In 2019, the Sathya Sai Baba Center of Central San Jose embarked on a "community engagment" initiative through offering math tutoring and coding classes to students at a local charter school. 

Voices College-bound Language Academy is an elementary school in a low-income area in the middle of affluent Silicon Valley.  Most of the children are from first-generation Hispanic immigrant families and non-English speaking households. The school currently offers classes up to the fifth grade, all of which are conducted in a temporary structure.

The Center started a pilot program with a group of 14 volunteers for a 6-week period during the Spring quarter of 2019. Classes were conducted on Saturday mornings for 27 students from the 3rd and 4th grades.  Each class began with a discussion of a character-building quote and then moved onto math and elementary coding. Brief but fun-filled team-building games and a snack break were included to make the sessions enjoyable. In many cases, the students received individualized attention from the volunteers. The contact administrator, Ms. Yamini Bala, and volunteers who were professional educators helped train the other volunteers on the best practices in teaching.

 

 

The pilot was very successful. The teachers at the school saw an increase in the self-confidence and math competencies of the children. The parents gave positive feedback, too. The students had made progress while “having fun.” To reward their participation, a group of students with regular attendance and their parents were taken on a field trip to Google to encourage the students to widen their vision for future careers.

Following the successful pilot, Sai volunteers continued offering the program in Fall 2019, for 11 weeks, with 18 volunteers tutoring 27 students who were weak academically, and most likely to benefit from the program. Volunteers also adopted the use of zearn.org, a game-like math-learning computerized program, to make the sessions even more enjoyable. Feedback from the teachers was again positive; they noted that many of the children grew in confidence as well as improved in their math. 

 

During Winter/Spring 2020, with an expanded pool of 50 students and 27 volunteers, the program was briefly impacted when the school announced that it was shutting down temporarily in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The students were grief-stricken that they would miss their Saturday morning classes.  However, the program continued online, allowing the completion of the Spring session classes. 

To conclude, Ms. Yamini Bala, the contact administrator and liaison for the program,  reflected: “I think it’s fair to say that this service project has been a tremendous learning opportunity for all of us. While math and coding started out as the basis for the program, we know that our true work involved sharing love and cultivating human values within the school community. This is what has allowed the program to become a transformative experience and touch the hearts of students and volunteers alike.”