The Modern Story

Ending & Beginning

This past week was our final one working with our TMS Boston scholars in the Computer Clubhouse at the South Boston Boys and Girls Club. On Monday and Thursday, we held our final classes of the workshop, and on Friday we hosted our finale showcase, where our scholars had the opportunity to share their completed “Where I’m From” digital stories with their fellow Club member peers, with Club staff and administrators, and, most importantly, with their family members who were able to attend the showcase.


Our scholars spent the final two classes in post-production, working with Fellows and interns on taking their digital content and editing and organizing it all into a final product in iMovie. After reviewing each others’ draft versions of their digital stories, scholars provided each other with feedback on how they could improve their stories. All of the scholars’ agreed that their stories could benefit from more scholar-produced imagery, and so we worked together as a TMS team (scholars and Fellows and interns alike) to take photos and videos, with everyone rotating the responsibility of being the camera operator or the director or an actor. Once these last acts of production were finished, scholars focused the rest of their class time (as well as some of their free time outside of class) in post-production. Fellows and interns worked with scholars to help them learn the intricacies of iMovie, and slowly but surely each scholar’s digital story came together. By the end of class on Thursday, our scholars had completed their “Where I’m From” digital stories, and were ready to share them with the world.


The next day was the finale showcase, and each scholar arrived early for TMS class. It was evident to all of us that they were both excited and somewhat nervous to share their digital stories. We had each scholar cue up their digital story on separate iMacs on different tables in the middle of the Computer Clubhouse. We discussed how scholars should introduce their stories, and encouraged them to share with their audience about the process they went through in making their digital stories as well as what they learned in doing so.


At 3:00 pm, one scholar’s father and another scholar’s grandmother arrived right on time for the showcase. We explained to them that they could view their scholar’s and the other scholars’ stories at that time, but that we would wait for more audience members to arrive in order to share all of the stories at once. Thus, in the meantime, we would encourage visitors to view scholars’ stories in a “gallery walk” fashion at their leisure. The scholar whose grandmother had arrived first wanted to wait for his father to be present to show his story, and so his grandmother graciously respected his wish and waited. Over time, some Club members and staff filtered into the Computer Clubhouse and rotated to each scholar’s table and watched their digital story with them. Our scholars did a great job of explaining the genesis of their stories and the process they went through in making them. By around 3:45 pm, we reach a critical mass of audience members in the room, including South Boston Boys and Girls Club leadership and the father of the scholar who was anxiously awaiting his arrival. At that time, I asked for everyone’s attention and welcomed them to our TMS finale showcase. I explained what TMS does as an organization, as well as what our scholars did over the course of our workshop. Then, each scholar was presented with a certificate by a Fellow or intern who had worked closely with them on their digital story. And finally we held a mass viewing of each scholar’s digital story.


The last story to be shown was that of the scholar who had his grandmom and his father in attendance. I could tell that he was both excited and anxious to show his story. Even I was somewhat anxious, as I knew that the scholar shared some very personal things about his family, and his dad in particular, in his story. What made me slightly nervous was when the scholar speaks about his father’s occupation as an electrician, and how his father has always pushed his son to do something “more than” being an electrician. The scholar speaks eloquently and powerfully about how his father and mother want what is best for him, and want him to succeed, and don’t want him to struggle in the same manner that they have had to struggle at times to provide for themselves and their family. I was slightly nervous because you can never truly tell how someone who is not completely familiar with digital storytelling will react when part of their story is being told by a loved one. I watched the family as they and the rest of the audience watch the digital story. From the very beginning, the scholar was sitting in a seat in front of the computer, and his father stood behind him with his hands on his son’s shoulders, while the scholar’s grandmom stood to their side. All three of them watched and listened intently throughout the story. When it came to an end, amidst the applause of the audience, the scholar looks up at his dad who was looking down at him. He told his son that he was proud of him and that he loved him, and he gave him a kiss on his forehead.


After the applause died and the crowd dispersed, the scholar took his father and grandmom into the media room to show them how he mad made his digital story. As he did so, I watched from afar. I was proud of him for telling his truth, and happy for him that he got to share it with his family that cares about so much, and who obviously love him beyond my ability to comprehend. I was proud of my scholars, each of whom had opened themselves up and given their all to their digital stories and to each other. I was proud of Franklin, Nicole, and Sam, and all the hard work they had put into guiding and supporting our scholars. I was proud of TMS, as much a movement as it is an organization, and one that has amplified the voices of youth near and far.


But what I felt more viscerally than any other emotion was a simple but powerful awe. Awe at the stories of our scholars. Awe at the power of their stories. Awe at the power of storytelling – to create, to connect, to liberate.


And awe at the fact that while this moment was in many ways an ending, it was also a beginning.


And for that, I am beyond grateful.


Ever onward.


– Rich


Intern, Sam’s reflections on the experience of working with The Modern Story:

Since TMS was essentially my first job working with kids, it really taught me about the challenges and numerous benefits of this practice. It taught me that to work with kids you must put yourself out there and although that is difficult at points, you will see results and wonderful relationships form as a result. The Modern Story aims to get children to see themselves and their world through a different lens that they may not always have the opportunity to use. During my time with TMS I saw that this ability lies within all of the children we worked with and they simply needed someone to hand them the tools to express it. 



Where I’m From

A "Where I'm From" script draftThe first two weeks of our TMS Boston workshop have been an exciting and engaging experience for Fellows and scholars alike. Our first class focused on introducing ourselves to each other, as well as introducing our scholars to digital storytelling. After an initial icebreaker and a brief discussion about Community Code – how we would treat each other and, ultimately, create a safe space for us to share out stories with each other during our TMS classes – I shared my “Where I’m From” digital story. In planning the workshop, the other Fellows and I decided to encourage the scholars to create their own “Where I’m From” digital stories as a result of the high level of interest expressed by the Boys and Girls Club members when we showed them “Where I’m From” digital stories created by TMS Newark (NJ) Scholars during our recruiting efforts for the TMS Boston workshop. The members became noticeably energized and inquisitive when we followed the “Where I’m From” digital stories with a selection of those made by TMS Hyderabad scholars and informed them that the digital stories they would make in our TMS Boston workshop would provide them with the opportunity to share about themselves, their community, and their culture with TMS scholars in India and beyond. Based on their enthusiasm and interest, we decided to model our own digital stories in this manner.


I was admittedly nervous about sharing my digital story, as it is the first one I’ve ever made, and it addresses some very personal experiences and issues that mean a great deal to me. Most importantly, I hoped that my digital story would serve as a good example and even an inspiration to the Scholars in their envisioning of their own stories that they would be telling. To my relief and delight, as soon as my story finished, everyone in the classroom started clapping immediately, and I knew from that moment onward that we would be able to accomplish great things within such a supportive community of digital storytellers.


One of our Fellow interns, Sam, showed her digital story after mine, and she too received a rousing ovation from the scholars.

After viewing both digital stories, we discussed the common themes between both of them, as well as the different images and Sam and I had used to tell our story. The scholars then brainstormed a list of images they would potentially use in their own “Where I’m From” digital stories and shared them with each other. Since it was their first time sharing with each other, some of the scholars were a bit timid, but once the “sharing juices” got flowing, those who were quiet began to participate, and we got to see how many great ideas were percolating amongst our eager scholars.


The rest of the first class was devoted to discussing general storytelling principles and practices, what digital storytelling is and what are the elements that go into making a digital story, and what type of digital stories the scholars would be making as new members of TMS. We ultimately ran out of time by the end of the first class due to th fact that the discussions we were engaging in had every scholar participating and contributing their ideas and opinions. The energy level was high, every scholar was engaged with each topic, and the scholars would build off of each others’ ideas while showing an impressive respect for each other and our collective space. My fellow TMS Fellow, Franklin, as well as the Fellow interns, Sam and Nicole, came away from the first class very impressed by ur scholars and energized for the classes to come.


The second, third, and fourth classes served to ease the scholars into the digital storytelling process, with the goal of having them draft their scripts during the second class, complete their scripts and storyboards in the third class, and actively producing audio and visual content in classes 3 and 4 during the second week. After Nicole shared her “Where I’m From” story at the beginning of class 2, scholars shared about a personal object that reminded them of where they’re from that we asked them to speak about with their peers.

This served as a good segue to sharing the TMS Newark scholars’ digital stories as an example of what our scholars could do with their own “Where I’m From” stories. After viewing these videos, scholars spent the remaining time brainstorming ideas for their stories and turning their ideas into scripts. Class 3 had scholars finishing their scripts and turning them into storyboards. Fellows and interns worked with scholars to adapt their ideas into scripts and storyboards that worked best for each individual scholar’s style. For example, one scholar expressed himself best verbally, and so Nicole decided that it would be best to ask him the brainstorming questions we had prepared for the scholars and to record his responses. In doing so, the scholar produced an impressive amount of audio narration content that they then worked together to cut down into more manageable pieces that could be edited into the final digital story. Two other scholars preferred to write short poems in the mold of the TMS Newark scholars, and so Sam and Franklin helped them complete their scripts and storyboards in a manner that supported their vision and complemented their skills. Class 4 had Fellows teaching scholars about audio (voiceovers and sounds) and visual (photos and videos) production using our digital cameras. After putting the finishing touches on their scripts and storyboards (their “text” content), scholars began creating their audio and visual content. They recorded their voiceovers, took photos, and researched images online that matched their text content. Scholars also began working on iMovie on the Boys and Girls Club’s iMacs in their Computer Clubhouse media room with support from Fellows and interns alike.

At the end of two weeks of TMS classes, and with only one more week to go, I find myself beyond inspired by our scholars and my peers. We are all working together to bring our stories to life, and in doing so, we are learning about each other and ourselves. It strikes me that this is the point. This is the reason we are doing what we are doing. This is why TMS does what it does. This is why I wanted to serve as a fellow. Because I believe we all have a great to deal share with and to learn from others, and that such elemental acts of reciprocity and respect are the primary means by which we may change our lives, our communities, and our world for the better. I am grateful for this experience, for my colleagues, and for my scholars. And I look forward to our final classes together.

Meet Rich

We are all scholars. This is what I tell the students, families, and educators whom I’ve served as a scholar myself. We all have knowledge of value to share with one another, and we all have the capacity both to learn and to teach. It is only by engaging each other as scholars – to learn as we teach, and to teach as we learn – that we can begin to access the innumerable learning networks that surround us. I believe that there is never a time nor a place that we are not learning, and as such I’ve always been in “school,” and I’ve always been a scholar.

My first teacher was my mother. Not because her profession deemed her so – as she has always been a teacher, and a great one at that – but rather because of her approach to how she raised me. The places she brought me and the experiences to which she exposed me were all focused on my development as a learner. Whether it was reading to me every day, or her encouragement of my love for Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers, or our frequent trips to parks and the local library, I learned from an early age that learning was not a compartmentalized practice within this act called “living,” but rather the essential element of life itself.

For as long as I can remember, stories have been my favorite form of learning. As a child, some of my most cherished memories are of my mother and father and teachers reading stories to me, and the best gifts I received were the books that transported me to far-away lands and introduced me to amazing characters and cultures. As an adult, I regularly immerse myself in all manner of storytelling, from novels to short stories to to documentary films to op-eds to interviews to simple stories told by elders at the kitchen table or over an evening fire.

I first joined TMS not as a Teaching Fellow, but as an ally who shared a vision for developing transformative models for community-based education. Having served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Zambia and as a community school director in West Philadelphia, I was immediately drawn to the work of The Modern Story and the stories of its students when I first met Remy and Piya in 2013. As I got to know TMS’ founders and as I gradually educated myself about digital storytelling, I couldn’t resist my growing desire to play a role in helping The Modern Story grow and evolve so that it can serve children like my scholars at Wilson Community School in West Philly, and my families in Katukutu village in Central Province, Zambia.

So, having spent the past year and a half working on various strategic planning projects, I now face my most challenging TMS role yet – to do the work that is most important and serve as a TMS Teaching Fellow. Over the course of the month of July, I have the great responsibility and incredible opportunity to work with TMS scholars in the Computer Clubhouse at the South Boston Boys and Girls Club. We will be learning about digital storytelling, watching and discussing the digital stories of TMS scholars from Hyderabad, India and other communities around the world, and creating our own personal digital stories. With that in mind, I am proud to share the first digital story I’ve ever made. I’d like to dedicate it to my family, my friends, my teachers, and my scholars. In so many ways, there are all but one in the same. Because we are all scholars, and I am because we are.

The Day That Hyderabad Stood Still

Ask any of us fellows to describe Hyderabad, and inevitably one of the adjectives will be “chaotic.” Hyderabad is notorious even among Indians for its complete lack of traffic etiquette, in which everyone from the pedestrians to busses to cows thinks they have complete jurisdiction over the road. Walking, biking, and driving as though everyone should get out of your way is not a choice, but the only means to survive in the gnarly traffic congestion. Aside from the traffic, the city’s diverse population offers different languages, religions, and cuisine on every corner. In our schools, cramped classrooms, and constant festival interruptions can also foster a sense of chaos while teaching. Combined, it is a lot for the brain to handle, but rest assured it is never boring. Which is why we have all come to love it.

But that all changed for one day this week. On Tuesday, Rachel and I decided to run an errand. We had class off due to a government-mandated holiday, but different holidays and festivals pop up quite often so we didn’t think much of it. Then we actually walked outside.

Our normally bustling street was entirely deserted. Not a single auto, car, motorbike, or even a stray dog in sight. There were one or two people walking silently, alone, down the block and a man at a nearby samosa stand quietly frying his snacks, but that was it—Hyderabad had shut down. As we walked to the main road, the silence and lack of traffic persisted, and became almost creepy. We made it to the main four-lane road that usually teems with traffic, but on Tuesday we could have walked down the middle of the avenue safely for miles. We quickly realized the errand wasn’t going to happen.

The reason for this shut down was a massive survey of Telangana. It was sort of like a census, but with more economic implications—government workers asked for things like bank account numbers and property owned. It was both to take measure of how many people qualified for welfare programs, but also to fully understand who makes up the state of Telangana and what they need. For the newest state in India, taking note of these statistics will be key to making the state successful in the future.

But in the meantime, students and teachers are especially feeling the growing pains. One of my principals said he feels the current group of students may become a “lost generation” as their schooling may end up riddled with assessments and surveys to better understand how to improve Telangana’s literacy rates and school systems. As Andhra Pradesh and Telangana grapple with dividing electricity between two separate states, frequent power cuts darken classrooms and cut into any digital learning efforts. Teachers are also being tasked with many of these extra efforts. While Rachel and I were able to at least go home and continue lesson planning, teachers at both my schools were appointed to conduct the survey because they are government workers. This meant taking precious days off to knock on citizens’ doors and ensure they had given their information to the government.

Though these steps are necessary for the greater good of the state and students and India, it made me think about how we ensure students learn, even while we search for solutions to education’s issues.

Here in India, being as consistent as possible has been key. Even though the last month has been riddled with holidays, interruptions, and festivals, whenever we show up to class students seem increasingly confident that we aren’t going to let their sometimes helter-skelter schedules get in the way of making films. Talking about it is good too—both with teachers and students. Teachers appreciate a well-deserved sympathetic ear and students are eager to talk about their festival celebrations. Other than that, the basics of being a good teacher apply: be as enthusiastic as possible, encourage thoughts outside of class, convince the students to be as hungry for TMS class as possible—a task not too difficult given they get to take photos and videos most days. Even after a two-week break from Railway Girl’s School due to holidays and an Independence Day celebration, I was so impressed that students jumped right back into their project without missing a beat.

I also think this has implications in the United States, where education reform is a divisive topic. Right now public education is being tested, prodded, and examined from every possible angle by activists, politicians, and business owners. Think about the methods we are trying out as solutions: Common Core, charter schools, Teach for America. Will they work? Many are gambling students’ only education in hopes that these programs make a difference.  Who’s to say we may look back one day at kids who are currently in class and call them the “lost generation” of students in the US?

It used to be that thinking about the attempted solutions in the US gave me more worry than hope. I still remain skeptical about most solutions, especially when they come from business-backed initiatives or claim to solve the problems of underserved districts by closing public schools. But being an educator has actually given me faith in one area of education: teachers. If teachers can create a sense of excitement passion and about learning that extends beyond the classroom, students will thrive even if a charter school ends up shutting down or assessments don’t provide conclusive results.

I’m still getting to that point in my own teaching, but I do feel that TMS has curriculum and projects that bring out intrinsic motivation that can carry with students for the rest of their lives. Critical thinking, creativity, and the ability to visually convey ideas far outlast any power cut or missed class. The key anywhere in the world, to me it seems, is supporting teachers that bring that out in their students, regardless of the policy solution of the day.

Meet Karis

When you’re young, you’re likely to have big dreams. Mine were pretty much as big as you can imagine. From year to year I decided I was destined to be a professional soccer player, a fashion designer, a CEO, and even a dolphin trainer. However, throughout all of these ambitious career choices, I kept doing one thing, just because I loved it: storytelling. I made newspapers for my friends, classes, and family starting at age seven, and started taking photos daily when I was 12. Finally one day I wised up and realized that I should probably think about doing what I did everyday anyway for a living. So I decided to become a professional storyteller, or as I usually call it, a journalist.

That dream has become a reality in some of the most incredible ways. I’ve reported for major newspapers and radio stations, and traveled to every corner of cities and around the world in the search for a story. To me, storytelling is the best way to make sense of your life, explore a new place, and interact with others. If you can put a human face on an issue or explain a complicated idea in a simple way, oftentimes you have made sense of it yourself and you can convince people to make a difference in the world. I’m motivated by action, and I’ve found a notebook and camera is the best way for me to spur action in the world. Storytelling was also the only way that I dealt with some tough issues in my life. Growing up, especially when you’re young, can be quite challenging. Asking questions, writing down thoughts, and expressing yourself in words and pictures is one of the best ways to explain your feelings and show the world the importance of your story. With that in mind, while I did journalism on my own, I also volunteered and worked with students to help them tell the stories of their communities and their lives in order to empower the next generation of storytellers.
So when a friend sent me information about The Modern Story, I knew it was the perfect opportunity for me. I’m so excited to travel to a new place, meet new people, learn about Hyderabad (and India), and instill a love of storytelling in more young people. Though it will be quite a bit hotter than my current home, Minnesota, I’m ready and absolutely thrilled to brave the temperatures and travel to Hyderabad to work with The Modern Story and its partners.

Meet Dara

Last summer I heard the story of Cho, a Tibetan refugee, who walked by nightfall for two months to India from a Chinese-occupied Tibet. I was studying abroad in northern India and this service project, a simple language and culture exchange, was meant to serve as an integration method to help prepare us for living in a nearby village. However, for me, hearing his story had a profound impact. Cho told me: “Please tell others my story. I want others to know”. I remember wishing that I had the tools and the proper platforms to get his story out into the world, and not just my small connections to it.

Before I met Cho I understood how important personal storytelling and digital media could be in personal development. While living in New York City I volunteered to teach digital photography to inner-city junior high students. The transformation that occurred was stunning to watch – my students became more confident, it gave them a changed perspective on their world, and it excited them to learn more. It created passion. After meeting Cho I decided that I wanted to do more service for youth, and to help them find their voice in our ever-changing world.

This passion for service also propelled my interest in global education. Following university I moved to Kumasi, Ghana to work for an American NGO where I ran peer mentoring programs in rural villages. I spent seven months there working within the school systems, learning Twi, traveling West Africa, and hearing people’s stories. It was during this time that I learned about The Modern Story Fellowship, and knew that this would be the perfect next step for me to explore additional educational systems, listen to more people’s stories, and to also return to a country that I love.

I think that global education is an ongoing dialogue; it bridges cultural and religious gaps to achieve learning and understanding. I love teaching because I love being a part of that dialogue, and because I never want to stop learning about the world. I am so excited to be a part of The Modern Story, and for this new adventure!


A Hello from Emily

My name is Emily Kwong and I am thrilled to be a 2012 fellow with The Modern Story (TMS). In a world saturated by policies and percentages, The Modern Story valorizes the human voice—the human story—and empowers it to speak loudly and largely. Through student-created photo essays and micro-documentaries, it puts the powers of representation directly in the hands of a young person. It’s a toolbox that behaves like a megaphone, giving them the digital equipment and soft knowledge to share their words, thoughts, and feelings with each other, with their community, with the world. Go watch one of TMS’s 100+ videos on Vimeo. Try the news bulletin about child trafficking, the report about traffic congestion, or the spoken word proclaiming, “I am from the moon, from dilkush and butterscotch ice cream.” See what I mean?

In this way, TMS never purports to “give youth a voice,” but to turn up the volume of their voice. It was this singular, but crucial distinction that attracted me to The Modern Story in the first place. Now, writing this on the plane from London to Mumbai, there aren’t enough adjectives to convey the admiration I have for The Modern Story, the surplus of feeling I feel to be a part of this organization, and my excitement to work with the 2012 TMS class, all 8th and 9th grade students at government schools in Hyderabad, India.

I graduated a little less than a month ago with a B.A. degree and more questions than answers. Through my interdisciplinary curriculum in Anthropology and Human Rights, I become interested in ethnographic writing and the dissemination of personal narrative as rallying point for social change. Those four years were rich in exploration, with forays into print journalism, radio work, oral history and digital heritage work, youth media, and creative, project-based learning as a method of education. I researched digital heritage while studying abroad in South Africa, taught briefly at a youth media academy in inner city Hartford, CT, and interned at an education non-profit that explored global themes through art and media projects.

Were I to draw a Venn diagram with that generous, idealistic faith of a post-grad, these many interests and experiences share in common a desire to lend credence to small yet significant personal stories, undocumented in popular telling, but deserving of being heard. It comes from the value my family has always placed upon listening wholeheartedly to others. The more I learned about The Modern Story, the more its ideology corresponded with these deeply-rooted personal values, strumming the chords of my own belief that people needed stories to survive. It is an ancient phenomenon, an impulse that has sprung up spontaneously in all cultures across time and space. Only the need to nourish, rest, and breathe can claim the same level of vitality. Scientific research is beginning to support what advertisers, authors, and Aristotle have long known. Readers of fiction are revealed to be far more empathetic and socially aware than non-readers. Hooked up to an MRI and shown images of human faces, their hippocampus (that part of the brain dedicated to emotional response) lights up like a firefly. The more I come to understand the science and artistry of storytelling, the more I appreciate its power. For better or for worse, dramatic social change can be affected by one well-told story.

With any hope, we at The Modern Story can inform, inspire, and entertain you with compelling digital stories 100% created, produced, and edited by our students. Keep checking in for profiles of students, their fantastic multimedia work, lessons about teaching, and stories about storytelling. For now, thank you for reading and leave a comment. What’s your favorite story to tell? To hear? To read?

Meet Emily from The Modern Story on Vimeo.

Spoken Word Poetry. Our girls deliver!

The Modern Story students at the Railway Girls School have been busy with the creative aspects of their film. As a teacher in this program, I wanted to ensure that the girls voices’ and stories are given ample time for growth and expression. As digital video curriculum programs elsewhere acknowledge, the largest amount of time spent for a video project should be on the creative aspects. Our girls can write. Their humor, strength and absolutely adorable mischief shows through in their first set of spoken word poems dealing with women empowerment.

We will soon be facing the giant challenge of tackling limited working computers, viruses, power outages, and short class time precluding sufficient post production editing. However, with these strong poems and beautiful videos I am confident that The Modern Story is already succeeding in bringing these girls’ voices to the fore of their community as they reflect on local issues that are felt across the globe. This has been an immensely rewarding experience so far and I hope others get to share in the project’s goals and activities in the future.

Check out the video below.


Also, for those interested, friends of ours at The Cairo Human Rights Film Festival, run by Dalia Ziada are about to launch their exciting series of events. Check them out if you are in the area:

Google Career Panel at Railway School

It is a pleasure to announce that The Modern Story has recently teamed up with Google Hyderabad in an effort to provide TMS students with career counseling and valuable mentorship opportunities. Since Google is a such a respected and well-reputed global company, and since its employees are known to be some of the most promising, sharp and ambitious young professionals out there, we thought it highly inspirational for our students to meet Googlers personally and have the chance to chat with them about educational and professional issues that are affecting them, as they are about to finish secondary school and embark on a more specific course of study.

The first event which brought Google and TMS together was a career panel we organized at the Railway Girls High School on Friday, and the success that it had truly surpassed our expectations! The career panel consisted of 5 Google employees and was attended by more than 100 students. The Googlers represented a variety of backgrounds (some foreign, some Indian; some from a social sciences background, some engineers by profession) and worked in different departments at Google. In planning the event, we specifically aimed to have this diversity, so that the students can learn about different career pathways and get to hear about more diverse professional and educational experiences. And indeed, one of the main ideas that emerged from the career panel, and that was reiterated both by the panelists and by the school teachers and headmistress, was that it doesn’t even matter that much what you choose to study, as long as you are hard-working and ambitious and do well in your chosen course of study.

After a brief introduction from all the panelists, they went on to discuss their experiences in school, and the factors that weighed in on the process of deciding on a career path. Some questions addressed to them by the moderators, Marie and Lee Anne, were “What was your ambition when you were young?”, “What is the most important career advice that you ever received?”, “How has your education shaped who you are today?”, and even “Did you ever get into trouble at school?”

The panelists discussed their experiences using very personal and powerful stories, and the girls found it easy to relate to them and quickly joined the discussion by coming on stage and asking questions. We were all so pleased to see how comfortable they felt in the presence of the guests, and how confident they spoke on the microphone! Their questions, however, revealed the lack of information concerning higher education and professional development, but also showed the girls’ ambition and desire to do service to the communities. Many of the questions were about opportunities to do social work or help out a certain sector of the society; a lot of students also asked about life in college, and the type of education offered at higher levels; while others simply sought advice on how to overcome the nervous feelings they get before exams, or how to better balance all the subjects they are interested in.

The principal conclusions that emerged from the discussion concerned the importance of continuing one’s education, and of following one’s passion and drive. The panelists also emphasized the idea that it’s okay to not know exactly what you want to do at this age, but that this confusion should not prevent them from following through with their education.

It was so encouraging to see the girls break out of their shyness and interact with these young professionals, and hearing their passionate questions, and the determination in their voice, I felt so immensely proud of them. And then I look over to the back and my students are standing behind the tripod, with headphones on, filming the entire event. Mounika, the camera operator, catches my glance and gives me a smile and a thumbs-up. Tell me, how can I not be proud?

Thank you once again to the wonderful Google panelists, Marie, Lee Anne, Basanth, Ipshita and Archie! Thank you for your time, your passion and your warmth- your words have left a mark, in more ways than one.

For photos of the event, check out our Flickr page and Lee Anne’s pictures as well!



Islam and India: Student writings on world faiths and recent floods


The boys pose in front of their mosque nearest their boarding school

I asked the students to write about a special memory they had. Munna, a student whose group project was on religion, misinterpreted the assignment and wrote to me: Religion is like memory (for) anyone who cannot see with his eyes, he sees with his mind.


A temple near The Modern Story's fellows' apartment in Abids

When asked, ‘If there was one thing you would change about the world,’ Krrish responded: I would convert the whole world to Islam. I asked him what he would do if he met someone who believed in a different religion and did not want to be converted. He said, ‘I would respect him. But I would tell him how he was living was wrong.’ In response, Krrish will be exploring how the diversity of religions in India relates to him by working on fictional conversations, a dialogue, that he would imagine to take place between himself and people of different faiths that he meets. His responses reminded me a lot of the delicate discussions I took part in with World Faith in Lebanon following the 2006 war. Arbani, an energetic small 9th grader, will be exploring religion through a graphic novel he is working on. He is a visually oriented student who cannot wait to draw and is always sketching something in his notebook. He will be exploring religious tensions in his community, Hyderabad, and India through a series of illustrated stories that I hope to be posting soon.

Near APRS Boys boarding school in Nalgonda outside Hyderabad, India

A Hindu temple near the Muslim APRS Boys school

Another student, Khasim, wrote a poem about the afternoon sunlight near the mosque where he prays:

Afternoon comes
it goes
to the river to ride on buffaloes
to the big animals
and enjoys them all
This way the afternoon, like a crow, enjoys the whole day.

Both religion and issues related to health including dengue, malaria and the recent floods seem to be issues that concern the students on a daily basis. Nadeem, for example, wrote about those Indians that have had to deal with the heavy rains this summer:

Mud in our homes
Mud in our beds
Mud in our bones
Where do we eat.
Where do we sleep.

Sajjid, a student that has a lot of experience with cameras and has been patiently waiting his turn to show his skills, wrote the following about the floods in Andhra Pasha.

There is a man
in the water
in the (midst) of his poverty
floating on the flood
There is a man
by the water
eating all the money.

Osmania Hospital in Hyderabad, India

One theme students will be exploring this semester is health. This is a photo of one of Hyderabad's most famous hospitals: Osmania

Arshan had one of the most poignant insights into the crossroads between religion and the floods in Andhra Pasha in his letter to the Chief Minister:

“Look at how the people are before the flood. Look at how they collect money to help. People go to the Mosque, the Temple, the Church and they all come away with money to give to people of the flood.”