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My Journey with the Kids Starter Program - Rutuja Bhoite

I began interning with The Circle in June 2022 and have continued working with them because I simply love what I do.

For the first three months, I facilitated sessions with students from Grade 4 to Grade 9 in Mumbai and Pune. These sessions focused on reimagining schools and how children play a vital role in making changes happen in their schools. I vividly remember my first session in a Grade 5 classroom in Pune. I walked in unsure if I would be able to conduct an hour-long session with them and if they would enjoy the activities I had planned. However, I was surprised by how easily I could connect with the learners with the help of my lesson plan. Over the next two months, I visited and conducted sessions at multiple schools.

My most important takeaway from that experience was that dialogue with learners is crucial to effect change in schools. Some kids were content with their schools simply because they lacked exposure to other amazing schools.

During those two months, I spent a lot of time interacting with children and found myself gaining deeper clarity around my work every time they asked me why I did what I did. Through my work, I hoped they believed that they could be change-makers and realise that there are people out there who are willing to help them achieve their dreams.

Reflecting on the experiences I had with these kids, I'm not entirely sure how much impact those one-time, one-hour sessions had on them. However, what I do know, is that they learned that schools are not meant to restrict them to exams but instead should educate and prepare them to face the real world.

All of the children I met inspired me to think about kids' agency and how we can support them in making these changes happen. More importantly, we need to find ways to increase their exposure to different aspects of education in India and around the world.

I was inspired by The Circle's five-week signature Starter Program and I decided to adapt it and create a version for young people across India. With the help of Aarshiya Didi, I was able to recruit facilitators, redesign the program, and run recruitment campaigns with high schoolers who were eager to start rebuilding and reinventing schools.

The Kids' Starter Program started in December and ran until February. I closely worked with a group of 10 kids from various parts of India. We explored multiple aspects of redesigning schools, with a focus on helping them believe in their abilities to create small changes in their schools.

Throughout the Kids' Starter Program, I learned immensely about the importance of community. We formed a WhatsApp group with all the participants and ensured they had the space to ask questions, share ideas about their challenges (assignments), and connect with one another.

By the end of the program, I felt I knew each of them so well, and it felt like we had formed a community of student leaders! All of them were bursting with beautiful and inspiring ideas about the kind of schools they wished to reinvent.

Rutuja Bhoite is an undergraduate student from Pune who is double majoring in Economics & International Relations at Lake Forest College. She is a TFI student Alumni and went to UWC Thailand for her high school. She has been interning with the Circle since June of 2022 and has worked with the team on a variety of projects.

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