“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 .