It started with a few chocolates. It’s developed into free education for 10 children a year at a rural school in Dehrewadi, India.
Sundt Project Controls Manager Arun Verma is from Nashik, India. His father, Shankerlal, who retired from a career in construction, owns a farm about 25 miles from the city. Shankerlal got to know a few kids from the small local school and started taking sweets to them. The school, ZP Prathamik Shala, has around 100 students; it’s so tiny it doesn’t have a sixth-grade class this year.
Arun and his father got together to up the ante a bit. They started funding a scholarship program for the students, one that would provide support for 10 children a year through grade 10.
In India, students complete 10 years of schooling before enrolling for two years in junior college, where they select one of three streams: arts, commerce or science. This is followed by a general degree course in a chosen field of study or a professional degree course, such as law, engineering and medicine.
“The students started getting to know my dad,” said Arun, who moved to the U.S. in 2007 to get his master’s degree from Texas A&M. “He goes there a lot and saw the school’s bad conditions.”
The Vermas began giving scholarships four years ago. Arun is raising more funds by teaming with a friend in Dallas who attended engineering school with him. Arun works in our Irving office.
“I needed some help to make it bigger,” Arun said.
Arun relies heavily on teachers to help select the scholarship recipients. They take academic and athletic achievements into account when choosing the winners.
He said the children enjoy competing for the scholarships and receiving one is a source of pride. Attendance has improved in the years since the program started.
“This is a poor part of India,” Arun said. “Usually if the kids aren’t going to school, they’re working the farms. Since the program started, they have motivation to go to school.”
After summer, Arun plans to expand the program to include books. While he tries to go back as often as possible, his last visit there was two years ago. He found a very welcoming reception.
“When I go, the kids know me by name,” Arun said.