An enterprise for students by students
Please describe how your students exercised their leadership and the impact they had.
Disha Gautam comes from a very humble background. Her parents never went to school. She has two younger siblings who are both autistic. Despite all her circumstances, Disha is a true leader. Realizing her potential, she understands her role not just for her family, but also for her many friends in her class and community.
Disha's leadership journey started with her first attempt at reaching out to her classmate Harshit. Harshit has a learning disability and has dyslexic tendencies. This makes studying very difficult for Harshit. However, Disha saw this differently. She made it a point to patiently work with Harshit everyday after school and started teaching him fluency and math lessons. An year later, Harshit today is capable of writing letters to his teachers and friends. A feat that nobody imagined ever possible. This was just the start for Disha. She now conducts after school classes for her classmates and other children from her neighborhood. She regularly conducts values circles in the school and encourages her friends and other school mates to live by the different values they learn in their classrooms.
Disha periodically suffers from an eye disorder that causes severe boils to occur in her eyelids. This condition will normally deter any child from going to school and attending classes. However, Disha braves this situation very differently. She takes all precautions to keep her eyes safe during this time and attends classes. She says that by doing this, she will inspire her classmates to attend school as well.
As part of her leadership journey, Disha took up two Design for Change projects over the last year. Design for change is global initiative that invites students to take up pressing issues and find sustainable solutions for them. Disha saw the perfect opportunity in this to make an impact. In her first project, she mobilized her classmates into solving the problem of foul smell in their community. She divided the students in various groups and tasked them with different campaigns. She headed the paper bag making team, where they were able to make over 2000 paper bags which were distributed to the shopkeepers in the community. This project drew the attention of the local Member of the Parliament, who then supported this project by mobilizing the municipal body and initiated a cleanliness drive. She also started the project called "Adopt a class". In this project, Disha along with some of her friends, have taken the responsibility of primary grades like 2 and 3 and began teaching them english fluency and comprehension. These classrooms do not have adequate teachers to teach them. Thus, Disha now is able to use her break time and after school hours to teach the students of grade 3. Her leadership attributes reached a new height when the project was adjudged as the top 50 projects for the year and was invited to Amdavad, India to attend the final ceremony. However, Disha asked her team members to go in her stead as she wanted to share the joy of winning and make them feel as part of the whole project.
Disha's work has created a ripple effect in the community. At age 10, she had the courage to stand against her neighbors who were dumping garbage in front of their house. Her dedication, belief and pursuit of excellence has now started inspiring other students in the community to attend school regularly, help each other in studies, especially those who are weak and households have made it their priority to keep the streets and drains clean.
What role did you play in supporting your students’ leadership?
I am Disha's teacher. As a Teach for India fellows, I was able to bring a lot of different values and methods of learning in the classroom. I has always connected our classroom learning to the real world outside. Conducted empathy walks in the community, which inspired Disha to pursue her dreams. I have always provided guidance and support to Disha in her work.
What did you and your students learn in this activity that will endure beyond today?
I believe that this activity has brought out the values that I have always taught my students in the class. Values like grit, integrity, humility, respect, sense of possibility, confidence and empathy. I see these values being practiced by her in every thing that she does. I have learned that students have the ability to bring major change to the status quo and create an impact that lasts. Disha has already started her next project - A student enterprise challenge, where she is heading a group of students to run a business which will generate money that can be used to pay for the school fees of students who are unable to afford it. Her leadership journey has just begun.