“The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself.” – Mark Caine
Hemlata always knew how her life would go. She would study at the local government school till Class 8, then go to a nearby town to finish her schooling. After that would be a local college where she would be one amongst a handful of girls who were not married off. But when she was 10 years old, the headmaster of her village school filled in the Vidyagyan form for her. And with that one act, the trajectory of her life altered dramatically.
For now, barely 18 years old, Hemlata Sharma is studying Computer Science at Bryn Mawr College in the USA on a full scholarship.
When she joined VidyaGyan, needless to say, the life of a farmer’s daughter changed. However, it was the encouragement from her teachers that was the real boon to the industrious little girl. “They mentored me to be the best in class as well as outside class, helping me believe I could be anything I wanted to. They inspired me with their own life stories, which acted as binoculars for me to see the outside world. For seven years, my school helped me to not just close the gap between me and urban children who had earlier access to good education, but also to emerge as the best fit,” explains Hemlata.
Hemlata’s main challenges were outside of school. Although her parents supported her, there were always financial constraints. In Class 6, her performance was average. So to better herself, Hemlata wanted tuitions in her summer holidays. This was not possible – there was no money for extra classes. Besides, she couldn’t find anyone in her village to coach her in English-medium Mathematics.
However, Hemlata was made of sterner stuff. Inspired by the story of Shiv Nadar and her teachers, she persevered and started doing well in school. She also began to develop her personal strengths. She says, “I think VidyaGyan was the best thing that happened to me, and at the right time. I learned to be self-dependent and began to explore myself a lot. I developed my own perspective and learned from my own mistakes. I got to widen my horizon of thinking as well as dreaming.” Hemlata was selected to be a United States-India Education Foundation (USIEF) scholar in Class 11, after a rigorous test and interview process. “After giving that interview, I realized that being myself has always paid off and I decided to be the best version of myself.” She also scored excellently on her SAT and did very well in her board exams.
In the spirit of giving back, embodied by Shiv Nadar and inculcated in every student of VidyaGyan, Hemlata did community service at her village in Mathura, helping women, including her mother, to deal with paperwork at banks and other institutions. One can only imagine the joy and sense of achievement when she got admission into Bryn Mawr. The transformative moments continue for her in that environment, and she is enriched by her studies and her new life there.
To read more about Shiv Nadar Foundation, please click here
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines