From UP villages to the US - Inspiring academic journeys of 7 students who beat all odds to live their dream

VidyaGyan, a rural leadership academy in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, is handpicking the most meritorious children from families with an annual income of less than Rs 1 lakh ($1800) per annum, and teaching them free-of-cost to bring them at par with their urban counterparts.

It is also one of the only academies to be successful in fulfilling international aspirations of rural children. Among many stories of success is that of Manvi's. She hails from a remote place called Bulandshahr in UP. Daughter of a daily wage earner and a VidyaGyan student, she secured admission in Wellesley College with a full financial aid of US$75,000 annually for four years. Wellesley College is ranked No. 3 National Liberal Arts College in the US. Incidentally, Wellesley College is the alma mater of Hillary Clinton.

Manvi was determined to carve out a path for herself and finish her education when most other girls from her village or the region dropped out of school in Grade 5 and were made to do odd jobs for contributing to family income. Since she joined VidyaGyan in Grade VI (VidyaGyan begins from class VI), Manvi has depicted exceptional grit and merit. She was the first student from Bulandshahr VidyaGyan to win the Kennedy Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Scholarship to the USA in 2014. She travelled to Minnesota to complete Grade XI, acting as a global citizen, determined to bridge the cultural gap between students from different countries of the world. She studied for a year at the Edison High School in Minnesota. After she came back to India to complete Grade XII, she was invited as a speaker at the recently concluded Global Citizen India Festival representing the potential of Indian village girls as future leaders.

Advertisement

At 18, she has shared the stage with Google’s India head, the UNDP country head and celebrities from Bollywood and spoke about her journey from a village to VidyaGyan and then Minnesota. Manvi aims to become a citizen of the world and represent her country and women from every developing nation across platforms which matter. She is not alone.

There are many such incredible achievements by VidyaGyan's second batch of students as they are moving to a distant land to chart paths their families and peers could have never imagined.

Here are six other students from VidyaGyan’s graduating batch of 2017 who have similar stories to tell:
{{}}

Sumit Kumar

Sumit Kumar

Sumit the son of a marginal farmer has secured admission at Penn State University to study Computer engineering. Determined and driven to succeed, Sumit is a programming enthusiast. He is also one of the first VidyaGyan students to start conducting special adult literacy classes in the nearby villages, helping hundreds of local villagers. Back home, Sumit has been instrumental in bringing about a sea change in the attitude of his fellow villagers towards education. Sumit has already developed some highly useful software for his school, including a Mess Feedback System, an Entry/Exit management system, Hostel Room Management and Library Management software. Sumit’s ultimate aim is to leverage technology to bridge the urban-rural education gaps in India.

Nischal Bhardwaj

Nischal Bhardwaj

Nischal, also son of a farmer, has made his way to the University of California, Davis to study psychology. Back in his village, Nischal organizes career counselling sessions for his peers in high school, to help them identify opportunities outside the village. He once met a psychiatrist in New Delhi who spoke about his recent research on disorders like Schizophrenia, their psycho-social origin and how psychological first aid works on such patients. It interested him, leading him to pursue psychology. He has written various articles highlighting the differences in student behavior inside and outside the classrooms. He has also been actively involved in researching the psychological effects of diabetes, a major disease affecting a large population in India.

Advertisement

Amrish Nayak

Amrish Nayak

Amrish is the son of a marginal farmer and has secured admission in Purdue University to study Mathematics. Growing up in a secluded village, Amrish battled the realities of caste discrimination. He believes that the only way to combat this discriminatory social structure is through education. Amrish admires the famous Indian mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan, and has already invested himself in research in the field of geometric progression of complex numbers. He aspires to become a professor of Mathematics and pursue his own research. Mentoring and teaching are his special interest areas and he has already launched adult literacy classes in the villages around his school, helping the locals attain functional literacy.

Himanshu

Himanshu

Himanshu’s father is a farmer and he will be pursuing his undergraduate studies in General Engineering at Virginia Tech. At 6 years of age, he was kidnapped by child traffickers, however he was rescued later. He has lived through the realities of social and religious exclusion and believes that only education can improve the condition of people belonging to the backward castes. He has also started conducting informal classes to help his peers from the village with their studies. He also guides them in understanding the opportunities that may be available to them after finishing school. Many of his friends, who had dropped out of school for odd jobs around the village are now inspired to finish their education. His fascination with technology stems from the belief that digitization can be a great leveler and can help the backward communities of rural India by providing them access to facilities like online markets, online classes, and knowledge sharing platforms. In the future, he wants to develop user-friendly softwares that might simplify the use of technology for people belonging to his region.

Advertisement

Darshan K Anand

Darshan K Anand

Darshan belongs to a joint family of seven and his father is a tailor. He has secured admission in Ohio State University to study Computer and information Security. Darshan had never stepped out of his village until the day he arrived at VidyaGyan. Today he is set to become the first one from his village to venture outside the country. Having never seen a computer or television, he vividly remembers the day he touched a computer for the first time. His computer teacher encouraged him to explore the machine saying, “Do whatever you want with it.” The teacher wanted him to explore and soon a fascinated Darshan mastered the basic concepts of creating graphics and making animation within a year. Indulging his passion for designing, Darshan created an Entry Exit System for the school using JAVA codes that is today used to maintain a database of all entries in the VidyaGyan campus at Sitapur. Along with two classmates, he also created the ‘Go Green Electronic Voting System’. Besides developing his own programs, he also mentors other students and helps them complete their computer projects. He wants to specialize in ethical hacking and work towards promoting greater information security and creating a paperless society.

Kunwar Rudra Pratap Singh

Kunwar Rudra Pratap Singh

Kunwar Rudra, whose father runs a small garments shop in their village, has secured admission in General Engineering at Virginia Tech. Rudra aspires to become a software developer and has already created a few innovative softwares for his school, including the ‘Library Management System’. Rudra loves Maths and Science and has excelled in several regional and national competitions. He was ranked first in his zone in both the International Mathematics Olympiad and the National Science Olympiad in 2014. He volunteers with an NGO near his village during vacations promoting education for adults and out-of-school children. Moreover, he has helped a lot of other younger students from the nearby villages to make it to VidyaGyan. He also teaches in the government schools close to VidyaGyan campus. He aspires to take the benefits of technology to the nooks and corners of India, with the help of user-friendly softwares created especially for the rural populace.

Advertisement