College can be tough. Being the first member of your family to attend college can be even tougher, especially when you come from an underprivileged background like the children in AIC’s impact communities.

DSC05565aRecently, we sat down with several of the students in our AIC college program to see how they were settling into their new experiences. Talking with them emphasized one resounding point: the kids miss the personal touch of an AIC education that they haven’t found at college. Pooja struggles with the lack of structure, specifically having no one to guide her on how and what to study. When engaging in impersonal interactions with his college teachers, Rahul (Waghri) laments, “I miss the concern and discipline the staff of AIC provided.” Not only do they feel a lack of guidance academically, but also socially. As with many of our students, Umesh comes from a traditional background where boys and girls do not mingle, so college was a shock for him, and it took him a while to feel comfortable communicating with his peers.

The hurdles they face are not surprising due to the fact that no one in their families has attended college (or in some cases, school at all), and therefore cannot provide guidance and advice to help them overcome their disadvantages. Starting a new educational experience in a new place full of seemingly confident strangers is difficult everywhere. Luckily, these students have AIC on their side. The nurturing environment provided by AIC is due in large part to a passionate, skilled support team, headed by directors, Bunty and MK, college counselor, Greeshma, resident counselors, Suchitra and Madhavi, and many others who have supported these students up to this point and continue to guide and mentor them as they spread their wings and learn to fly. Greeshma, in particular, has dedicated herself to the college program and continues to serve as an adviser from whom the college students seek frequent guidance. “Knowing the kids face so many challenges, it’s nice being able to provide any comfort of relief,” she says. “Makes it worthwhile!”

IMG_9482aTo further bolster the post-education prospects of our college students, AIC has collaborated with multinational gaming company, Ubisoft, to offer job skills and mentoring, and hopes to add additional companies, organizations, and individuals to participate in a more formalized mentoring project in the coming months. Exposure to the different departments in a company and workshops on future goal planning has helped them to begin exploring more options for their future career endeavors.

In spite of the challenges, AIC’s college kids are enjoying learning new things, both through their studies and about themselves. “College is the only place where I feel free and happy,” expresses Neha, who is currently focusing on preparing for her 12th standard exam in the hopes that her parents will allow her to continue to pursue her dream of working with computers. Rahul (Wagheshri), who hopes to work in the service sector, has become more responsible towards his family and about his future. For Rahul (Waghri), an awareness of his strengths and weaknesses has helped him work on improving himself, particularly his communication skills. Umesh, who explained, “I didn’t know how to talk to people in college, hence would keep quiet all the time,” now feels that the adversity he faced has made him more confident.

It is achievements and triumphs like these that reinforce our belief that we are on an exciting path with the college program. Although still in its infancy, the college program is growing as more and more AIC students graduate from high school with each passing year. We are honored to be able to continue to support these trail-blazing young men and women as they become the next generation of leaders within their communities.