Tag Archives: highschool

Rishi Kumar Recruits Student Interns for 2022 Election Campaign

The summer days go by slowly? Well, why don’t you join a summer internship program and find a fabulous leadership opportunity right where you live? You may even be teamed up with your schoolmates.

Get involved in a high-energy campaign by joining the Rishi Kumar for Congress Fellowship program. Submit your application today at RishiKumar.com/Fellowship to be invited to an interview.

With this internship, you will discover a unique empowerment opportunity: You will find plenty of opportunities to be promoted to a Team Lead, Associate Manager, Manager, Sr. Manager, Associate Director, and Director positions.  In the summer of 2020, this program was led by 14 directors, and 45 managers leading specific functional roles, mentoring, and leading interns from 29 states.  The Kumar for Congress team drove an unprecedented engagement with our neighbors, the likes of which our district had never seen before: 100,000 doors, a million phone calls made, called 86,000 seniors offering them help with groceries/medications, and the videos went viral with 1.25 million views. In the November 2020 election, Rishi fell short by 45,000 votes in challenging a 30-year veteran incumbent but did get more votes than any other challenger in the last 30 years.

Rishi’s motivation: Rishi brings a fearless political agenda and is on a mission to change the broken Washington culture by bringing a new brand of people-driven, not lobbyist-driven politics. Watch Rishi’s personal story here. Rishi won with the most votes in Saratoga’s 60-year election history on a people-centric platform and a track record of “Getting Things Done”.  We have had only 2 competitive congressional races in Silicon Valley. This is a unique opportunity that is not to be missed.

Joining the Fellowship Program would allow you to:

An opportunity to lead teams, and discover invaluable management skills.
– Win MVP awards, get recognition awards
– Get a personal letter of recommendation at the end of the program upon request
– Earn valuable political and leadership experience while working alongside dozens of your peers
– Run for the California Democratic Party Executive Board or for a delegate seat.
– Earn passes to the California Democratic State Convention and even meet Presidential candidates

This internship is mirrored after the fellowship program of President Obama’s winning re-election run in 2012. Last summer the Kumar for Congress team had students participating from Stanford University, Georgetown University, University of California (Berkeley), UCLA, San Jose State University, Santa Clara University, and many local high schools.

For further info, please contact the campaign team at campaign@rishi2020.com

Student Run Ecosystem Answers All College Related Questions

What AP courses should I take? APUSH? AP Calculus AB or BC?

What should I do during the summer? A summer program, research, or an internship? 

What is EECS at Berkeley really like?

What are the different career choices in the Biotech field?

What is the college culture like at Columbia?

This endless barrage of questions start running through the minds of every high school student on the first day of 9th grade. We’ve seen similar questions plague our peers, who are also stressed about the ins and outs of college.

We knew that there had to be something we could do to find and share the right answers to these endless questions. In order to solve this pressing need for college mentorship and resources, we founded Leap2College. 

Leap2College is a student-run free platform to help high school students navigate the challenging process of college admissions. We hope to build a community of mentors, provide a comprehensive library of resources, and build an ecosystem of support and lifelong friendships.

We strongly believe that guidance from the right mentor can be vital in choosing the optimal path. We have an amazing group of enthusiastic college students and graduates who have studied at the nation’s top-ranked universities – Stanford, Harvard, UC Berkeley, UCLA, USC, UPenn, CMU, and Columbia to name a few. They are excited to give back to their community and provide high school students with invaluable advice that they wish they had received during their earlier education.  Their advice has led to real change in the lives of the students they’ve helped. Here’s some mentee feedback that highlights how useful mentorship has been for them:

“My mentor was extremely knowledgeable and easy to speak with. He answered all our questions in great detail and the session was very helpful. He guided us in the right direction and gave us very useful feedback about major selections, and other questions that we had.”

“My mentor gave me lots of great advice about college and she was willing to take the time to answer all of my questions, regardless of whether they seemed frivolous or not… She’s perfect!”

“My mentor was able to help me with so much from essays to my resume… she was amazing”

“With my mentor’s help, I was able to decide which clubs I wanted to do. The entire session was pretty good overall!”

In addition to mentorship, our platform provides a comprehensive list of key resources that would benefit any high school student, including information about preparing for SAT/ACT and AP Courses. We have also consolidated a list of scholarships, research opportunities, summer programs, and much more.

Last but not least, we run an interview series where college students and mentors share personal stories of their journey in high school.

Leap2College is accelerating off the ground and we can’t wait to share the untapped knowledge with all of you. If you are an inquisitive high school student with any questions about the college process, please sign up as a mentee at leap2college.org

If you are a college student or graduate and would like to help the community, please sign up to be a mentor at https://www.leap2college.org/mentors.

To keep up with us and to stay updated, follow us @leap2college on all social media platforms.


Utsav Kataria is a sophomore at Lynbrook High School with a strong passion for CS, math, public forum debate, and volunteering. He co-founded Leap2College to empower, motivate, and support high schoolers in their journey to college.

Sejal Rathi is a junior at Lynbrook High School. She is extremely passionate about math, computer science, and enjoys teaching and participating in various competitions. She co-founded Leap2College to help high schoolers navigate their path to college.

Golden Knights Debate Their Way Through the Pandemic

As more summer programs were being canceled, I saw there was a need for keeping students engaged and stimulating their creativity. Being a high school student myself, I could only imagine that those younger than me must be struggling. With COVID-19 bringing in a new distance learning environment and a summer lockdown for students, a group of eight middle school students (Milpitas Golden Knights) with my active volunteer guidance came up with a creative plan to spend the summer holidays safely indoors and socially connected – engaging in Public Forum Debate.

How did this idea begin?  

Eight 6th grade Merryhill school students showed interest in practicing and learning techniques for public forum debate.  With my assistance and leadership as the debate Advisor and judge, the debate club was formed and sessions were organized.  I helped design the debate classes and practice sessions every week for 12 weeks with the idea to keep the students connected, stay mentally healthy, and keep connected during challenging times.

About the Debate Sessions

With dedication, we started to practice from the end of May and the kids continued to learn and acquire the skill that would assist them through middle school. Every week, the team gathered in a virtual meeting session and reviewed through debate materials/rules, watched debate videos, and practiced speeches.  The program was executed as four teams with two members in each team. For every debate topic, the team members were regrouped to support each other. The debate team independently handled work sessions between themselves during the week to prepare for the debate and keep connected. This helped the students to learn and practice teamwork. At the end of each debate, the group voted for the next debate title and continued to challenge themselves. In addition to debate sessions and in the spirit of rewarding and motivating the students, the program was expanded to include a general knowledge quiz, which covered topics like science, history, geography, politics, and sport, at the end of each debate session.

Reward

By the end of the debate session, the kids were able to meet at a local park to celebrate their achievements, while social distancing. It was their first time meeting in real life since the start of the summer and the kids enjoyed catching up. They were presented with trophies and medals to congratulate them on their progress and improvement in debating. Team pictures were taken and speeches were given to thank everyone for their participation in the program.

Presenting to the Mayor of Milpitas

The final debate session was attended by the Principal of MerryHill School, Ms. Quinn Letan who recognized the effort put together by the students.  The students were also given the opportunity to present the program to Mayor Richard Tran of Milpitas. In the end, the credit really goes towards all students of this program – Nalika, Diya, Saatvika, Aadya, Sohan, Adithya, Hrithvik, and Katthir. 

If you would like your child to join the debate team, contact sundramr@hotmail.com for more info!


Meghaa Ravichandran is a high school sophomore at Notre Dame High School is the leader and coach for the Milpitas Golden Knights team.

Your Trash, My Memories

During my usual spring cleaning, I was throwing all my clothes on the floor, taking the trash out of drawers that haven’t been touched in ages, and organizing all my personal belongings. Every year, I tend to skip over two shelves in the back of my closet. The thought of cleaning all the endless junk of failed dioramas from elementary school all the way to the newest addition, the Hy-Vee receipt that I found in my wallet from three days ago, made my head hurt more than a sprained ankle.

After years of my mom pestering and nagging me to clear it all up, I finally thought to myself that this was the year. This was the year I would plow through all the pieces of Butterfinger candy wrappers that I was too lazy to put into the trash and all the loose beads that have fallen off my Indian clothes over the years. I grabbed three heavy-duty trash bags, blasted my “Hype Up” playlist on Spotify, and got down to work. 

As I opened my closet door, I felt instant regret. I was defeated even before the task had started.

Nevertheless, I proceeded. I pulled my old movie ticket stubs, crumpled up pieces of paper with random math problems, and an assortment of different colored pencils and pens. But through all the miscellaneous junk, I stumbled upon my seventh-grade art projects.

I started to look at them for a bit. The longer I looked, the more memories came back. I saw my art teacher, Mrs. Castillo, demonstrating how to draw a flower on the SMART Board while I tried to recreate it with my unskilled hand. I heard my friend whisper about how cool the seventh-grade dance was going to be and how sparkly her dress was, and I smelled the pizza sticks in the cafeteria being cooked for all the hungry preteens in the upcoming period. 

I started to look more intently through the massive mess to find even more thrown away memories. Everything I grabbed had a different meaning, each item brought back moments of joy, sadness, regret, anger, and fulfillment. Stuff that I assumed was junk and trash turned out to be something meaningful and sacred. I found the first book that taught me how to read. I found my plans to throw the best birthday party which involved cotton candy covered clowns and puppy playpen. I found my kindergarten yearbook filled with people I had completely forgotten about. I found a shirt I had tie-dyed all by myself during summer camp. All these moments were right in front of me and I didn’t even notice. All the moments that I once thought were insignificant turned out to shape me the most. After an unsuccessful attempt at drawing in the seventh grade, I took several art classes in high school to help improve my ability. 

Most of my friendships in middle school and elementary school started to disappear once high school started. Having these moments to reminisce about those others helped me reconnect with so many intelligent and kindhearted people. Not only that, I learned so much about myself as well. I saw how much personal growth I had made in the last ten or so years. I saw all my mistakes and defeats which have helped me tremendously move forward in life. I learned micro-concepts like slowing down when you talk so that people can understand, but I also learned lifelong truths like trusting yourself before trusting others, being patient will lead to the best results, hard work is vital in any situation, and facing your fears isn’t as bad as it seems. 

It has been a couple of months since the shelves have been cleaned. However, the other day, as I subconsciously started to toss a straw wrapper to the back of my closet as I was too lazy to walk to the nearest trashcan, an epiphany hit me. I glimpsed at my two cleaned shelves and I was greeted with properly sorted middle school art projects, summer camp props, tacky participation awards, baby memorabilia, which reminded myself how much I have truly grown and how much progress I still need to make in order to become a more well-rounded person. I can’t wait to commence the journey of my next chapter!


Ishani Adidam is a high school senior who lives in Nebraska. She plans on studying medicine in college in order to tend to the underserved patients. In her free time, she loves to bake and cook various Indian foods to grow closer to her heritage and culture.

Back To The Future At School

Can schools safely reopen though the pandemic shows little sign of waning and educators stumble towards the first day of school in the absence of a clear cut strategy?

The answer is uncertain.

In early July President Trump demanded that schools “open quickly, beautifully, in the fall” for normal, in-person instruction.

The CDC responded with guidelines instructing school districts to build supportive community infrastructures to counter the onslaught of COVID-19 as schools reopened. They urged school officials to implement hygiene and social distancing practices and develop ‘proactive’ plans with health departments, parents and caregivers to deal with potential outbreaks.

A snapshot of the ‘new normal’ for K-12 schools.

Keeping active kindergartners apart; keeping their masks on; fewer students on school buses; limited class sizes; keeping staff safe; sanitizing; PPE; social distancing; online SATs; remote learning; iPads or computers for all.

For many schools, adjusting to the new normal would be a complicated and expensive endeavor.

School systems which struggled with pandemic restrictions would face even greater logistical and financial burdens meeting the new CDC requirements, leaving them with no other option than to continue with virtual classes moving forward.

President Trump tweeted his displeasure at the “very tough and expensive guidelines for opening schools,” and, under pressure, the CDC retracted its message, effectively relinquishing the decision making to school administrators. At the behest of the White House, the CDC emphasized the “importance of reopening America’s schools this fall,” and warned that extended school closures would “be harmful to children.”

This mixed messaging starkly reflects the reality that the CDC’s mission to reopen schools is at odds with the Trump administration’s intent to open at all odds, said Dan Domenech, Executive Director of the School Superintendents Association (AASA).

The Cost of Reopening

What is certain however, is that a safe return to in-person school comes with a hefty price tag – a whopping 200 billion dollars or more, or about $490 per K-12 student. At a panel discussion on how to safely reopen schools hosted by Ethnic Media Services on July 31, Domenech explained that the costs would cover laptops for students and an array of preventive measures that include sanitizers, masks, PPE and safe busing, before schools could consider opening their doors to staff and students. The expense would place an unprecedented financial burden on overstretched school district budgets in the next academic year.

So, a safe reopening would need a huge injection of federal funds (that the Council of Chief State School Officers projected would cost between $158.1 billion and $244.6 billion,) but the government is threatening to cut funds for schools that don’t fully reopen.

Many school districts cannot afford the expense, so policymakers at state and local levels are choosing to wait before making a decision on whether to reopen schools, based on assessments of COVID-19 threats in their region.

Is it safe to go back to school?

In a press briefing, the White House pushed the idea that the greater risk right now is to children’s learning, rather than to their health and wellbeing, announcing that, “We don’t think our children should be locked up at home with devastating consequences when it’s perfectly safe for them to go to school.”

Till recently, the common belief was that young children were not affected by COVID-19 and were unlikely to spread the virus. In fact the CDC reiterated that children pose no risks, stating that, “The best available evidence from countries that have opened schools indicates that COVID-19 poses low risks to school-aged children, at least in areas with low community transmission, and suggests that children are unlikely to be major drivers of the spread of the virus.”

However, new research from a pediatric hospital in Chicago that published its findings in JAMA, indicates that children carry high levels of the virus in their upper respiratory tracks and may efficiently spread infection by sneezing, coughing or shouting.

“In several countries where schools that have opened prematurely, such as Israel, we have seen a rise in cases,” said Pedro Noguera, Dean, USC Rossier School of Education.

As findings like these make parents and educators uncertain about reopening schools in a pandemic, it may be prudent for school districts to first assess the threat of COVID-19 infections in their area before making plans to send children back to school, suggested by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, in recent interviews with PBS and the Washington Post.

Inequities in K-12 Education

As schools juggle in-person classes versus online learning and hybrid models, some wealthy families are resolving their uncertainty by creating private learning pods or ‘micro-schools,’ with hired tutors to educate their children. It’s an arrangement that reflects the inequities experienced by less privileged students from special needs, disadvantaged and low income backgrounds. Without tutors or pods, and limited access to internet and laptops, these children are likely to fall further behind and “experience tremendous learning loss,” noted Noguera.

The current education crisis stems froma  lack of leadership, said Noguera, adding that “The real questions facing the US is when will leadership emerge that can provide the guidance that schools need on how to manage instruction…safely … and how to reopen appropriately, in a manner that does not place lives at risk.” He called on local and community leaders to step up in the interim. It will be up to local and community leaders to create innovative ways to deliver education and support children and families, in the short term, said Noguera.

Moving forward into the future will be challenging for schools because the scope of funding required to make changes is not forthcoming from the federal purse . Without adequate funding for health and safety measures in place, Noguera stated that school districts will have to contend with, for example, teacher unions who recently announced they will go on strike over unsafe conditions.

Eleven million children do not have the laptops they need for remote learning, said Domenech. So, even though technology offers valuable learning platforms, it can be a double edged sword, when teachers are ill prepared to use it effectively and students who have little or no access to technology lose out on their learning.

Schools will have to show teachers how to close the “digital divide,” advised Noguera, by training them “to use the technology to deliver meaningful instruction to kids.” But, whatever devices students use for learning, without access to reliable Internet and Wi-Fi, low income and disadvantaged students would face inequities of digital access, warned USC Professor Shaun R. Harper. In LA, school districts have invested in making screens and hotspots available within communities so children can access learning; but children in rural areas have even less connection and risk being left behind.

Noguera suggested that instead of trying to adapt curricula to cell phones, another option would be to go back to “old school approaches to education” using pencil and paper, adding that “they worked before technology, and could work again.”

“For now, whether our education looks like mini learning pods, pandemic pods, micro schools, or collaborative tutoring with college students….that’s still going to provide inequity in our educational system.” cautioned Eddie Valero, Supervisor for District 4, Tulare County Board of Supervisors. He was referring to economist Emily Oster’s prediction that clusters of home schooling families are going to happen everywhere regardless, and “that will create an economic divide.” 

Re-envisioning the future of schooling

Panelists offered several perspectives on when and how schools should reopen.

In working with school superintendents on reopening of schools based on CDC guidelines, said Domenech, the future could feature one of three options – the popular hybrid model, with students on weekly shifts between online learning and in-person classes seated 6 feet apart, total remote learning, or returning to school full-time as before.

However, the continuing rise in infections across the country means that most schools may open remotely. It may be possible for students to return to school only in areas where the rate of infection is below 5%, advised Noguera, suggesting that less risky, outdoor learning may be one way to address the problem. However, places experiencing a surge in cases such as the Imperial Valley in southern California, will have “to rely on community organizations like non-profits to support families and deliver education to children in concert with the school district,” he said.

Noguera’s view was echoed by Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, USC Associate Professor at the Brain and Creativity Institute and Rossier School of Education, who suggested tapping into the “huge cohort of college-ready high school graduates” and using their skills as a resource for tutoring younger students. Engaging young people as a ‘brigade  of community tutors” could help solve the shortage of people in teaching and learning, and give them a sense of purpose,” said Yang.

Professor Harper, who leads the USC Race and Equity Center warned that ‘raceless’ reopening policies from school districts  would “yield racially disparate outcomes”. He suggested that more consultation with communities of color was needed to “racialize input” into the K-12 reopening strategy. That would involve considerations like providing proper PPE, testing and contact tracing for essential workers in schools who are more likely to be employees of color and are disproportionately exposed to infection, as well as trauma and grief support  for staff and students of color, who are more likely to have experienced loss of a family or community member to the virus.

The panelists called on the private sector, specifically high tech companies and philanthropists, to step up and help avert the crisis.

Big tech firms like Amazon said Noguera, which have accumulated huge profits during the pandemic, have a responsibility to assist.

Harper described this timeframe as an opportunity for philanthropists and foundations who want to close racial equity gaps by helping finance “accessibility to learning pods for poorer students who cannot afford it.” There is also a role, he suggested, for nonprofits, youth organizations and college access providers to add to their agendas and recreate pod-like experiences for disadvantaged youth during the pandemic.

Schools are relying on Congress to pass funding that will get K-12 education back on track safely, and Domenech predicts that the majority of schools in America will start the school year with remote learning because, ‘in order to bring any children into school, dollars will be required.”

Valero closed out the discussion by inviting policymakers to re-envision what school should look like for the future by thinking “in creative ways that disrupt our everyday normalcy for something different,” but he urged, “honestly it begins with access, opportunity and fairness for all students.”

“We need to model our classrooms with our most struggling students in mind.”

Meera Kymal is a contributing editor at India Currents 

Image by Katherine Ab from Pixabay; Image by Bob Dmyt from Pixabay

Watching My Daughter Graduate At Home

It was supposed to be a momentous year. I was planning to throw a party. A graduation party. Friends, flowers, photos. Smiles, speeches, tears. A memorable day where I would watch my daughter walk across the stage, surrounded by her peers, basking in the cheers of their families. A communal celebration. A coming of age. A time to fly. A time to sigh.

From the time she was four, I had imagined this milestone moment of her college graduation. Almost twenty years ago, I had heard commentary by Baxter Black about his graduating daughter on National Public Radio. It began with a question. “Did you ever stop and think to yourself – this will be the last time?”

It was a brief monologue, simple and moving, in the way heartfelt words often are. I thought about his words for days, trying to remember the order of those short sentences, trying to grasp the genuine emotions they conveyed. Years later, Google helped me trace the transcript. 

I printed the words on an off-white sheet of paper with green trellis design, inserted it into a plastic sheet protector, and tucked it into a cardboard box. The box traveled from America to India, and then to Singapore. My job was to keep the paper safe until her graduation day. The idea was to hand the sheet to her; to ponder, to keep, to discard, just like all the words I had uttered her over the years. That was the plan.  

To paraphrase John Lennon, Covid-19 is what happens when you are busy making other plans. Instead of the class of 2020, my daughter’s graduating cohort will forever be referred to as the Covid-19 class. 

Without a public ceremony for graduation, there will be no visible marker of an event to signify an end and a beginning. For me, the end of the years of direct parenting; for her, a beginning that would require her to fly away with strong wings and a smile. 

The disappointment of not having a large in-person ceremony was not just hers. I was hoping to vicariously relive the memory of my own graduation that took place more than two decades ago. To temper my disappointment, I revisited commencement speeches that form an important part of the US graduation experience. 

Encapsulating the distilled wisdom of the lived experience of writers, entrepreneurs, and people of substance, each speech is a mini self-help book of sorts, a concentrated shot of a carefully fermented brew that could cause a palpable buzz if swallowed swiftly. Many popular speeches became books that could be handed out as graduation gifts containing words of advice to young people stepping into a world of possibilities. 

But what advice can you give this cohort of millennial youth who feel cheated of their moment in the spotlight? They were denied the chance to post envy-inducing photos of a champagne-popping, hat-tossing, party-hopping day on Instagram. More importantly, they were denied the chance to savor the last in-person class, the last in-class exam, the last time of simply hanging out around campus, and the last chance to say goodbye. 

In an ideal world, my daughter would have heard inspiring words from influential people. All she can do now is hang out with family members with whom she has been stuck at home for months. While I cannot provide her the chance to march across a stage, victorious in a cap and gown, the one thing I can do is dispense pearls of wisdom. After all, I have lived an interesting life. But, as she helpfully points out, I have been giving ‘lectures’ forever. Instead of applause, my monologues are usually met with eye rolls.

Even though I grudgingly agree, I am tempted to install some final pieces of programming code into her before she flies away.

“Uncertainty is inevitable. Doing something is more important than getting it right every time. Take all advice with a pinch of salt.’ 

But in this post-COVID world, I look back on my years of parenting and consider the futility of the insistence on helmets and seatbelts, at the constant attempt to ease my child’s path and smooth the bumps, and wonder if anything I have said can prepare her for a world that has literally turned on a dime.

Words, however, are not empty platitudes. They carry with them the weight of a person’s experience, and their value is proportional to your trust and respect for the person involved. 

There is much I want to say, but this is the time for action, not words. I once again read Baxter Black’s musings and notice for the first time that like me, he has more questions than answers. 

All I can do is mutely nod in response to his final question – “Where did she go, this little girl of mine?” 

Ranjani Rao is a scientist by training, writer by avocation, originally from Mumbai, a former resident of USA, and now lives in Singapore with her family. She is co-founder of Story Artisan Press and her books are available on Amazon. She is presently working on a memoir. Medium | Twitter | Facebook | Blog


This piece was first published here.

How We Come Together: Teen’s PPE Initiative

While young people are less likely to suffer the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, it is their responsibility to protect vulnerable, immunocompromised communities. And that’s precisely what Presentation High School student Mitthra Senthil is trying to do. After the transition to distance learning, it would have been easy for Mitthra to focus on the onslaught of AP exams, finals, and projects that are typical of any high school workload. Instead, she directed her passion for STEM towards addressing the current deficiency in medical supplies. 

The coronavirus outbreak has threatened the resources, staffing, and support available to medical facilities all over the Bay Area. To date, there have been 2,120 confirmed cases in our community — a number that can only be the lowest possible estimate. According to the Los Angeles Times, healthcare and sanitation workers are being forced to reuse N95 masks, thus endangering the lives of the individuals trying to protect ours. Although Gov. Newsom recently announced a large purchase of masks for the state of California, the reuse of medical gear runs rampant in some of the area’s largest facilities. And healthcare workers are not the only ones in desperate need of masks. Shelters, soup kitchens, and food banks in California struggle to accommodate the growing population of homeless individuals vulnerable to the virus. 

It is amid this environment that Mitthra Senthil used her STEM and sewing skills to make masks of her own. “The idea came to fruition when Mitthra’s mother was at a grocery store and a few of the workers and customers asked where they could buy their own masks because they didn’t have access to reusable masks to wear – especially when working. So, with her grandmother (who taught her how to sew), Mitthra contacted family friends at hospitals and had them send an approved template/design that would be effective for all users”, says a representative from Presentation High School. 

With the help of her family, Mitthra has distributed 100 cloth masks to local hospitals, and more than 150 to homeless shelters and the general public. Even better, these masks are available to all communities. “The cost of the masks ($3) is put directly toward the purchasing of supplies.” Although the future of the pandemic is nebulous, it is heartening to know that young people are using the wealth of resources and knowledge available to them to bring out the best in our humanity. Mitthra continues to make masks for the Bay Area. To request masks, you can email mitthrasenthil@gmail.com or place an order on her website. 

Kanchan Naik is a junior at the Quarry Lane School in Dublin, California. Aside from being the Youth Editor at India Currents, she is also the Editor-In-Chief of her school newspaper The Roar and the Teen Poet Laureate of Pleasanton.

The Bioma Project Brings Nature into the Classroom

As the climate change crisis threatens the world as we know it, it becomes the new generation’s responsibility to spread awareness and foster action. Large-scale organizations like UNICEF have been handing their social media handles to youth environmental activists. Half a million teen advocates have fought climate change by requesting government grants for their communities. According to the UNEP, 73% of surveyed youth from a global population say they feel the effects of climate change. Young people everywhere are demanding action — with and without access to the voting booth. It is amid this environment that Bay Area students are promoting environmental education through a national collaborative, the Bioma Project. With more than two thousand students and 40 supporting schools, the Bioma Project aims to “change the way young people think about the environment”. To find out more about what that entails, we had a chat with Raghav and Krishna, rising seniors from Monta Vista High School and co-founders of the project’s Cupertino chapter. 

What made you decide to start a chapter of the Bioma Project? 

Climate change, in the past few years, has become an increasingly prevalent issue in society. And there’s a good reason for it. The average global temperature has been steadily rising for the past 100 years, which in turn has risen sea levels, and increased the frequency of natural disasters like heat waves and flooding. But what’s worse is that the problem doesn’t seem to be going away. It’s worsening. And although there have been and still are a myriad of efforts directed towards raising awareness for climate change and pushing for legitimate change in society, we believed that there was something missing in our local community. There is an abundant amount of attention paid toward various sciences in the Bay Area(CS, Mathematics, etc.), but we were convinced that a larger emphasis on the environment and climate change awareness- specifically directed towards elementary and middle school students – in the Bay Area was something missing in our community. And we saw the Bioma Project as a valiant effort in promoting a positive change in our community. The Bioma Project maintains the belief that people can only care about a certain issue if they have been educated about it, which is why we direct our efforts towards younger students who will be forced to confront climate change in the coming years. Students, who are the generation that will have to face the brunt of climate change, should learn about the current state of our Earth, and what they can do to play a part in mitigating the disastrous effects that are currently scheduled to affect us. 

The Bioma Project’s website mentions how “students weren’t given the autonomy to run their own projects and enough field experience.” Could you elaborate on this concern, and how your chapter addresses the issue? 

Bill Tong, Founder of Bioma Project

Founded in Maryland by high school student Bill Tong, the program became popular and has been incorporated into forty schools in Maryland and is in the process of getting implemented into 3 classrooms here in the Bay Area. We offer two programs: one consists of placing a fish tank in a classroom and effectively constructing a stream water ecosystem in classrooms to allow students to understand various aspects of an ecosystem and understand more about the environment that surrounds us through a set of lesson plans; the second program consists of a lecture-style program in which teachers are provided an amalgam of presentations on different areas of the environment(such as an introduction to climate change, a presentation on fossil fuels, etc.) and activities that allow students to interactively learn more about our Earth. 

What kinds of activities are included in your program? 

Kid’s learning using the Bioma Project Model.

An example of an activity is a kid-friendly mining lab where students would have to “mine” chocolate chips out of a chocolate chip cookie without making a mess, which is used to simulate safe mining practices. We believe that by gradually introducing elementary and middle school students to fun activities like the one mentioned above induces learning and improves the reception of serious topics. Teachers have the option of choosing either program(or even both!), and we are willing to accommodate and customize lesson plans for teachers who prefer to incorporate the lesson plans differently. In addition, the lessons can be taught at the speed the teacher prefers to teach them at; each lesson plan spans between 15 to 45 minutes and teachers can allocate a fraction of their teaching time for the activities.

How has the coronavirus outbreak impacted your program? Will you continue your efforts virtually?  

Although the coronavirus pandemic has prevented us from expanding in the way we had envisioned, the Bioma Project has not stopped putting in an effort to reach a larger audience. We recently recruited few people in the Washington D.C metro area and Dallas, Texas to introduce this program to more students, and we are currently planning to create some form of a virtual continuation of the program in case school does not reopen next school year. In the meantime, we are continuing to email teachers in school districts all around the Bay Area to work out ways in which teachers can utilize the resources we provide to educate their students about the environment.

What advice can you give to other young teenagers who want to change the public’s perception of environmental science? 

 To any students or parents who are reading this and are interested in this program, we strongly encourage you to ask your teachers if they would be willing to dedicate a little amount of their time to teach their students about the environment and refer them to our website, https://www.biomaproject.org/ or email us at californiabioma@gmail.com. To any teacher interested in this program, we would love for you to visit our website, email us, and discuss how we could help you incorporate this program into your classroom.

Kanchan Naik is a junior at the Quarry Lane School in Dublin, California. Aside from being the Youth Editor at India Currents, she is also the Editor-in-Chief of her school newspaper The Roar and the Teen Poet Laureate of Pleasanton.