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Ujjval Bhavishya ki Rachna (Creating A Bright Future)

Shrieks of laughter greeted us as we walked up the steep hill to a school in the village of Vajreshwari. There were teens playing games outside despite the steady drizzle escaping the looming clouds overhead. We eagerly approached the covered staircase on the side of the building which would lead us to the third-floor rooftop. When we stepped out onto the covered roof we saw decorated tables, each enclosed on the sides with white, pink, and purple cloth. The rooftop was soon inundated with many tenth-grade students, their chatter and laughter filling the space.

The completed set up before students were to arrive.

A student arriving for the program.

We were there with PRASAD’s career guidance program, held at schools in the Tansa Valley for students in the tenth grade, the final year of high school. They meet with representatives from different career fields and colleges, and this exposure helps them discover new interests and opportunities to consider for their future. Depending on the choice, students may advance to eleventh and twelfth grade, also known as junior college.

A presentation about agriculture and raising honey bees.

The program is a great resource for learning about different colleges and career opportunities and is also convenient. By bringing this program to the schools of the Tansa Valley, each student’s future is made more accessible. Now the students have access to knowledge and guidance regarding their choices.

A group of boys learning about different agricultural practices.

Toward the end of the morning, we had an engaging conversation with a group of girls who had just finished visiting all of the booths. One of the girls spoke English very well, and she was able to translate for the others. We asked them which ones were their favorites. They all had different responses, but it was apparent from the look in their eyes that everyone was enthusiastic and inspired after the morning’s festivities.

They were interested in learning how schooling in America works, as we were curious about India’s education system. We compared and contrasted, all of us adding to the conversation as we discussed tests we take, classes and possible careers we were considering. After awhile conversation turned to other activities like sports and hobbies. I looked out onto this group of young, lively and excited girls, and I realized that we really are no different from one another. We live on opposite sides of the world, but we were able to connect with each other despite the distance.

These girls are learning about a college and what programs it offers.

 It is comforting to know that PRASAD cares so much about these kids. It can easily feel as if you are dealing with all of these academic and life pressures by yourself. PRASAD is a wonderful support system that encourages and supports the youth of the Tansa Valley. PRASAD’s influence on the younger generations provides guidance and help that is creating sustainability within this community.  

Presentations were given at the same time, filling the space with excited discussion.

The future is always uncertain, but PRASAD is helping to make decisions about the future easier for many students. We were able to take so much away from this program; I can’t even imagine how much the students have gained from their experience.

The roof of the school was adorned with banners of different colleges, and six booths were set up in a circle in the middle of the floor. A stream of tenth-grade students soon filed onto the roof, each rushing to the booth that seemed most fascinating. This was their final year of high school, before they had to choose a focus for their years of junior college, corresponding to their future career. They all made the rounds, some learning about technical professions, like mechanics, while others learned about teaching or agriculture.

Unlike in big cities like Mumbai and Delhi, there are no college fairs or representatives coming to the villages in the Tansa Valley to speak to teens about possible career paths. Teens in Mumbai or Delhi generally are able to take a variety of electives and classes in many fields to determine where their interests lie. Until PRASAD brought this program, high schoolers in the Tansa Valley didn’t generally have that option, forcing them to decide the entirety of their future without much guidance at only 15 or 16.

It’s interesting to imagine people my age deciding what they are going to be doing with their lives. PRASAD offers them a unique opportunity to be able to explore all their career options before making a well-informed decision.

After one group of girls finished their rounds, we stopped to talk with them, all of us asking each other questions about our own lives. They were really interested in how the education system works in the United States. We all laughed and rolled our eyes when we shared our own experiences with the mountains of work we get from school, with their own Board exams and our SAT’s.

It was so refreshing to talk with other girls our own age, and I was surprised by how much we all had in common. Even just the act of laughing with each other reminded me of how similar we all really were, despite how different our lives had been. One of them gave me her cell phone number so we could keep in touch! It’s so easy to distance ourselves from others when we allow our differences to predominate that we often forget how easy it also is to share a connection, a smile, with someone.

Arpita observing the students participating in the program.

Thank you PRASAD, for this chance to see one of the many ways you are encouraging community development!

Until next time,
Bhanu and Arpita

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