Rahul and Jagdish

On April 13th, 2018, a group of children from the Vivekanand camp were playing cricket outdoors when they bore witness to the accident which has shaken this community. A bus parking at the nearby British School for the evening lost control, taking the life of Rahul, a thirteen year old boy, and severely injuring the ten year old Jagdish.

Our own AES community’s understanding of Rahul, the young boy who passed away on the site of the accident, is regrettably limited. He began MAD last August, placing in Level 4. In the little time we had him in our program, he managed to make an indelible impression on all of his teachers as one of our most resilient students. Ms. Lisa Kagan, one of the volunteer teachers for his level who had worked with Rahul for the past seven months, wrote the following after learning of the accident: “Rahul really was a special being… We said it about him all the time,” recalling how he faced challenges with enthusiasm and a smile. “It was so impressive. He seemed like a very contented soul.”

Amit Naftali, a former MAD student leader and a high school volunteer in Level 4, also shared his memories of Rahul: “To be honest, I don’t really know what to say. I don’t how to react, or how to process the fact that I won’t be able to see Rahul’s smiling face every single Tuesday anymore. I won’t be able to hand him his name tag at gate 2 or help him with the tongue twisters in class, or even sit with him at his table when he can’t figure out the grammar of one of the sentences we practice. I remember one time that he kept insisting that the correct format of a sentence is ‘I has go to the store yesterday’. There was something so sweet about seeing the progression of understanding through Rahul’s eyes in level 4. He was kind, soft spoken and generous, and I am devastated with the thought of not him not being with us- of saying goodbye to Rahul- the flower that wilted before getting the chance to bloom. Now, I’m not sure what to tell the other children in the class, Rahul’s 13 friends that were always (well, not ‘always’) in my class. There is some emptiness, a void that just opened in our hearts since Rahul was taken from the class. Now, we have to pick up the pieces and try to fill that void. We have to fill that void with more passion, with more friendships and with more love. We must let the power of education bring us closer together than ever at times like these. We must remember that Rahul will always will be in our hearts and mind, watching our every step with pride.”  

What is perhaps most striking about this situation is how many of those “who barely knew Rahul still feel the sorrow of his loss,” as one of our volunteers who had spent in a month in his level later commented. His ebullient character and the joy he brought to each lesson spoke to each of us volunteers, who know similar students in our own levels: the students with ambitions, whose faces light up when they see their volunteer teachers at Gate 2 every Monday and Tuesday. It also spoke to members of our AES community outside of MAD, who, through their own experiences with service, have known similar young boys and girls with similarly determined to succeed. Collectively, what we mourn goes beyond what passed on that evening on the 13th: we mourn what could have been, a young life which could have flourished has the accident been averted, and are reminded how vulnerable the smiling children we see each week are outside of this campus.

Rahul left behind a brother and two sisters, who, along with his parents, attended a remembrance service for him on Monday, April 23rd. His brother is in the same class as Jagdish, and one of his older sisters is two levels above him. Many of the students in Jagdish’s level, some as young as eight years old, were present at the time of the accident; some were so young that they struggled to understand and describe what they had witnessed.

Their classmate, Jagdish, who many of us know as a joyful, energetic, young boy, joined MAD’s new Beginners Level this January. He has been recovering in the hospital from a pelvic fracture since the accident, and is expected to be released in three weeks and make a full recovery. MAD looks forward to welcoming him back in August.

Schedule for End-Of-Year Session

The final session of Make A Difference for the 2017 – 2018 school year will be held on Monday, April 23rd, 2018.

Below is the plan for this event:

  • 3:35 – 3:45: High School Volunteers bring Vivekanand students from Gate 2 to the amphitheater. Sit by levels. Volunteers do not need to take attendance of VVK students.
  • 3:45 – 4:00: Remembrance service for Rahul Kumar held in the amphitheater (near Gate 2). This portion is now open to the AES community. 
  • 4:00 – 5:00: End Of Year session continues with only VVK students and MAD Volunteers in the ES Cafeteria. Some levels will be performing, and MAD leadership will be presenting some of the VVK students with attendance certificates. MAD group photo with students and volunteers is taken at the steps of the Cafeteria.

Rahul’s parents have been invited to the remembrance service and will be presented with the cards made by students and volunteers in the past week. We request that everyone wears white as a mark of respect, as it is customary for mourning in Hindu culture.

We look forward to seeing you there.


MAD High School and Adult Leadership

Schedule for Columbia University Visit

Monday, March 12th and Tuesday, March 13th

Time Location Event
3:45 – 4:00 Gate 2 MAD High School Volunteers bring their Vivekanand students from Gate 2 to Level classrooms.

If your level has very few or no students, approach a member of MAD leadership (you can either leave for the day, join a different level, or merge with another level if you have a few students).

4:00 – 4:10 MAD Level Classrooms MAD HS Volunteers take attendance of their Vivekanand students. MAD volunteers begin the lesson.
4:10 MAD Level Classrooms Columbia (CBS) students are escorted to MAD level classrooms. Three CBS students will be joining each level.
General introductions with MAD volunteers and Vivekanand Camp students.
4:10 onwards MAD Level Classrooms MAD Volunteers continue with a regular (though shortened) lesson with Vivekanand students. CBS Students observe the lesson. They can assist, if necessary.
Last 10-20 minutes of class time MAD Level Classrooms CBS Students lead an activity with Vivekanand students, with the assistance of MAD Volunteers.
5:00 Gate 2, AES MAD classes are dismissed. CBS students walk with their level groups to Gate 2, are joined by senior Vivekanand students and MAD volunteers.

On Mondays: MAD HS Volunteers take the girls doing Taekwondo to their session at 5pm.

2018 Student Leaders Announcement

Over the past month, the 2017 MAD core leadership team went through the process of interviewing and evaluating many highly capable candidates. With such a strong batch of applicants, tough decisions had to be made. Please do join us though in welcoming the following team of highly talented and committed individuals who will be leading the program from next semester onwards:
Mrinalini Wadhwa, as President
YeRyeon Seo and Neha Bhandari, as Vice Presidents
Leadership Team:
Vanshika Puri
Krishna Saigal
Kaavya Rajesh
In Young Kim
Siddhant Vasudevan
Maanas Kumar
Former President Anant Vasudevan will be transitioning into the role of Senior Advisor. We would like to thank him and all our remaining outgoing leaders from 2017 for their tireless effort and inspiring commitment to MAD.

MAD is Back in Session!

Make A Difference English lessons have been in lesson for nearly eight weeks now, and as always, MAD volunteers’ initiative and dedication shines through in their work in the program. Here are two highlights.

What has level 4 been doing?

We asked Chloe Rho, a high school volunteer, to tell us. She has been with MAD for a year now, and took some time out to share with us what her level has been doing so far:

“Level 4 MAD classes have been focused on maximizing grammar fluency and pronunciation of words. For example, student volunteers encourage the MAD students to repeat a tongue twister after demonstrating the pronunciation themselves. That way, students have fun while learning the accurate pronunciation of words. In addition, student volunteers tackled with the prepositions “on”, “in”, and “at”. They have taught the vivekananda students about the different uses of these prepositions and ways to apply them in real life. Reading entertaining stories also happens regularly, and currently, students are learning adjectives which is a new concept for many of them. Through these MAD classes it is fascinating to observe students learn from each other and enjoy their learning process. Although it may be subtle, students appear to be much more comfortable with the information they are constantly learning and demonstrating that they are capable of advancing an initial thought. Moreover, since students in level 4 are relatively young, it has been important for adult and student volunteers to find effective ways to address the learning material. For better quality classes, student and adult volunteers try to communicate via email or whatsapp and inform important notices through them so that nothing is a surprise for anyone.

In summary, level 4 MAD classes are on the right path, both the teachers and students enjoying their MAD experience. As many of the MAD classes are coming to an end, teachers will strive to finish this semester as a success, continuing their hard work. The end goal is to maximize the students’ English fluency with providing the best learning possible.”

Great work, level 4 team!

Precollege’s Science Lesson

In the week before Diwali break, the two pre-college classes (level 7 and 8) had an interactive science lesson with Dr. Richard Frazier, a Middle School Science teacher. Here are some photos of the class!

MAD End of Year Party

We celebrated the ending of another great year of MAD last Tuesday (April 24th) in the HOP.

We began with a group photo, after which leaving adult and student volunteers were recognized, attendance awards were given to Vivekanand students (who had perfect attendance from Core Levels 1-6 and Foundations), and each level gave a short performance, which ranged from humorous to inspirational.

We watched a reenactment of the three little pigs, listened to level 6’s dreams for the future and the causes and effects of environmental issues from the precollege level. Foundations, a new MAD level created just this year, also performed a short song and dance during their second attempt after being overtaken by nerves the first time! Each Vivekanand student also received a snackbox and juice afterwards.

Here are some photos from Tuesday. It’s been a great end to a great year!


2016-17 Recap: This Year’s Newsletters

We’ve had an eventful year for MAD, from creating the foundations level to introducing a new and expanded leadership team (and that’s hardly speaking for the diligence our HS and parent volunteers continue to put into this program)!

To keep track of all that has happened, here are all the MAD newsletters for the 2016-17 school year.

Edition 6            Edition 5             Edition 4             Edition 3              Edition 2             Edition 1


The MAD Leadership Team

2017 Student Leaders Announcement

MAD is committed to choosing the best high schoolers to lead our organization. We look across AES to enroll the very top students as MAD Volunteers, and from that exceptional pool, we make an onerous and challenging selection each year. Gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation do not factor in our decision-making process; therefore, we do not have any quotas or gender-based systems.

This year, MAD was blessed with some of the strongest applicants ever. Each and every one of them had shown exceptional dedication to the program, and the adult leaders spoke very highly of all the candidates. It was also an extremely competitive application, with only around 20% of applicants receiving a core leadership position. We think that figure is a testament to how involved and committed MAD volunteers in general are. Truly, we were impressed with the ingenuity, dedication, and sheer excellence presented to us during the application process. 

Our decision ultimately came down to more than just strong dedication, regular attendance, and productivity in class. We chose our team based on how they had already lead classes, actively recruited, volunteered to help on weekends, brought creative ideas to us, showed tremendous passion, demonstrated that MAD was a high priority, and most importantly, taken the initiative at every turn. We are thus very proud to present the MAD Student Leadership Team 2017:

Anant Vasudevan, as the President
Orsolya Bardos, as Vice President
Yeryeon Seo, as Vice President

Amit Naftali, as the Head Coordinator
Prahersh Kumar, as Secretary
Mrinalini Wadhwa, as Deputy Secretary

Arnav Gulati, as the Levels 6 -8 Coordinator and Liaison to Access to Education
Kish Dubey, as the Levels 4 & 5 Coordinator and Director of Recruitment
Keshnen Yogaindran, as the Levels 2 & 3 Coordinator and Attendance Manager
Chloe Rho, as the Level 1 + Foundations Coordinator and Liaison to Middle School

Former President Shreyas Rajesh will remain in the leadership team as a Senior Advisor, along with former Vice President Dev Gulati.

MAD looks eagerly to the year ahead with this new team!