spell binding conversation, I realized: I had just discovered an outlier!
On Sep 23, 2016, I drafted a long e-mail with my desire to connect with an alumnus of my alma mater who had left behind the American Dream to go found a school for the underprivileged children new Delhi. At face value, I could not understand why someone would do that. What kind of a person would let go of what most would call a golden career, and chance to become the best of yourself, buy the best of the cars, travel the workd? It took me several attempts to understand his unconventional model for enabling basic education where it is most needed, and then see how I could help. To my surprise, he had found a very smart (and partly sustainable) economic model to support the school: corporate social responsibility grants, and donations from his personal friends and network. The school was metric bound: every child’s progress was baselined, tracked, updated back to the supporters. Within minutes of a phone call with him, I realized I had run into yet another outlier.
His name, was Amit Garg. And the school is called the – the Eklavya Trust School for Underprivileged Children.
Meanwhile Lex, who grew up in a small rural town in California, was the first person from her community to attend Stanford University, and later Harvard. She now works with Miles as the Design and Engineering teachers for the Latitude 37.8 High School which was founded in 2018. They are both working hard to build out an exciting and modern course for 9th grade students to explore the design process and professional engineering skills.
This semester they piloted a project where students were able to explore self-driving technology, both by building a functional, Arduino powered self-driving car, and by designing a self-driving car for a specific audience: seniors from a local senior living facility.
On June 13, 2019, 4o Eklavya students were admitted to a private school, owing to their readiness and grit. They were all unconventionally trained at Eklavya, some with severe contextual disadvantages, most were rag picking street side where Amit found them and assimilated into the classrooms.
Three champions. Two Oceans apart. One cause.
Giving up the traditional life journey, the pursuit of an “American Dream”.
What motivates them? Where do they get the fuel for this belly-fire? I do not know yet. But I do know that we are in good hands, at least sometimes; that while the rest of us are still figuring out a path to fulfilment, material success, or nirvana; there are a few out there, keeping our planet’s back.
Stay tuned, for an in depth journey into their minds …
P.S. You can reach Miles, Lex or Amit through me: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Picture: A hospital worker embraces her co-worker as they evacuate patients from the Feather River Hospital during the Camp Fire on Nov. 8, 2018 in Paradise. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images). https://www.kqed.org/news/11705542/how-to-help-camp-fire-victims
Our fellow citizens, mostly elderly, need our help again. This time due to the Butte County camp fire. We are coordinating volunteering with the Hope Center Oroville. Please signup directly there if you can help as well.
Please check Oroville center’s donation hub for more details re: donations needs.
During one of our weekend mentoring sessions on dreams and reality, something extraordinary happened. Shahid (10) shyly raised a motorboat he had already built in front of the webcam. What we were only talking about, some of our kids were living already!
That was the beginning of our first project based learning sessions. Two teams were made, one each for boys and girls. One of them just delievered a fully functional toy car, built on the foundations of electricity, magnetism, friction and aerodynamics. From core scientific standards, this is nothing exquisite. But if you look deeper, the excellence shines in how they built it, through failures, through unavialability of parts, and a half baked knowledge of science.
Presenting, the Super Seven (Bittu, Md Sahil, Bittu, Sahil, Karan, Minhaz (not shown), and Rohit (not shown)) showing off a remote controlled car they assembled themselves with mentors Nishant and Prateek. Bravo – for the innovative spirit!👍😊
The ‘underside’ of the car.
And here is the body!
Would you like to engage in such sessions? If so, connect with us … let us take you on a ride magical, to a world where action comes first, then the dreams:-)
Aspiration: To stay away from crime & care for his mother.
Most Recent Achievement: Promoted straight to 2nd grade after starting school for the 1st time.
Family: Single working mother is a maid.
Rohit was picked up literally from rags by Eklavya founder Amit Garg. He only has a mother as a single parent at home, who works at 3 different ‘Kothis’ as a maid to afford a livable wage. Upon much inspiration and preparation, he was admitted to Vinayak Public School in 1st grade since he had never seen a formal school before. To everyone’s surprise, he was promoted straight to 2nd grade owing to his high potential of learning. Like many of his classmates at Eklavya, Rohit was once oblivious of the world of opportunities that lay so close to him, and was well engulfed already into a life of picking rags for earning quick money and spending it on cheap drugs (like nail paint remover). At his age, seeing no hope beyond a struggling single mother, and kids younger than him doing better in higher grades, he almost gave up again on Eklavya, and on his mother’s inspirations. But Amit (Eklavya) intervened immediately – reaching out to his mother, and engaging him with Prashant (Worthee) for a 1:1 mentoring session. He scored 75% to 80% marks in most subjects since then, and is a regular participant in questions and answers on science and technology topics with his mentors.
His last ask of us was not of resolving a fight with kids who tease him, but of how to get access to Eklavya’s computers so he can improve his proficiency, and thus self esteem to do even better in school.
We hope Rohit’s story stirs some relevance to your life, as it did to ours; which is why we regularly skip the comforts of weekends and activities to spend time with him and his friends. To enable another model citizen (that he so badly wants to become), or perhaps a model citizen like yourself, who will help other similar children rise above the adversities they inherit for no fault of their own.
|Name: Sahil K
Aspiration: CID Officer.
Most Recent Achievement: Selected for National Level Math Olympiad to be held on Feb 22, 2017.
Family: Father is a laborer. Mother a maid.
Sahil. As in a guide. Like the banks of a stream. He is the eldest of five children to a laborer father and a maid mother. But you won’t be able to tell his humble background apart, if you met him or talked to him now. The kid that we now call ‘Google’ at Eklavya school, once was oblivious of the world of opportunities that lay so close to him, at Eklavya. And like many other children his age group that do not have access to affordable, meaningful education and guidance, he was well on his way to picking rags for earning quick money and spending it on cheap drugs (like nail paint remover), fighting, falling into child labor markets, or even worse: climb the rackets of crime.
With Eklavya’s intervention, him, with 230+ similar other high potential kids, started getting regular, preparatory instruction to enter formal school system without worrying about the logistics, or finances.
Sahil is one of the selected few children from the formal school he attends to appear at the National Level Mathematics Olympiad examination on Feb 22, 2017 as we write this statement. And he is psyched about it. In our most recent 1:1 mentoring session with him on Feb 19 2017, we learnt that he had scored full marks in the last test conducted at the school in *all* subjects!
We hope this story stirs some relevance to your life, as it did to ours; which is why we regularly skip the comforts of weekends and activities to spend time with him and his friends. To enable another CID officer (that he so badly wants to become), or perhaps like yourself, who will help other similar children rise above the adversities they inherit for no fault of their own.
I am not rich
But I have goals that
I can achieve by
Working hard and
Nobody can stop me!
– A visual poem by one of our youngest Worthee members: Tanvi (10 y.o.) that she sketched within 12 hours of spending some virtual time with our children at Eklavya.
A visual poem by Pankhuri, age 6, in solidarity with all the children of this world that hold on to their dreams while walking with a razor sharp focus toward their goals.
One of these children had run away from home, seeing a mismatch in the hopes he saw at school, and his real life (unreliable father, over worked mother, bad influence all around). He is so bright, that within months of starting Eklavya supported formal schooling for the *first* time in his life, was promoted straight to 2nd grade. As soon as we learnt that, a couple of us intervened, talked to his mother, spread the news, and talked directly with him as well at the first available opportunity.
Today, he showed up for our Finding Heroes session. One of us also started a 1:1 mentoring session with him. He was smiling, hopefully starting to see a connection between reality, and his dreams.
He is just one of the hundreds of children we are struggling to safeguard – with only a handful of volunteers. Imagine if a child you know personally was in his situation.
Would you intervene?