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Sunday Conversation with Sravya Ambadipudi

High school student learned value of education while teaching English in India

The two weeks that 17-year-old Sravya Ambadipudi recently spent teaching English to children in Allampally, a rural village in India, has her thinking a lot about her own life in Johns Creek. “Going there really made me realize that we have everything that someone would possibly wish for and yet we still want more,” says Sravya, a senior at Northview High School. By contrast, the students she taught in India were grateful for everything they had. “Being with these kids who are so appreciative made me want to be more like them,” Sravya says. She learned something else about herself. She could actually survive without technology for two whole weeks.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

A: I take art classes at school and am part of a club called Jewels for Jewels. We make and sell jewelry and the profits go to the Nepal Education Fund, a charity to support children in Nepal. I want to be a doctor.

Q: How did you hear about this opportunity to teach English in India?

A: I volunteer a lot. I was doing service and the volunteers were talking about this rural village that used to not have a school. I wanted to see how people’s lives had changed after the school was built. My parents are from India and my dad was cool with the idea of me going. I went through VT Seva, which is a nonprofit.

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Q: Were you nervous about going by yourself?

A: It was my first time flying alone so that was a little scary. I didn’t know what to expect. I got there and the kids were the most amazing kids on the entire planet.

Q: How so?

A: The amount of love and appreciation and regard that they showed me from the minute I arrived was overwhelming, in a good way. All of the kids are really sweet. They had such a genuine respect for their teachers, which was nice and refreshing and not always the case here. Their discipline and dedication to education were really inspiring. The kids were always eager to learn, more so than I have ever seen in my entire school life. If you had something to teach them, they wanted to learn.

Q: What was it like being treated with so much respect?

A: They called me madam. It was really weird in the beginning but I grew accustomed to it. And I showed them respect, too.

Q: Were you a good teacher?

A: The kids said I was. I feel like I got better as time went along because I understood the kids more.

Q: Talk about a few of the kids.

A: Tulisi was 11 and more on the mischievous side. He liked to pull pranks but was a genuinely nice kid. Kartarsingh, who was 13, was really bright. He would sit in the very back and put his head on his desk. He was really shy and I guess scared. Toward the end of my time, he would raise his hand and started talking more. I thought that was really cool. All of the kids were very intelligent.

Q: What did you learn?

A: They gave me a whole new perspective. Here, we are always afraid. Are our grades good enough? Are we going to get into college? In the village, the kids were accustomed to being happy by doing the best they can. I feel like their passion for learning motivated me as well.

Q: Did you cry when you left?

A: I was about to then Tulisi said, “You shouldn’t cry when you leave because that would mean that someone hurt you. You should just cry on the bus and I will cry after you leave.” I held it together as much as I could. After I came home, the first thing I told my parents was that the next time we go to India, I am going to the village and spending time with the kids.

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