Jul 1, 2016

The results are in...

Part of AIC's standard 10 crew
Part of AIC's standard 10 crew

...and the AIC kids have done us proud!

Earlier this month, AIC students and staff logged into an online portal with breathless anticipation to check the results of standard 10 board exams. For those unfamiliar with the Indian education system, board exams are secondary school completion exams that are taken after grade 10. The scores from these exams are extremely important in determining eligibility for junior college, university, and other higher education opportunities, hence we take them pretty seriously here at AIC.  

AIC's first student took the 10th standard board exams in 2009 and subsequently became the first member of the Waghri community to have completed secondary school. Since 2009, over 30 more AIC children have taken and passed their 10th standard board exams!

This year was our biggest test yet, however, with a total of 21 Residential and Education Program children appearing for the standard 10 board exams. Of these 13 girls and 8 boys, many are struggling with extremely challenging circumstances. Two of the girls are former child brides (one widowed, one fled her husband); one had given birth to her second child less than two months prior to the start of exams. Another student's father broke his back resulting in paralysis shortly before exams started. Another student had just barely hung in school all year (having already had a disrupted education and dropping out previously) as her family is not supportive of education and community members scorn educated girls. Still another student's mother fought breast cancer this year and this student was forced to miss many days of school because her father is deceased and she had to stay by her mother's side in the hospital instead of attending school. These are the day-to-day realities that AIC's students go home to at night, and AIC staff work valiently alongside them to provide the support necessary to give them a fighting chance at success.

Hence it was with some trepidation that the staff and students logged in to check the results of the exams, but we soon realized that we didn't need to be worried: 20 of our 21 students passed their exams and are now secondary school graduates! Most impressively, too, this year's group achieved the three highest scores in AIC's history.

We are so proud of these hardworking students, and of our dedicated teaching and counseling staff who went above and beyond to ensure their success. Finally, these achievements wouldn't have been possible without the support of so many generous donors and well-wishers, and for that we thank YOU as well. We look forward to sharing more updates about our new high school graduates' upcoming college and employment journeys in the days to come!

Boys
Boys
Girls
Girls
Hard at work!
Hard at work!
Mar 29, 2016

Spinning Stories and Expanding Minds

Paper hats!
Paper hats!

Last week, AIC students were fortunate to have very special storytelling sessions with Arati Phadke from Story Kingdom. In Arati's words, "stories do not just develop children’s literacy, they also convey values, beliefs, attitudes and social norms. Stories help the children to connect, relate, learn, experience and transform." We at AIC are always looking for fun, engaging methods to help our children experience the world in different ways while developing core literacy and communication skills, so this was completely up our alley!

Arati decided to run two different sessions to maximize the number of children who could participate, and at each session proceeded to deftly handle large groups of excited children brimming with anticipation. Her stories included a tale about the king of the jungle and a rain drop for the pre-primary students and a Japanese folk tale as well as a story about the origin of Holi rooted in Indian mythology for the older students. Each story entailed activities and props (puppets, origami) to capture the children's attention and reinforce the story's meaning and message.

Education Program Director, Bunty, raved about how "body language, voice modulation and use of props like puppets made the sessions very interesting" and was excited that the AIC teaching staff had also gained valuable skills and tips from the sessions that they will put to use in their classrooms on a daily basis. Pre-Primary section lead teacher, Barnali, also reiterated what a great learning experience the workshops were for the teaching staff, and how storytelling is a timeless method of allowing children to learn while having fun.  

What a fun day! Thank you, Arati, for the magical stories, and thank you to all of our supporters who help us keep the AIC Education Program running so that we can continue to facilitate amazing experiences like this for our little ones.

Puppets
Puppets
Entranced by the stories
Entranced by the stories
Making hats
Making hats
Lots of happy AIC children :)
Lots of happy AIC children :)
Jan 4, 2016

Invaluable skills for their futures

College intern Neha practicing with the camera
College intern Neha practicing with the camera

This year, in an effort to expand our impact and provide vital exposure to a workplace environment for our ever-growing group of college students, we at AIC launched an internship initiative within our own Education Program.

This initiative, which provides a handful of paid internship opportunities available to AIC's college students, exposed the students to the fundamentals of job readiness from the get-go by requiring them to go through a formal interview process with AIC managerial staff (even though we have known these students for years - interview practice never hurts!), after which several were selected to fill the spots.

AIC students have not spent much time (if any) in formal job environments before and often do not have parents who can model the types of workplace behaviors necessary for career success. Thus the goal of the internship program is to inculcate values and behaviors such as:

  • timeliness
  • meeting expectations
  • communication skills (especially in English)
  • computer literacy skills
  • professionalism
  • following guidance and accepting feedback

Additionally, the internship provide our students with formal job experience to list on their resumes when they go on to pursue future job opportunities, which, in an extremely competitive job market like India's is of paramount importance.

Neha, one of AIC's recent junior college graduates, who is currently enrolled in the first year of her Bachelors of Commerce program at a local university, spends three hours every afternoon assisting with administrative tasks at AIC's Education Outreach Program. This includes tracking student attendance, data entry, general recordkeeping, conveying messages to parents, and providing hands-on support during special events. She has also dabbled in taking photos and helping at AIC's Mother-Baby classes.

Of her internship experience, Neha says, "I have learned so much! I am now being exposed to an English-speaking work environment and Chethana didi [Program Coordinator] taught me how to send e-mails." When asked about the difference she feels as an intern versus a student at AIC, she replied, "There is a sense of responsibility. I feel more involved. In the past, if I saw kids arguing, I would feel like, 'ok, there is nothing I can do about it.' But now I make an effort to mediate and help our kids when they have problems. It feels good to be on the other side now."

Another student, Pooja, who was one of the Education Program's first twelve girls back in 2006, assists with accounting tasks (filing, creating vouchers, etc), and provides classroom support for one of AIC's standard 5 classes. About her responsibilities, Pooja jokes, "Oh, it is fun - I am here mainly to tame Pappu [a particularly spirited child in her class]! I will do anything for AIC. It is my second home."

Not only do our students start to understand how they can take charge of the futures of their own communities, gaining vital skills and exposure while also feeling empowered to give back. They also earn a competitive monthly stipend while providing valuable support and assistance as new members of our on-site team. It's truly a win-win situation and we are so excited to continue to expand our college student intern program for students from AIC's marginalized communities as we head into 2016!

Checking records
Checking records
Assisting with accounting tasks
Assisting with accounting tasks
Paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork!
Paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork!
Neha is so proud of her emailing skills
Neha is so proud of her emailing skills
 
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