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Celebration of Service
 

Volunteer brings technology and passion to improve schools

 

Naveen Prathapaneni has a passion to make a difference by improving education in rural and urban schools for underprivileged students in India. When he moved from Bangalore to his new offices in Hyderabad, Prathapaneni had a vision. "I was looking for volunteer activities related to education and improving schools," says Prathapaneni, an IT architect at IBM and long-time volunteer. "I had studied in a rural school for four years during my youth and I knew the special attention that was needed to provide these students with the environment they needed in order to achieve."

In schools near Hyderabad, Prathapaneni has worked with children of all ages—from preschool to high school students—and coordinated activities with local not-for-profit organizations. Through his efforts, the volunteer team has grown to over 60 people.

Using an approach to introduce young children to technology, he developed innovative and interactive learning exercises to aid teaching and learning for preschool students. By designing inexpensive measurement tools, he helped teachers plan classroom activities that directly relate to the math, science and language software that was designed for early learners and preloaded on computer units. "Now, even the students who didn't exhibit much interest initially are coming forward to participate and are performing exceptionally," said Prathapaneni. "I have always believed that the technology support provided by early learning centers fills the gap that rural areas have in providing better exposure to their students."

Prathapaneni has been involved in a myriad of other activities. He conducted two Technology Education Outreach camps in rural high schools in Jeedimetla and Devaramjyal, as part of Engineering Week, sponsored by University Relations.

He also designed an inter-school competition among six primary schools that spanned over eight weeks. This provided a rare opportunity for the underprivileged children of the six schools to compete against each other and show their talents. Interaction with students from other schools strengthened their competitive spirit while giving them exposure to presentation skills and team dynamics.

Working with students with disabilities

As part of his dedication to community, Prathapaneni used programs from his employer that focus on introducing volunteers to the world of not-for-profits, as well as volunteering to help students with disabilities, to establish partnerships with local not-for-profit organizations committed to empowering people with disabilities.

He initiated teacher training at Little Angels School for the Deaf. A tool that leverages flexible science activities helped provide practical knowledge about science, engineering and technology that many teachers at the school lacked, and provided a structure to support new programs. With other IBM volunteers, he helped the science teachers and principal develop a program plan, identify the topics, experiments and demonstrations in the syllabus, explore the web for content and videos, download the videos, prepare animated presentations, and conduct activities on a weekly basis.

Building a smarter community

Prathapaneni brings the benefits of "smarter volunteering" directly to some of India's most needy children. His work to incorporate technology into the schools, to train both teachers and students in its use in education, and his efforts to sustain his work with more volunteers, all come together to make a difference and build a better society.