- Joining student Saurabh Anand and Spanish teacher Akash Patel is Jigyasa Labroo of India.
Two Indian Americans and one Indian are among International Literacy Association’s biennial 30 Under 30 list, an initiative that shines a spotlight on the next generation of educators, nonprofit leaders, authors, volunteers, researchers and social entrepreneurs, who are working to create positive change in the global literacy landscape. Listed among these young innovators, disrupters and visionaries are Saurabh Anand, 28, a Graduate Student Research Assistantship Fellow at the University of Georgia; Akash Patel, 28, a Spanish teacher, at Ignite Middle School in Texas and founder of Happy World Foundation; and Jigyasa Labroo, 28, founder/CEO of the Delhi-based nonprofit Slam Out Loud.
“The start of 2021 is filled with much promise thanks to the work of this year’s class of honorees,” said ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “Their work—whether it’s research on multicultural literacy, helping young students find the power of their voice or dismantling systems of oppression in education—is impacting the lives of countless individuals and communities. Not only do these emerging leaders share in our mission of literacy for all, but also they are helping to ensure that the post-COVID era, when we get there, will be grounded in equity for all.”
When Anand was teaching women from rural backgrounds how to use the technology, he ran into a problem. The smartphones were primarily in English, which many of his learners didn’t know. It was then that Anand decided to become an English language instructor to help people learn the language. Since then, he has conducted extensive research on multicultural literacy. Anand has been invited to speak at various conferences, including the 2021 TESOL International Convention. He recently graduated from Minnesota State University, where he completed a capstone project that developed high-interest reading materials for struggling elementary students. He is currently pursuing his PhD in TESOL and world language education. “It is a moral responsibility to make immigrant students comfortable,” he says. “Every English is equal, whether spoken in ‘native’ countries or anglophone countries.”
Patel speaks six languages and has traveled to more than 50 countries. When he realized that most of his students had never been out of the United States, he sought to bring the outside world to his students by turning to technology. He tapped into his global network, eventually mobilizing more than 1,000 volunteers from 150 countries to participate in “mystery hangouts” and enable students to learn from speakers across the world. This initiative turned into the Happy World Foundation, a global citizenship nonprofit that connects educators around the world. Happy World has also dedicated more than $50,000 to communities worldwide and made service learning trips abroad possible for numerous students. “We have the extraordinary chance to use the internet to connect our scholars with new friends around the world,” says Patel, who was recently elected to the United Nations Association of the United States’ National Council. “These live connections are a powerful way to promote understanding in the hearts and minds of our next generation.”
An experience she had in fourth grade, showed Labroo the power of love. “By the sheer power of her unconditional love,” Labroo says, “she made me feel worthy—that I deserved to be loved just for being,” she says. Love became the driving force Labroo carried with her through her career. As a member of Teach for India, she helped girls from disadvantaged communities improve their literacy skills. And later, as the founder of Slam Out Loud, she helped children find their voice through creative expression in various art forms such as poetry, storytelling, and theater, free of cost. Labroo is also passionate about creating safe spaces for shared vulnerability between educators and students, an ecosystem she believes will allow children to become confident in themselves and their ability to lead. In response to COVID-19, Slam Out Loud began Arts for All, a program which leverages the power of art and low-tech platforms. They have created a footprint in 19 countries, reaching 4.7 million children.