The Leap team has been working tirelessly on an exciting summer program for students in Class X to Class XII (high school). The Propeller program offers students career guidance through three weeks of mentorship and experiential learning activities that develop soft and hard skills (from IT and communication skills to leadership and confidence).
(Propeller students sharing their ‘Life Trees’)
The aims of Propeller are threefold. The first is to give students the knowledge, guidance and decision making skills to achieve their career and life goals. This aim seeks to address the lack of preparation of high school students to pursue higher education programs, as highlighted in an article co-authored by Leap’s Founder and CEO Magha Aggarwal. This article explains that there is a lack of knowledge exhibited by high school students concerning potential higher education programs as well as a lack of preparation to make decisions about post-secondary life provided. During Propeller students meet with trainers one-on-one to discuss their goals, research programs they are enthused about, consider potential career paths and encourage them to be ambitious as they work towards their goals.
(Left: Trainers Niharika and Shruti participating in one of our Global Immersion activities! Right: Some of the trainers we get to work with and learn from during Propeller)
The second aim of Propeller is to encourage students’ curiousity about the world around them by introducing them to opportunities, technologies and experiences they may have never had or heard of before. As part of this component the interns from Penn are facilitating weekly Global Immersion sessions, which are about habit formation, technology and intercultural communication. Last week we conducted our very first session, which was a hit! Following experiential learning design methods we encouraged students to consider and explore the many ways they can collect information about the topics they are passionate about (whether it be subscribing to a NASA newsletter, exploring TEDtalks, staying current with local and global news or listening to intriguing podcasts). Student expressed great interest in discovering new ways to be pro-active about the information they consume. In fact, today one student walked into the classroom and immediately addressed a question to Leora about how he can be put in personal contact with the podcast creator he listened to over the weekend. The enthusiasm is fantastic. We then conducted activities to encourage students to think critically about how they spend and value their time (in hopes that time to pursue their interests would be found). The students shared a few ways they would continue exploring their interests with an ‘accountability buddy’ who would check up on them to see how their new good habits were progressing. Overall I think the students learned a lot about new facets of internet research and new resources they can tap in to and explore independently.
(Left: Abhishek’s ‘Life Tree.’ Right: Leora discovers how much time she spends watching TV and Eileen points to the time she scheduled for a nap)
The third aim of the program is to develop the soft skills that make students effective leaders. This is achieved using experiential learning methodology throughout all of activities, taking the students on field trips to different work environments and doing larger, more intensive team projects.
Although the program has been well conceived and a lot of energy has gone in to providing the students of Yamuna Nagar with a fantastic and much needed program it has not been as successful as Leap would have hoped in terms of enrollment numbers. I was confused by the disconnect between providing a needed program and the lack of interest or demand for it. The Leap team, however, seems less surprised than I. Because skills development is relatively new to the area as a educational model and experiential learning new as a pedagogy, it seems Leap spends a lot of time explaining what exactly their mission is to different stakeholders. Elucidating the existence of a skills gap is not difficult (there are many reports that make this clear). But, explaining Leap’s approach to combatting this gap is an ongoing battle even here in Yamuna Nagar, where their programs are well established and highly successful after only 2 years. The Propeller program also addresses educational gaps (career guidance, global immersion and soft skills training). My hope is that the Propeller program will excel in supporting student achievement with our current small group of participants, and that these success stories will encourage greater student participation in the future.
(Below: energizing, restaurant designing and icebreaker activities)