The spirit of volunteering, particularly among the youth, is critical to nation-building and uplifting society. We must inspire and engage Generation Z (Gen Z), born between the mid-1990s to early 2000s, the greatest asset that India has. They just have to learn the importance of volunteering together with their primary goal of succeeding in their studies. It is not uncommon for many Gen Zers in Western countries to work, study, and volunteer. We share one such story of three driven and motivated Gen Zers of Indian origin in the United States.
They volunteered for a nonprofit organisation, Vidya Gyan, and made it richer by over $1,700 in just about 6 weeks, motivated 46 donors and engaged children in science learning in a hands-on environment.
More importantly, they enabled Vidya Gyan to expand its outreach in new ways and allowed us to connect the dots between the U.S. and India. Vidya Gyan takes pride in its motto “Every Child Matters” which began with the school children in government primary schools in rural India.
However, the recent experiences with and by these volunteers made us realize that children are children everywhere. Generally, they think, learn, and get inspired alike as long as they have motivated mentors and coaches, and the environment is conducive to learning. Additionally, the Gen Zers in our story used the power and influence of their network in developing a core of future youth volunteers and donors.
An accomplished 12th grader (Aayush) contacted Vidya Gyan for volunteering. What followed is an amazing story of his drive, leadership, and ability to act independently with self-confidence. Following a couple of brainstorming sessions, Aayush developed a two-week-long summer camp “Science Starz” for kids in grades 3-5.
Vidya Gyan was particularly attracted to the fact that Aayush will translate several of his engaging, hands-on science experiments in Hindi to be used by children in Indian schools. It was amazing that Aayush implemented everything (publicity, content preparation and delivery, and arranging instructional tools such as high-end microscopes and a mineral/rock collection from his school) in about 5 weeks. This youth offered classes on a voluntary basis but used his power of persuasion to motivate parents to donate for Vidya Gyan’s causes.
India has millions of Gen Zers who can be part of what is now Vidya Gyan’s newest initiative named Scholars to Schoolers. This can transform India’s education at all levels if we define the Scholar (someone with knowledge/wisdom and willing to share) with lower graders (Schoolers).
This powerful initiative has the potential for Scholars globally to engage Schoolers in their pursuit of learning. India’s tuition industry serves the people of financial means but volunteers in STS will meet a similar need for the underprivileged, underserved and/or those with fewer financial means. For example, a motivated 9th-grade Scholar can coach/mentor primary grade Schoolers in her/his village; an 11th-grade Scholar can coach middle grades, and a college/university-bound Scholar can tutor 9-12 grade Schoolers voluntarily. There are no boundaries for topics and the geographical location.
The Scholar must choose what interests her/him and what will motivate local school-going children. The Scholar has to be a passionate, engaged and motivated volunteer to do public/social good. While the volunteerism may not be for everyone, even one committed volunteer Scholar for primary graders in a village or community can create a spark and transform the culture of learning.
Back to the Story: Aayush motivated a couple of his friends to voluntary assist in making the classroom experience for the Schoolers even more engaging. It is important to mention that the parents of Scholars and Schoolers were very supportive of the success of the STS model since its inception to its completion. Aayush’s STS model included 6 sessions over two weeks ending with the presentations by the Schoolers about a science topic of their choice. The Schoolers presented their project very passionately in a public forum, a critical communication life skill even many adults lack.
The Unexpected: The idea of STS influenced another youth in the local community. This 11th grader designed a similar program named “Little Biologist”, but had to cancel due to unavoidable conflicts. Another Scholar in Atlanta named Pihu, an 11th grader was inspired by her cousin Aayush. She designed and offered a ‘Science Enrichment Camp’. Pihu’s commitment, passion, leadership abilities, and scholarly drive were evident in the classroom with children being engaged in a hands-on environment. Pihu also used the power of mobilizing her network to attract two other Gen Zers to assist in STS, both younger than her, who we hope to nurture as future Vidya Gyan’s Youth Ambassadors cum Scholars.
The Next: Behind the scenes work added yet another dimension in Atlanta. Another 12th grader, Sanya, with a passion for tutoring children got motivated. While she did not have enough time to organize an STS summer camp, Sanya created a fundraiser for Vidya Gyan. In fact, this fundraiser exceeded the target in a matter of days exhibiting her and her family’s considerable influence in mobilizing and engaging the donors through social channels. Vidya Gyan is now actively engaged in talking with other high schoolers and nurture them as our Scholars.
Opportunities in India: Undoubtedly, India has a huge reservoir of independent, self-confident, and motivated Gen Zers volunteers. The question is where to find them, how to engage, motivate, and retain Gen Zers as Ambassadors cum Scholars, and nurture their talent and networking ability to attract more of them for the greater good of the society. Vidya Gyan gets energised and blessed with the energy of its volunteers and tax-deductible support in India by the donors who believe in our cause, “Every Child Matters.”
The inspiring story will not be complete without quoting Aayush who defined his voluntary experience with Vidya Gyan as “dream come true.” However, the truth is that he helped Vidya Gyan realize its dream of expanding the outreach in the United States, connecting the dots between India and the U.S and giving birth to a great STS initiative and more. So dreams do come true. It is now your (India’s youth) turn to volunteer and help make every child realize her/his dream through better and engaged learning. Let it be one village/school at a time served by one committed volunteer scholar and together we can transform education.