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Nishi is an Edgemont HS student who is changing lives and making a positive difference.
STUDENTS DOING GREAT THINGS FOR OTHERS: EDGEMONT HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT NISHI UPPULURI
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Can children from all over the nation be taught in a fun way online? Can they learn to actually enjoy writing? Can writing be taught with technology? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding YES!
In September 2020, Nishi Uppuluri, a then high school junior at Edgemont Jr/Sr High School, began a Zoom writing class, Pything4All, for her local community. Prior to starting this program, she, along with some of her peers, ran a series of virtual playgroups known as E-Playz in order to provide young children in Greenburgh with social interaction and entertainment during the pandemic. During E-Playz, the instructors noticed that many of the participants enjoyed writing creative stories and partaking in writing games. The program was a hit with both the children and their parents alike, and at its conclusion in mid-August 2020, many of the families were left wanting more. This prompted Nishi to start Pything4All, a free organization run by high school students that helps children improve their writing skills in a fun way.
A unique characteristic of Pything4All is that the teachers not only assess the students’ work using their writing abilities, but they also use Artificial Intelligence (AI). The AI tool utilized is similar to Grammarly, except it is geared more towards young children. The main benefits of this tool are that it is efficient, accurate, and most of all, does a strong job giving children individualized comments on where they can improve specific aspects of their writing.
Since last September, the organization has been able to expand from ten students in the Greenburgh area to ninety students from different locations nationwide - most prominently, a Bhutanese-Nepalese refugee group located in Reynoldsburg, OH. In order to keep up with the rapidly increasing enrollment numbers and keep the organization running smoothly, a total of seventeen highschoolers and middle schoolers from NY, PA, and OH volunteer to teach classes, do outreach, and work on other administrative tasks.
Three of the main volunteers, known as board members, are Saumya Sawant, and Mekhala and Meghana Mantravadi. Saumya, the first volunteer for Pything4All, is the chief of communications, a role which entails communicating with the participants and their parents on class requirements and responding to emails from interested participants. Mekhala is the chief of technology, where she oversees Zoom operations and designs flyers and websites for the organization, and Meghana is the treasurer and the leader of Pything4All’s summer programs.
Pything4All operates on Zoom year-round. During the school year, classes occur every week for an hour in twelve-week sessions. Before each session begins, all the students are tested on their writing abilities and put into one of four classes - Beginners, Intermediate, Accelerated, or Advanced. Weekly classes continue during the summer alongside Camp4All, Pything’s day camp which meets every other day for three hours in three-week sessions. All classes, regardless of length, begin with a lesson about an area of writing the students seem to be struggling the most with, followed by a fun project to practice these skills. Past projects include creating an Olympics schedule to practice verb usage and making superhero comics to practice description.
Both the children and the parents involved in Pything4All enjoy the class experience immensely. Upon being asked what their favorite part of class is, one second grader replied by saying, “Everything.” He continued, stating that “...I love my teacher and the dragon stories we worked on. I also love all the new friends I’ve made!”. Another student’s mom was thrilled when she saw her third grade daughter’s improved grades in English, and credits Pything4All for “...giving her the motivation to write and teaching her how to actually love writing.”
With the success Pything4All has seen in the US, its next mission is to start a pilot program with a few students from India in order to aid to children who had to miss months of school due to Covid. Additionally, the organization is looking into partnering with organizations resettling Afghan refugees in the US to provide writing classes for new English speakers. By expanding to further and further places around the globe, Pything4All hopes to fulfill its motto of democratizing writing education for all students regardless of economic status.