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What were we doing when we were 15? or 17? Probably busy preparing for our board’s exams, taking tuitions, or secretly falling in love with those Mills & Boon’s characters?

Meet 17-year-old Avantika Mehra and Saakshi Kakar. Both of them are currently in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program at the Bombay International School (Grade 12).

When Avantika was 15, she gathered a team of web developers and designers, and together they built a crowdfunding website. A ‘Kickstarter’ for the college education. Their motto was Merit over Money. Students who couldn’t afford a college education could create their own profiles with academic information, test scores, and resumes. Potential donors could review profiles and choose to back students. However, they never launched the product because of multiple legal and operational concerns. However, that didn’t dampen her spirit.

avantika saakshi techstart

Avantika and Saakshi

Saakshi studied at the Cathedral and John Connon School before moving to BIS. She enjoys teaching and helping out, and have worked as an intern at a training firm named “Par Excellence”. She was also a part of the core team of “Attindriyam” – a dance production to raise funds for drought-stricken parts of Maharashtra. She has also volunteered with several philanthropic and cultural projects.

Techstart – An Attempt To Nurture Talent

Both accidentally came together for a project which was supposed to be just a one-time event.

My other friend and I made a movie for a competition based on social entrepreneurship. The workshop was about ‘making a social change’. We were unsure about executing it, but our teachers and the NGO were extremely encouraging. Last minute, my friend was unable to make it, so Saakshi volunteered to fill in. Between ACT exams and schoolwork, we managed to complete the workshop, with all the students building their own portfolios and completing the program.“, says Avantika.

techstart

They both conducted a two-week program, Techstart, at an NGO called Down To Earth (DTE), where they taught students how to code in HTML and CSS. The purpose of Techstart was to empower students with skills, such as knowledge in the area of web design and development, that would differentiate them from their competitors when applying for jobs and internships.

Down To Earth (DTE), the NGO was started in 2007. DTE begins teaching children when they are 8 years old right up until graduation, or till they are 21. These children are from humble backgrounds of the society.

DTE has been associated with our school for over two years now. Students from our school can volunteer to teach the younger children from DTE for two hours each week as part of a community service program, so we just asked our teacher to connect us to the founder of the NGO for a summer project and we took it from there.

techstart

After a few classes with the students, we found that they were extremely bright. They remembered facts and details with exceptional accuracy. It was the concepts, however, that they had trouble with. We realized this was because, prior to this workshop, they’d had limited exposure to technology“, says an enthusiastic Avantika.

Shortly after the program, Avantika released a mini-textbook, Web Design and Development, which built on the coursework, so students can continue learning.

After receiving an amazing response, several people from the social and tech community reached out to them. It is with their support and encouragement that Avantika and Saakshi now decided to conduct two more Techstart programs with two different NGOs, this time with a developer at the Mozilla Learning Network.

The Next Step

Having established that, Techstart is now a long-term project, it is our mission to reach out to NGOs across Mumbai and cultivate skills in students that will give them an advantage over competitors when applying for jobs and internships in today’s increasingly technology-oriented world.

We believe that these students should have continued access to computers. While they were all thrilled at the prospect of building their own websites and creating for themselves an online presence, all the students had their own relationships with technology: one loved to make movies and was fascinated with iMovie. Another was extraordinarily good at creating Powerpoint presentations. A third wanted to master Excel. 

We want to give them the opportunity to follow their passion. We want to raise enough to give this NGO an adequate number of computers so each student can become proficient in his area of interest, and acquire the skills that will ensure success in today’s technology-oriented world.

techstart

These two teenagers want the students to have a continued interaction with computers and continue discovering technology. So they started a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to buy laptops, computers and other devices (eg: printers, projectors etc) that will facilitate learning through technology.

We wish these two young inspiring girls more and more good luck to successfully continue their work for the needy.

How You Can Help

For Avantika, Techstart is a way to bring the startup back to life in a more effective, practical context. And not many youngsters at this age think of doing something so meaningful. But when we find someone doing so, we must inspire them with all we can.

If you’re in Mumbai and interested in donating your old but working devices like Laptops & Desktops, and iPads, you may contact techstartmumbai@gmail.com.

Because every device counts for them.

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