No nation, no civilization can be built without its youth, for it is the kids in their teen years who go on to shape the future of a country or a civilization. Therefore it is vital that for the revival of Indic civilization, we reach out to our teenage kids, teach them about our culture and values, sensitize them about the issues we are facing, and prepare them for building a glorious future. Soumya Aggarwal is one such person who has taken upon herself this task of reaching out to teenagers with an Indic message.
Sowmya is the young and dynamic CEO of IGenPlus, a joint venture between Indic Academy and Gateway Foundation. She is immersed in a number of activities in the field of education and youth leadership. She serves as the executive director of Gateway Education – an affordable quality education campus in Delhi NCR. She is the curator of Families For Change at Vision India Foundation. For her efforts, she was awarded the ASEAN-Indo Youth Award 2019 by Ministry of External Affairs.
On behalf of IndiaFacts, I interviewed her regarding her work with the teenagers through brainchild IGenPlus. Here is an excerpt.
Namaste Soumya, thank you for agreeing for this interview. Let me straight away get to the point. Why IGenPlus? How was it conceived? What made you take this up?
Hello Nithin, thanks for inviting me for the interview.
Everything around us is changing with the advent of technology. From food delivery to book reading, every aspect of our life has been impacted. However, our education system is similar to what we had 100 years ago. Thus, IGenPlus.
When I started working in the education sector, I had two options: a) either I keep waiting for the government to make policy changes or b) start something that can create opportunities for young students. I decided to do the latter. Nithin, it is very simple. When you get inside any senior class in the school and talk to students. You will see them confused about careers, unaware about their purpose in life or following their peers.
I wanted to create opportunities for young students to be aware, informative and evolved to make their own decisions.
Also, when exponential innovations are creating ripples in society, it is essential that we introduce our students to the ancient wisdom and its relevance in the modern context. Topics like the strength of the institution of family, the importance of meditation, sensitivity towards the environment, nation-building should be introduced at the early stages of life.
I feel I found my purpose after spending my entire Brahmacharya Ashram in a delusion. This should not happen to other kids. Teenagers hold the future in their hands. We aspire to build next-generation thought-leaders through IGenPlus.
Why is your focus age group teenagers?
This age group is fragile and are looking for opportunities to use their energies. As I mentioned before, most of the students of this age group are delusional with the number of options/choices. It is crucial we give them clarity and a platform to utilize their strength for nation-building.
Last year you conducted your first Indic Teen Fest. Tell us more about the event and your experience in organizing it.
It started in 2017. I met Yogini Deshpande from Indic Academy at a conference and shared the idea of conducting Indic Teen Fest. She connected me with Hari Kiran ji and thus the journey of the first edition of ITF started. After three months of planning and three months of execution, Indic Teen Fest 2018 happened. Doing the fest was like giving shape to the start-up. The challenges were many and so was the excitement. We had to raise money, invite speakers, frame the fest to attract the teens of the 21st century and ensure value addition to all the stakeholders.
The three days witnessed everything on one platform. The days began with Tennis, Zumba, Yoga, Basketball and ended with Workshops on Madhubani Art, Odissi Dance, Flute and Hindustani Vocal by Spic Macay Artists. In between, sessions by Madhu Kishwar ji on Sexual Freedom and Responsibility, Luv Ranjan on Film-Making, Ramesh RB on Strategy and Concentration, Hindol Sengupta on Swami Vivekananda and Sanjeev Sanyal on Living Life As An Adventure added the right mix of knowledge, experience and learning for the young audience.
The glimpse of the last year’ fest can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COiPFJrgA8k
What challenges did you face while organizing it? What do you think is your biggest learning from the event?
One big challenge was to gain the trust of the schools and parents. Another challenge was to get the right set of sponsors and partners who would believe in the idea. One more task was to build the team from scratch and create a common vision.
As ITF was first such experiment, we wanted to ensure that it has a perfect balance of activities, workshops and fun. The entire journey had its own play of emotions. There were losses, risks and confusions but we were determined to do it. The entrepreneurial spirit on the battlefield is definitely the best weapon.
I read the concept note of IGenPlus and from what I understood, your organization is trying to instill Indian civilizational values among the young generation by reaching out to them in the format that they can easily relate to—through courses, competitions, etc. Can you elaborate more on your vision and mission? Do share about the three verticals- YogiPlus, DesignPlus, and ExponentialPlus?
Right! IGenPlus is about developing leadership in the teenagers by promoting Yogic Thinking, Design Thinking and Exponential Thinking. We aim to prepare students for life rather than educating them for a career.
Through YogiPlus we help the students to unbind the fullest potential of mind, body, and spirit. This will develop their personality with the focus on character, emotional growth and mindfulness. With us, students will not only define the purpose of life but also develop a sense of service, sustainable lifestyle, become culturally sensitive and inclusive.
Design thinking is the new buzz word but it is an inherent ability which can be nurtured. Through our curriculum in DesignPlus, students will go beyond memorizing facts and will learn meta-skills that amplify the mind power and make them more creative. This includes fields like intuition and creativity, conscious leadership, entrepreneurial skills, goal setting and more.
New innovations are giving birth to unexplored opportunities. ExponentialPlus will equip the teens with the skills to utilise them and will prepare for the needs of the future.
Through these three verticals, we enable our children to discover their aptitude and passion, build on their creative skills, expose them to eminent thought leaders, nurture them to become non-linear and trans-disciplinary thinkers and immerse them in cultural experiences. We train them to become inclusive, pluralistic and socially responsible leaders ready to deal with the challenges of the future. We see them with their future dreams fused with the universal principles and values from our ancient wisdom with contemporary insights.
I believe you would be conducting three Teen Festivals this year. Can you share more details about these events? Would they follow the same format as your event last year?
Yes! this year we are conducting three festivals in Delhi, Los Angeles and London. The objective of this fest is to give young students a chance to meet eminent personalities, interact with the best minds, discover their passion, and learn various professional and personal skills. It is designed to give the teenagers a holistic lifetime exposure, coupled with fun and entertainment.
It’s happening on 5th – 9th of June in Delhi, on 22nd June in LA, and on 15th September in London. Various volunteers are coordinating the fests in these locations. All these fests are following different formats depending on the local context. For example, in the USA, the focus is more on yoga, politics and mindfulness whereas, in London, we are covering topics like colonialism, globalization, and economy.
In Delhi, the format is different. It is for five days. With students reporting in the evening of the first day and checking out after breakfast on the 5th day. The delegates will be spending complete 3 days with us. The second day is focussed on YogiPlus wherein experts like Rakesh Godwani, Roopa Rai and Pervin Malhotra will bring clarity in life, identify their strengths and provide them with tools to use these strengths. It will make the kids more aware and confident about themselves. The third day will cover topics on new technologies and its potential, the future workforce, cybersecurity by the experts. The fourth day will have a session on alternate careers and workshop on creative skills like photography, toy-making, story-telling etc.
The highlight of this year’s fest is the business competition. All the delegates will be divided into small batches and they would work on an idea, pitch to the investors and incubate it at IGP. In addition to this, activities like horse riding, Zumba, basketball, cultural performances, the stand-up comedy will add to the fun.
Where do you see yourself and IGenPlus from 10 years from now?
I see myself chilling in the mountains with a hot cup of tea. haha.
We see IGenPlus as a global movement. We wish to work with young learners all over the world and build their capacities for yogic, creative and exponential leadership.
I want to grow younger as I become old. I have to always put myself in the shoes of teenagers so that I can understand them and know their aspirations, problems, and interests. This will enable me to think afresh and keep learning.
Featured Image: IGenPlus