Every year, Starfish Scholarships India selects a student from Olcott school for a scholarship. And two IT professionals offer financial support to those students who have missed it by a whisker

Encouragement drives sustained performance, as an education-based experiment in the United States by psychologist Robert Rosenthal and educationist Leonore F. Jacobson has shown. It is natural to shine the spotlight on the victor, but it takes intent to recognise those who came up short by a few unfortunate inches.

Every year, Rahul Shankar and Sandeep Rajarajan, IT professionals and friends from college, recognise the five or six students at Olcott Memorial Higher Secondary School who have missed getting the annual scholarship by a whisker.

“For a decade now, Rosalyn Yake, a Canadian, has been extending what is called Starfish Scholarships to a student from Olcott school. Students who have gone through the Duke of Edinburgh Award, a self-development programme for children and adolescents, are considered for it. Rosalyn has a selection process through which she would pick one scholar every year and support them till they finish their higher education. Earlier, Olcott school had only Classes up to Standard X, and so, the student would be supported through Standard XI and XII in another private school and then through three years of an undergraduate college programme or four years of engineering by the scholarship offered by Rosalyn. It has been 10 years now, and 10 children have been supported by Starfish Scholarships,” explains Rahul. “In the selection process, six or seven students would make the short-list, but only one would get through. Sandeep and I decided to provide scholarships to the five or six students who almost made it by pledging a sum of money that at the end of the year amounts to our salaries for one month. The amount we contribute is not as big as Rosalyn’s, but it can still boost these students’ morale.” Rahul is associated with Starship Scholarships since 2009 when it was founded.

Duke of Edinburgh Award, instituted in the United Kingdom in 1956, has spread to the nooks and crannies of the world, as it has been adopted in many nations. Everywhere it has gone, it has assumed a new flavour; and in some cases, a new name. In India, the Award is known as the International Award for Young Persons.

“I had gone through the The Duke of Edinburgh Award programme when I was studying at PSSB — Nungambakkam. Similarly, Sandeep undertook the Award programme at PSSB — T. Nagar,” says Rahul. “Olcott school is a special project where the Duke of Edinburgh Award — London itself would pay for the expenses incurred for its various activities, including travel, through its India head-office in Delhi. For the special project, they had picked institutions that were empowering children from marginalised sections, and the Olcott school has a very rich history of that.”

Only those who have completed the Duke of Edinburgh Award can guide those pursuing it.

“My first volunteering work with the Olcott school was as a guide to children of the school undergoing the programme,” says Rahul. “While we were conducting this programme for these students, we met Rosalyn.”

Rahul and Sandeep count the initiative to encourage the five or six students who almost made it as part of their larger socio-educational initiative called “Vidamuyarchi”.



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