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Lokvani Talks To Anuradha Upneja

Ranjani Saigal

(This article is sponsored by Immigration Solutions)

Anuradha Upneja is currently a teacher of English as a Second Language at Cabot Elementary School and Director of the Ekal Youth Leaders program for the New England Chapter.  Previously she ran a Kumon Math and Reading Center in State College PA for over a decade. She is a passionate teacher and an avid volunteer in the community.  In State College, she was the chair of the annual Diwali festival for many years.  In 2013, after 17 years in Pennsylvania, she moved to Newton, MA.

She has a bachelor’s degree in economics and statistics and an MBA in marketing.  She lives in Newton, MA with her husband and two boys, both rising seniors, one in college and the second in high school.

She is currently the director of the Ekal Youth Leaders program. To learn more about the program, please send an email to aupneja@yahoo.com.

You have taken on the noble profession of being a teacher. What motivated you take up this profession? 

My teaching career started in State College, Pennsylvania, where I started a Kumon Center so that my children could get more training in mental math.  In the process, I found myself truly enjoying teaching the hundreds of children that came through the Kumon Program in my 11 years of running the center.  Now I am an ESL teacher in Newton school district, and I love working with kids as they learn the English language.

There is a lot of emphasis on STEM teaching. As a Math instructor at Kumon  what do you think we can do to inculcate interest in Math? 

I think interest can only truly be inculcated from within. When there are rewards, and math is seen as fun, students are far more likely to take interest and achieve flying colors. In regards to women in math, we need to get rid of the stigma that “girls are not good at math”. Math is for everyone, and getting rid of this stigma will increase accessibility and let more and more students reach their true potential.

What has been your greatest joy as a teacher? 

As a Kumon instructor, I loved seeing the bright, smiling faces of children when they understood concepts and said that they loved math.  
As an ESL teacher, the children that I see are initially very shy and nervous about speaking in public.  My greatest joy has been seeing these children grow and understand English so well that they enthusiastically socialize and communicate with their classmates. 

You have taken on the role of Director for the Ekal Youth Leaders Program. What motivated you to get involved with Ekal and take on this role? 

I joined Ekal because I found a group of people that were just as passionate about education as I was, and as importantly, they were passionate about spreading education to rural villages in India. I took on the role of Director for the Ekal Youth Leaders Program because I saw how passionate the youth were about Ekal, putting on Arangetrams and basketball tournaments to fundraise for the cause.  Some were even donating their pocket money, summer income and birthday gifts to Ekal and support education to rural India.  This touched my heart, and when Ranjini ji asked if I would lead this new program, I happily accepted. I felt that we should have a program where we can provide a support system to encourage these actions and help brainstorm new ideas as well, so that the kids can have help in planning their wonderfully creative events. 

Can you tell us about the program? Who can get involved? 

The Ekal Youth Leaders are a group of children ranging in age from elementary school to college. Every so often, we get together and brainstorm ways to help fundraise and publicize Ekal. The ideas that these youngsters bring to the table are really spectacular. From nationwide essay writing competitions to garbas, these kids think of them all. They are the future of America and the future of the Ekal Organization, and anyone who is in this age group can and should definitely get involved. 

Why should people get involved in the EYL program ? 

The EYL program is under the parent organization of Ekal which serves to spread the gift of education to kids in rural India. The youth group is especially amazing because it provides a community for these children to care for the cause.  This also keeps our kids connected to our roots in India.

Can you tell us about upcoming events?

We just ended the submissions for our national Ekal Poetry and Writing Competition! The winner is going to New York City in September to present their essay at the national conference.  We have one major event coming up on July 9th at Boston University called an Appathon.  Our Ekal Youth Leaders, who received a training session on how to create an app from the CEO of Thunkable, Arun Saigal, will lead this event. Kids will split into different teams and create their own apps, and at the end of the day, each team will get a chance to present their ideas. We really want to encourage all of the kids to come for this amazing experience!  For more information please contact Ayush Upneja at ayushupneja@gmail.com.

Any message for our readers?

The leadership, creativity, and generosity of the Ekal Youth Leaders of New England have taken the organization by storm. As parents we are proud of our children for taking up this noble cause.  We are touched by their kind hearts and know that the future of the organization is in good hands!.


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