NEWTON, MA—What was started by two high school students as a forum for leadership, peer networking and community service for high school kids of Indian origin in 2014 in Newton, MA, has now become a vibrant movement.
Indo-American Youth Group, known as IAYG, has grown to include students from the neighboring towns of Lexington, Natick, Wellesley, Boston, Brookline, Newton and Andover. Led by a board of student leaders, IAYG organizes social and community service events and learns applied leadership skills.
Each year IAYG hosts a workshop by inviting speakers from the community and includes panels presented and run by the student members. This year’s annual event will be held on Sunday, April 7th from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM at the Durant-Kendrick house located at 266 Waverley Avenue in Newton, MA.
Deepak Malhotra, Eli Goldston Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, will address the group’s annual meeting this year, and talk about empathy and personal challenges and life.
IAYG is facilitated by Anu Gulati, a resident of Newton, who taught at the Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University for several years before moving to Boston.
“We see community service as synergistic with leadership skill development. It is one arena where our students can apply some of the skills they are learning right away. Our students have sought out and partnered with a range of community outreach programs,” Ms. Gulati told INDIA New England News. “Our community service events have been at a range of venues such as the Burlington food pantry, volunteering in the Newton and Lexington mayor’s offices, a women’s shelter in Boston and food and clothing drives for homeless shelters among other things.”
Ms. Gulati, whose son is one of the founders of IAYG, said that community service helps the kids get involved in the local communities and also teaches them valuable leadership and organizational skills. Since her son graduated high school in 2015, Ms. Gulati has been the facilitator of the group.
IAYG’s mission is to provide a forum for leadership development, community service and peer networking to high school kids of Indian origin. The students are in grades 9 through 12. The group has a student leadership board that plans community service and social activities. For more information, visit www.iayg.org.
IAYG meets once a month. In each meeting attendees have a session on leadership skills development, planning of ongoing community service projects, and time for the kids to connect and get to know each other.
“I have worked with a range of partners to develop original leadership training materials for high school kids ranging from videos, self-reflection exercises, and lectures. We have also brought in external speakers to teach the students about topics such as public speaking,” said Ms. Gulati. “My focus is on the kids learning some practical tools to prepare them to be leaders in their community while also having fun and building a community of other south Asian leaders.”
One of the sparks for creating IAYG was to provide high school youth with practical leadership tools that they can readily apply to leadership roles they may take in high school, recalled Ms. Gulati.
“While much is expected of the children in terms of stepping up into leadership positions in high school, leadership skills are not explicitly taught. We try to de-mystify the process so that kids can understand that leadership is a learned skill. And, they can start to apply the principles in their life,” Ms. Gulati said.
“Another important component of IAYG is to provide a forum for peer networking. The peer networking is valuable as they connect with kids like themselves who are facing the same issues and challenges. We often hold panels where issues that the students are interested in are discussed—whether it’s summer jobs, college applications, or dealing with stress. Every year, we hold a workshop in April where we invite a speaker and our leadership board changes hands.”
IAYG’s past speakers have included Professor Nitin Nohria, Dean of Harvard Business School, Dr. Usha Tummala-Narra who has spoken on her own research on anxiety and stress among Indian-American kids.
“I think that both speakers and the members of IAYG play integral roles in shaping IAYG as the dynamic and diverse forum that is is. With our speakers, we are able to learn about real-world challenges, fields, and experiences from experts in their respective fields, and by applying these lessons to our lives, we can develop strong mindsets and mature approaches when faced with certain challenges,” said Ravin Nanda, Curriculum Co-chair of IAYG. “That being said, IAYG would not be a creative and zealous group without the ambitious and friendly members that it consists of. While learning from experts is beneficial, the ability to hear opinions and learn from other Indian-American teenagers promotes the diversity of ideas and creativity necessary for us to grow intellectually and socially. Being a part of IAYG has allowed me to network with other Indian-American teenagers and make new friendships, all while learning and contributing to such an interesting group.”