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Fostering Education Needs In India
Vasu Reddy from Chicago
Education is helps people make better and informed decisions. To help the under privileged, to educate them and foster their development is one of the noblest causes we can undertake. In India and other developing countries money is a primary barrier to education. A number of Indian organizations in the USA provide resources and scholarships to the needy students in India and one such organization is North South Foundation www.northsouth.org, from Burr Ridge, Illinois. Dr. Ratnam Chitturi is the founder of North South Foundation (“NSF”). The foundation was established in 1989 and continues to grow every year with its devotion and contributions to India’s needy students. NSF was started in the US and BREAD (Basic Research, Education, and Development) in India, both in the year 1989. In 2004 the foundation has 45 chapters in the USA and 17 chapters in India, while also adding the NSF name to its work in India. NSF is awarding 350 scholarships in the year 2004, and plans to increase this to 500 scholarships in year 2005.
“Our Mission is to promote excellence in human endeavor, to develop human resources in areas that have the most potential in improving the lot of the common man, to help people achieve a full and enriched life regardless of religion, gender, caste, or geographic origin, and to give hope to those who may have none”.
Dr. and Mrs. Chitturi are relentless in promoting the foundation activities, and volunteers run the entire foundation. Donors can donate to specific causes or programs of their choice and the distribution of funds is accorded per the wishes of the donors. For example, you can sponsor a scholarship to a specific student or a school of your choice and NSF with your help or with local help from India volunteers will coordinate the grant and monitor the progress of the students. This easily facilitates individuals from the burden of managing their largesse, and provides an excellent platform for education giving. No compensation is paid to volunteers in helping with the foundation activities.
North South Foundation provides college scholarships in India to children who excel academically among the poor families. The scholarship distribution process is very systematic and closely monitored by the coordinators in India. Most centers in India have retired professionals and prominent individuals supervising the process and following the guidelines. The process and financials are open for review to volunteers and donors.
The foundation also conducts educational contests in the US are designed to encourage excellence among the Indian American children and prepare them to enter into better colleges. Over the years, NSF children have demonstrated superior academic performance and many have managed to enter into the top ranking schools such as Harvard, MIT, and Stanford. Some of the NSF children have achieved top ranks in the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee.
Spelling and Vocabulary contests for youth in USA were launched in 1993. The preliminary selection for National Merit Scholarships is solely based on a student's PSAT score. In this test, 67% weight is given to English and 33% to Math. SAT scores assume great significance as one of the most important selection criteria in college admissions. In an effort to encourage children to excel in English early on, the Foundation has embarked on nationwide spelling and vocabulary contests.
The contests are conducted every year in two steps. First, children participate in a regional contest, conducted in various states throughout USA. Winners of the regional contests are invited to participate in the National Finals. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners from each contest are awarded scholarships of $1,000, $500, and $250 respectively, redeemable in the winners' freshman year of college.
The Spelling bee is open to children of Indian origin who are of age 12 and younger. Younger children are encouraged to participate, on equal basis, solely with the aim of familiarizing them with the contest. The eligibility age is calculated as of August 31st of each year. The spelling bee is split into Junior and Senior based on age.
The Vocabulary contest is a word-meaning contest (in multiple-choice format) open to children of Indian origin who are of age 17 and younger. Younger children are encouraged to participate on an equal basis. This contest is especially designed to focus students' attention on the PSAT and SAT exams. Typical words from these exams are used in the contest. From the year 2003, the vocabulary contest has been split into Junior and Senior based on age.
NSF Math Bee is a nation-wide competition among the children of Indian American community. It is aimed at nurturing mathematical skills among children attending pre-K thru grade 10, in a challenging environment. The regional NSF Math Bee is being piloted for the first time in 2004 at select centers. The national finals of the Math Bee will be held in conjunction with the Spelling Bee/Vocabulary Bee/Brain Bee finals.
NSF Founder’s Message
In an interview published on the NSF website with Raj Ranade and Dr. Chitturi, I quote the following as his message to the readers:
Raj Ranade: What message do you have for the children in the Indian Community in the US today? Also, what message do you have for the volunteers in the NSF?
Dr. Chitturi: Our children have a great future in this country. Technology is making the globe small, by shrinking time and space. Future will bring innumerable innovations, which will create more opportunities for better life. I have lots of suggestions for children. 1) First, believe in yourself. There is nothing you cannot do in this world. 2) Think big. Set high goals. There are no real limits to what you can do. 3) There are no shortcuts to success. Work hard. Give your best in whatever you do. You need focus and single-pointed effort in achieving your goals. Avoid diversions and distractions. 4) Know your own capabilities and limitations. Each child has a unique makeup with different sets of strengths and weaknesses. Avoid the trap of getting into too many things, but master of none. It is better to do fewer things, but do them well. 5) Don’t worry too much about the outcome. Focus on your efforts, not on the outcome. Learn to accept whatever may be the outcome. Take failures with the same ease as you do with your successes. Don’t complain or make excuses. Learn from failures and move on. 6) Be your self. Don’t try to be like somebody or be concerned what others think of you. Do what you think is right. Don’t yield to peer pressure. Avoid the temptation that you have to do the “in thing.” 7) Our society gives you too many choices in life. Sometimes, this can be a challenge or trap. Don’t be indecisive. Make a quick decision based on sound reasoning and move on. If it turns out to be wrong, correct it promptly. 8) Help the less fortunate in this world by raising money and contributing your time. Sharing and caring will give you a wonderful feeling in your heart and make you a better person. 9) Take criticism positively. This is the best way to improve your-self. If you really disagree with the criticism, don’t be defensive, but engage in a discussion based on reason, not emotions. If you don’t succeed, deflect it and move on. A sense of humor helps in such situations. 10) Be happy. Greet people when you meet. Smile. Both happiness and smile are contagious. This makes your day more pleasant. 11) An agitated mind is hazardous to your progress. Act quickly to restore your peace of mind. Look at a glass as half-full, not as half-empty. This will make your day go a lot faster. 12) Learn to be self-reliant, rather than dependent on others. This applies to even chores like washing your clothes or making a sandwich. 13) Be a team player. Great things are achieved through group efforts. Sports are good example. Give and take is critical in team building. 14) Listen to your conscience. Know right from wrong. Respect others for what they are. Be truthful to yourself as well as to others. 16) Time is the most precious commodity. Use it wisely. Have a good discipline on how you spend your time. 17) Nature is rich. Learn to enjoy nature, like sunrise, sunset, stars, bird watching, and greenery around you. 18) Life is a journey with a series of roads, intersections, and breaks. Effort is the drive. Success or failure is an event, like the break in a journey. Enjoy the drive, as they say, “going there is half the fun.” Many times, the journey takes much longer than the event itself. 19) Focus on things you can control, instead of things not in your control. For example, effort is in your control, and outcome is not. Give your best on the former and ignore worries on the latter. 20) Write a diary. This will focus your mind on your accomplishments and help you in reaching your goals.
To volunteers - 1) Focus on the cause, which you feel deeply in your heart. For example, helping an underprivileged child in India is a noble cause. This will give you motivation, commitment, and self-satisfaction. 2) Take initiative to do things. In other words, take the bull by the horn. Don’t wait for others to call you. 3) If you are gainfully employed, be generous and give until it hurts. Multiply this amount through your employer’s matching gift program, if available. 4) Give your time until it hurts for raising funds and other activities. Even small contributions can add up. For example, in a walk-a-thon, if you get 20 people to give $10 each, it will add up to $200, which will support a child in college for a full year. You can get friends, neighbors, relatives, and office workers to sponsor. Even teachers in schools can be approached for a donation. Besides fundraising, there are a lot of other activities in which the Foundation needs support. 5) Spread word by talking to others. Volunteerism is contagious. You will meet new people, and make new friends. Through networking, you can help both the Foundation and yourself. 6) Enjoy what you do. Give your best and make a difference in someone’s life. In India, we have the adage, “Seva to Man is Seva to God.” Leave a legacy behind.
Office: North South Foundation, 2 Marissa Ct, Burr Ridge, IL 60527
Board of Directors of NSF USA
Dr. Ratnam Chitturi, President
I met with Dr. And Mrs. Ratnam Chitturi twice in the last month. Both of them were very gracious in speaking of their efforts and providing me with information. This column is derived from their reports and website. Please support them and any causes that help foster education.
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