On the surface, Aditya KV, Founder and CEO of Umoya Sports, Pradyumna Bhattacharjee, Consultant for The World Bank in India and Nikita Sehgal, Executive Assistant and Consultant at Teach For India might not have much in common. However, a closer look reveals that they are all alumni of the Teach For India (TFI) Fellowship program.
A non-profit organization, Teach For India’s two-year, paid-fellowship program, recruits passionate college students and professionals to teach full-time in under-resourced schools in seven cities across India. One look at the organization’s vast network of alumni will tell you that many of them go on to become successful innovators, business owners, policymakers and even hold noteworthy positions working with national and global governments, today.
We spoke to three alumni: Aditya, Pradyumna and Nikita about their inspiring journeys as Teach For India Fellows, find out how the program changed them and how they in turn, now affect change in their diverse roles.
1. What motivated you to apply for the Fellowship?
Aditya KV – “At the time, I was working at TCS as a software engineer. But the work I was doing wasn’t satisfying. I felt like I wanted to do something that would tangibly improve society and that’s when I heard about Teach For India. The idea of sharing my knowledge and teaching underprivileged children excited me and I applied.”
Pradyumna Bhattacharjee – “When I came to Delhi for my undergraduate studies and met people from very diverse backgrounds I realised that your schooling and education determine your access to opportunities in college and post-college. I eventually wanted to do a PhD in Science Education but first I wanted to learn what it was like to teach children who didn’t have the same opportunities that I did.”
Nikita Sehgal - “I heard about the program when I was 16 years old. TFI was recruiting for their first batch of Fellows and CEO, Shaheen Mistri was at IIT Bombay presenting to students - my brother was one of them. He came home excited about this inspiring new idea but he never finally joined. The idea, however, stayed with me. On finishing college, I was moved to apply after speaking to an alumnus - my brother’s friend who joined the first batch.”
2. What are your responsibilities in your current role and how do you continue creating impact?
Aditya KV – “Being a Teach For India Fellow and interacting with the children made me sit back and think about how there is virtually no room for students with disabilities, less so in terms of sports. I learned early in the program, that equal opportunity is as important as anything else to impact change. As Founder and CEO of Umoya sports, we work to bring together students with and without disabilities using the common medium of sports. ”
Pradyumna Bhattacharjee – “Right now, I primarily focus on understanding how can we best use research and technology to improve education systems. But in the long term, critical skills I’ve acquired here will help me tackle macro questions on technology for development, innovations in financing the development sector, getting societies, organisations and philanthropists to spend more on critical challenges facing society.
Nikita Sehgal - “After I finished the fellowship, I was a recruitment associate for Teach For India. My job involved going to different colleges, conducting placement presentations, understanding what people were interested in and finding out if they would be a good fit. This was a very people-centric task which aligned with my natural skills of people management.”
3. What leadership skills did you take away from the Teach For India Fellowship that prepared you to do what you do today?
Aditya KV – “During my Fellowship from 2012-2014, I learned about looking at the same problem from different perspectives. Instead of getting frustrated by how much we can’t change, we can own the challenge and tackle the bits that we can change and work on that. In my current role at Umoya Sports, I now create robust education programs, set goals for children and follow through on a vision by chipping away at it a little at a time.”
Pradyumna Bhattacharjee – “My experience in the Fellowship taught me to have the courage to commit, to problem-solve creatively, to value the power of people and to be more self-aware. This means that today I can take on projects irrespective of the initial ambiguity and confusion and power through them.”
Nikita Sehgal - “During the Fellowship we had to lead our kids to really ambitious outcomes in contexts that were challenging. Trying to drive success in this situation made me think like a leader. Purposefully planning, setting a vision, rallying people to the cause and build meaningful relationships are just some of the things the Fellowship taught me.”
4. What kind of qualities should a potential Fellow have to thrive during and after the Fellowship?
Aditya KV – “One of the major mindsets you need to walk in here with is the openness to learn. You need to be adaptable, empathetic and solution-driven, not so much for your own sake but because you understand the why behind what you are doing.”
Pradyumna Bhattacharjee – “You must be willing to change and challenge any of your own preconceived notions and really give this work your time and best effort. This is one experience where you will gain a lot only if you are willing to commit yourself to the cause and really dedicate those two years to both the work and yourself.”
Nikita Sehgal - “No two Fellowship experiences will be the same. Your experience will be shaped by many variables - students, the community, the school, the program manager etc. But your optimism and sense of possibility will single-handedly determine your success both on a professional and a personal level.”
Through the experience of teaching in classrooms and working with students, principals, and parents - Teach For India Fellows are exposed to the grassroots realities of India’s education system. In the long-term, the Alumni of the program become part of the movement to advocate for change in the education sector.
You too can be part of this movement of future leaders. Visit https://apply.teachforindia.org to submit your application for the 2019-21 Fellowship program today.
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Updated Date: Mar 15, 2019 21:11:54 IST