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IF YOU CAN DREAM IT, YOU CAN DO IT!
Ullas Trust (A Polaris Foundation social initiative) was started in 1997 to recognize academic excellence in students from the economically challenged sections of our society and encourage the ‘Can do’ spirit towards chasing their dreams and aspirations. Ullas decided to focus its energies on students during the most vulnerable stage in their journey – adolescence! This would translate into students from grades 9 through 12.
Active involvement of corporate sector employees (Polaris / Intellect to begin with) was an important part of the charter, to integrate working professionals with a larger community and help them experience the emotional growth and satisfaction of working with young minds, while making a powerful and positive impact in their development.
Ullas selects students from Municipal, Corporation and Government schools every year through an entrance examination and a well-defined selection process. We call such students Young Achievers.
SIX GUIDING PRINCIPLES UNDERLYING INTEGRATED AND HOLISTIC PROGRAMMES
1. A young mind learns through his/her observations and by expanding horizons. One can broaden his/her vision in this manner.
2. A young mind gets inspired by experiencing role models. Its only when one observes benchmarks of success can one even think about it.
3. A young mind gets energized and further encouraged by recognition in a larger group.
4. Between the ages of 13 and 16, the maximum change in one’s thought process occurs and any positive influence gets amplified.
5. To bring anything to reality one needs to visualize it. When one pens his or her dreams on paper, one’s own personal commitment to the dreams increases, and the chances of achieving the dream increases.
6. During the journey towards achieving dreams, if one’s thoughts are supported and discussed with a mentor, friend and guide, it inspires and accelerates momentum towards one’s goals.
THE YOUNG ACHIEVERS EXPERIENCE THE BENEFITS OF MULTI-DIMENSIONAL ROAD MAP SUPPORT
a. Encourage them to dream big and with conviction, through annual workshops.
b. Empower students with self-enrichment programs during weekends.
c. Provide students with a ‘touch and feel’ of the corporate environment.
d. Give them a unique opportunity to be mentored by successful working professionals.
LARGE-SCALE ANNUAL WORKSHOPS
A large scale annual workshop for over 2000 students – Ullas Young Achievers is personally anchored by Arun Jain, along with employee volunteers. This workshop focuses on 3 main objectives :
- Recognize the Young achievers in a public platform and award merit scholarships (for most Ullas students, we have observed that this is their very first recognition of any sort!)
- ‘Seed’ the thought of looking beyond their immediate environment and encourage them to dream big and articulate their dreams with conviction in a specially-created Diary of dreams
- Provide an opportunity to interact with eminent personalities and role models.
IGNITING THE BEST – WEEKEND PROGRAMS
In order to give a head-start to the Ullas students, we have created a unique self-enrichment module called SUMMIT. The Summit program comprises of personality development modules, graded as Level 1 (beginning at grade 9) through 4 (for grade 12). Modules comprise five sessions of interactive life skills workshops. Personality development lesson plans encompass communication skills, confidence-building, memory skills, active team work, public speaking and leadership skills. All the classes are anchored by working professional (and their friends and families) during weekends.
Through the SUMMIT programs, Ullas gets a fantastic opportunity to make positive interventions in the journey of the student and actively support their ‘Can Do’ attitude towards achieving their aspirations.
HIGHER EDUCATION SCHOLARSHIPS AND MENTORING PROGRAM
Having supported the Ullas student for a four-year period between grades 9 and 12, Ullas evolved along with the students and decided to widen its scope to supporting Higher Education for these students with Merit Scholarships and Mentoring Programs.
After grade 12, student aspirants seeking higher education scholarships go through formal interviews where they present their case for why they should be awarded the scholarships. This interaction gives them a head-start in facing ‘real-life’ interviews. The Ullas panel uses these interactions to gauge student commitment levels and counsels on areas for development.
The Higher Education scholarships continue till the student graduates and their mentoring programs encompass presentation techniques, preparing for interviews, awareness of corporate etiquette and the power of team work.
TRANSFORMATION FROM MENTEE TO MENTOR
Higher Education scholarship holders have proven to be powerful role models for subsequent Ullas grade 9 through 12 batches. Ullas trains students (pursuing higher education) to become facilitators for the weekend enrichment sessions (for the younger students). This initiative is a tremendous success and huge confidence-builder for the higher education student now playing the role of a mentor.
CURRENT PROGRAMME REACH
Ullas conducts Diary of Dreams and Touch the Soil programmes across 86 districts in 5 states (Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra, Telangana and Delhi NCR) reaching over 1,91,000 students in 587 schools. Intellect campuses are leveraged for weekend Summit programmes in Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune and Delhi.
THE PARTNER ECOSYSTEM INCLUDES :
Morgan Stanley, Mumbai – Over 50 of their employees participate in Ullas workshops and conduct weekend enrichment Summit programmes since 2011.
Vidyarambam Trust (tier 1 non profit and Pratham partner), Tamil Nadu – conducts the Summit program (Level 1 and 2) to 15+ schools in 5 districts reaching 2,000+ students, since 2011.
Colleges A 2013 pilot program with college students of SRM University – a volunteer body called Talent Quest for India (TQI), to reach Ullas Summit to schools in their community, has now grown into a movement where 160+ college students from 19 different colleges across 10 districts of Tamil Nadu, are delivering Ullas Summit programs to 14 rural schools, shaping 4,500+ young minds.
EXPANDING THE FOOTPRINT
Through the ‘Touch the Soil’ program, Ullas provides working professionals the opportunity to re-connect with their roots along, with their workplace teams, and conduct the ‘Can Do’ workshops in the districts of rural India. As role-models step up and play their part a whole new movement on social inclusiveness through positive affirmation will gather momentum.
Ullas has well researched and time-tested session and workshop designs for students and faculty. The future will see expanded geographical reach, more working professionals involvement from the public and private sector, and extension into more elements of holistic community development.
INDUSTRY RECOGNITIONS OF A WELL DESIGNED PROGRAMME THAT IS YIELDING RICH DIVIDENDS IN SHAPING YOUNG MINDS
- Selected as one of India’s best CSR programs by NASSCOM – Bombay Stock Exchange – TIMES Foundation in 2008.
- Best CSR Practice-Global CSR category award from Blue Dart in 2012.
- LIBA Mother Theresa Award-Special Award for Corporate Citizenship for the year 2012.
- Outstanding contribution to the cause of education by the World HRD Congress 2012.
The Ullas initiative is a natural fit into Project Samriddhi. Quite apart from the same promoter origins, the core ethos is holistic community development. In the case of Ullas, through enabling and empowering children with ability and confidence to articulate their dreams, and work towards achieving them. In actively engaging corporate employees for nearly two decades in Ullas programmes, there has been significant learning in individual emotional growth and satisfaction levels achieved by such participation. I see Project Samriddhi helping Ullas achieve the rapid scale required.
Project lead :
The 18th Annual ‘Can Do’ Workshop, 2015. Former President Abdul Kalam was the guest at one such annual workshop. Inspiring sessions, recognition, and role models to look up to.
Young Ullas achievers like Mano Chitra recount their Ullas experience and how it helped create and dreams and the path to achieve them. Learn more about these Ullas mentors who have now working in reputed companies around the country, while making time to guide successive Ullas batches.