Aditi Burutkar’s ambition is extraordinary. She has taken advantage of every single opportunity that has come her way. A school “topper” and a recipient of quite a few school awards, Aditi is all about achieving success in the fields that she excels in and is passionate about.

Ashraya selected two students to attend a leadership camp in Dehradun, Uttarakhand at the end of May. Aditi was one and Saniya Dalal the other (we’ve written a Facebook post about their selection). This ten day camp included adventure activities, critical thinking exercises, theater, and space to debate about big social issues facing India.

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We recently spoke to Aditi about her experience, and she of course, made the most of it. The focus of the camp was for students to learn about and use Socratic dialogue to debate and devise solutions to heavy problems facing the country, such as the Delhi and Unnao rape cases. These discussions moved into understanding the relationship between being a leader and “taking responsibility”, so we asked Aditi what she understood about this. She defines responsibility as “attempting a very big challenge and working on something that is much bigger than oneself”. She says that a leader is the one who takes this challenge and makes a change in the world.

The camp developed the students’ leadership skills further by encouraging them to think about a problem in their community and how they can take the responsibility to solve it, by using a creative solution. Not only did they have to think about it, but they created a “prototype” of their plan.

Aditi chose to create a library for underprivileged children who don’t go to school and are working instead, and she doesn’t just want to keep this as a prototype. She plans to actually implement this and has asked her friends to donate story books. She wants to, cleverly, put this in her school, so that the children can come and see that school isn’t so bad. If this model is successful, she wants to expand it.

The camp used theater to encourage critical thinking and self-expression. Students danced, performed street plays, and used the stage to further discuss social issues. Aditi’s group was given the topic of caste discrimination, and she took leadership as head writer of the street play, which they performed on the last day of the camp.

 

After hours spent discussing heavy things, students had a “silent hour”, where they reflected about what they learned that day and wrote about their learnings in a journal. Aditi really enjoyed this, because it gave her some time to herself and her thoughts, and she was able to reflect about what it means to be a leader.

We asked her if her idea of leadership has changed after the camp, and she said that she feels a lot more confident discussing social issues openly and then thinking of creative solutions, and this confidence will help her as a leader.
In the new academic year, she has resumed her usual habit of accomplishing things. She was recently nominated for the Pune Municipal Corporation Lokmanya Tilak’s Best Student award, which was accompanied by 5000 rupees. What is she going to use this on? We expected her answer: “I want to save it and then spend it on something big!”

What’s the limit for this girl, with all that she’s accomplished so far? We are impressed by Aditi’s work ethic, and her desire to move forward. In September, she will take the prestigious United World College entrance exam, because that has been her dream, and she’s just one step closer to achieving it!