Arizona, San Francisco, Minnesota, Wisconsin are definitely not the dream universities for aspiring students from posh Delhi public schools who want to study in the United States, but the real destinations of seven children from the lowest rungs of the socio-economic strata.
Out of 15 Delhi children from the socially and economically underprivileged sections selected this year under the Community College Initiative Program for pursuing various courses in US universities, seven are alumni from Deepalaya, a development organisation working in the fields of education, livelihood, health and welfare of the marginalised.
Dressed in resplendent green tees, Poonam, Naresh, Ramesh, Anand, Ravi, Rahul and Chander came together at the Press Club on Thursday to toast their success.
Last year, six Deepalaya students made it to the US colleges. "From 'super six' last year, it is 'fantastic seven' this year. For us it is an event to celebrate. I know for sure they will come back much more confident and with abilities to make much more worthy contributions to our society," said an ecstatic TK Mathew, secretary of the NGO.
Deepalaya, has come a long way in the last three decades. It started in a rented accommodation in south Delhi's Chittaranjan Park, but now boasts of five schools across the capital that has reached out and educated 40,000 children including street, working and differently-abled children. Interestingly, about 65% are girl children.
"We practise positive discrimination in favour of the girl child," said Mathew.
Hailing from "historically underserved" sections, the challenges the children had to overcome were immense.
While Poonam was subjected to constant jibes by conservative-minded neighbours, acquaintances and relatives, it was acute financial hardship for budding classical singer Anand. The study courses opted for by the 'fantastic seven' are as diverse as their backgrounds--from hospitality to retail to animation to pure academics.
The dreams are there. All that is required is the will and the means to attain it.
Young Chander wants to be a chartered accountant. And the confidence writ large on his face.