“I’m the president of a couple of clubs at my school,” says Arun Bajaj, “ and let me tell you, it is a lot easier managing a group of my peers than a group of 40 young kids!” 17 year-old Arun, a senior at Saratoga High School, volunteered at the India Community Center’s summer camp program last summer as a camp counselor. The program offers teens a chance to learn managerial and leadership skills while mentoring young kids and establishing a connection with Indian culture and their Indian roots.
Now the program has been expanded to include a weekly leadership program during the school year. Over 8 weekends, participants learn project planning, elements of entrepreneurship, public speaking and political advocacy. With distinguished members of the community invited for lectures, it is a tremendous opportunity for kids not only to learn the valuable skills they will need in their future careers, it is also an opportunity to network and establish connections with the movers and shakers of Silicon Valley.
Karan Suri agrees. “I think the once a week program is a great idea,” he says enthusiastically.” Karan, a senior at Los Altos High, has been volunteering at the summer camp program since he was a freshman. “I brought my drum set and taught the kids the elements of drumming. Another counselor who was good at drawing helped the kids design their own comic books.” Thanks to his experience, Karan is eligible to be a camp director this year. In his senior position, he would plan schedules, hire instructors and develop the curriculum for some of the camps, an invaluable training in managerial responsibilities. “I am grateful for the opportunity to meet people in business and develop my leadership skills,” he says.
One interesting element of the new expanded program is the individual project, where participants would have to work with seniors to develop “oral histories”. It is a fascinating way for the kids to get in touch with their own roots and feel a part of the long historic Indian tradition.
The program, which starts on the 8th of March, culminates in June with 2 half-days training for the summer camp responsibilities. In addition, the teens have to commit to 2 weeks in the summer as camp counselors – the whole exercise has been leading up to this responsibility. The cost, given the amount of learning the camp offers, is a negligible $150.
Given the popularity of the summer camp program in recent years, the spots are likely to fill up fast. Parents, if you’ve been looking for a program for your teen which satisfies the 100-hour community service requirement for school while reconnecting your child to his/her Indian heritage, this is it. More details about the program can be found at the revamped ICC site here. The program is open to kids in the 10th through 12th grades.