May 01, 2024

Inspired by Pratham: How a Summer Program Sparked Change


Roshan took part in the 2023 Pratham Youth Summer Program, an annual opportunity for young people to experience Pratham’s learning programs firsthand. Keep reading for a recap of his time in Aurangabad, India.

What motivated you to apply for the Pratham Youth Summer Program?
I applied to be a part of the Pratham Youth Summer Program because I wanted to be able to engage more with communities I was not familiar with. Living in America, I am not fully aware of the challenges people in other countries face daily, and the Pratham program seemed like an opportunity to begin to understand a life quite different from my own.

As a second-generation Indian-American living in the United States, I am constantly reminded of the privileges in this country and the opportunities in my life. I am grateful for the chance to solely focus on my studies, without having to worry about the basic necessities such as food, shelter, and health. My grandparents survived Partition and shared their stories of tremendous sacrifice and the value of an excellent education which brought prosperity to our family. I am lucky to bear the fruits of their success and wish to pay it forward.

I desire to improve the education inequities within my community in the United States and India and better the lives of future youth. I joined the Youth Leaders Program to contribute to the future of children in India, harness the power of education as my grandparents did half a century ago, and gain a greater insight into my own heritage.

Can you share a memorable moment or experience from your time in the program?
A memorable experience I had from my time in Aurangabad was the first time I met Aman Aly who was studying at the Pratham Pace Center with the hopes of earning a job in hospitality outside the area. Although he spoke little English, we quickly bonded over sports and he shared his love for WWE. After just meeting Aman over a single half hour, he was so open and shared his dreams and goals during his time at the Pace Center. This first meeting with Aman made my experience in Aurangabad even more impactful.
During my time in Aurangabad, I witnessed a genuine desire for learning and the power of low-cost materials for schooling that are scalable and innovative. Until this experience, I did not appreciate how critical English practice is to students to obtain the highest wages in their area of expertise.

How did the program contribute to your understanding of the learning challenges facing children and young people in India?
Going into the program, I was slightly aware of the educational issues facing many of the children and young people in India. However, after arriving at the Pace Center and learning more about the challenges faced, I was truly able to understand the hardships many of the students are going through. Midway through the program, Pratham CEO Rukmini Banerji came in to speak with us, and she explained how many students cannot receive an education because they are forced to work and help their families generate an income at such young ages. Many children are not encouraged to stay in school, and of those who do stay, many of those are not encouraged or supported to learn. For example, I was so surprised to learn that most of the students in these at-risk areas cannot pass their exams to move on from eighth grade, as they read at levels of a first grader.

Did you have any meaningful interactions or connections with other participants?
Coming to an unfamiliar town where Marathi is the main language, with 11 other students who mostly just speak English from America, fostered an environment where we could all make strong connections. We would spend most of the evenings playing cards and having riveting conversations around the dinner table. I vividly recall playing cricket and volleyball with some of the Pratham students and with all of the U.S. participants. You can’t imagine the joy that was shared in that moment.

In what ways did the program inspire you to continue supporting Pratham’s mission?
This program was honestly eye-opening as I had never been so immersed in a community, learned about the culture, and witnessed direct education struggles than this experience in the Youth Leadership program. My time at Pratham makes me want to continue to support Pratham and the work they are doing. After my participation in this service learning program, I have been energized to build on this profound opportunity to further my own path to enact social change.

Currently, I have received a fellowship from my high school to work this summer on AI innovation to improve the English as a second language vocational methods at the Pace Center and build a virtual tutor program for Pratham young adult students to continue their English vocational learning. Ultimately, I hope to be able to collaborate with Pratham donor families in the US and create a long-term solution for English vocational training by building a network of US tutors of South Asian descent who understand Indian culture and can better develop cross-cultural communications.

What advice would you give to someone considering applying for the Pratham Youth Summer Program?
If someone is considering applying for the Pratham Youth Summer Program, I would advise them to take a leap of faith and send in an application because the experiences they will gain from this program are ones that simply cannot be sought here in the US.

Going to rural villages in India, spending time with the young students there, and working with older students who are under tremendous pressure to succeed is a way to build appreciation and gratitude for all our opportunities here in the United States.

The Pratham Youth Summer Program gives young adults here a window to the life of young adults in India whose lives are completely different from many of ours. It is extremely important for everyone to understand how different life can be across the world.

Thank you for sharing your experience with the Pratham Youth Summer Program, Roshan! If you’re interested in learning more about this program, click here.

Responses have been shortened for length and clarity. The views expressed in this Q&A are solely those of the respondents and do not necessarily reflect the official views or opinions of the organization.