Suma, a fourteen-year-old Young Instructor Leader (YIL), can’t get enough of Agastya! “I have noticed an improvement in my confidence and I owe it to Agastya. The hands-on teaching at Agastya inspires me to learn more”. She loves the methods of teaching at the Kuppam Campus, which she explains, is lacking at her village school.  Suma loves to participate in competitions and has won over four awards in areas such as speech, student excellence and drawing. What’s more is that she has recently been featured in the local newspaper to be awarded a scholarship.

 Suma lives at her maternal grandfather’s home along with her grandmother, mother and aunt in a busy village called, Gudupalli. When she was just eight months old, Suma’s father separated from the family.  Her mother was left to bring up two children all by herself. Despite these hardships, Suma is very outgoing. Her independent nature and excellent communication skills have motivated her to do things many girls of her age and background would usually not do, such as travel unaccompanied to Bangalore City (almost a two hour train journey from her home). 

Kiran Bedi* is my role model. She is one woman who I look up to the most. She is brave and even in her era, has fought for women’s rights. This gives me inspiration to do the same. I don’t want to follow the social norms; I want to help people, address social issues and teach others the same. I just want my village to be a better place for everyone.”, says Suma. It is evident that Suma is passionate about contributing to social causes. In fact Suma’s decisions are instrumental in leading her to this goal of being socially responsible. For instance, she has participated in a youth program at the National Cadet Corps (NCC) – an Indian Military Organization which engages in grooming youth of the country to be disciplined and patriotic citizens. 

Suma shares something more interesting about her aspirations; that she wants to be a scientist. When asked why, Suma shares a very inspiring story. “One day at school, my Physical Training (PT) teacher told us that there is no cure for AIDS. After coming to know about what a fatal disease AIDS is and the number of people in the world suffering from it, I was convinced that I need to become a scientist and find a cure for this disease. Many of my classmates joked saying, ‘what if someone else finds a cure before you do, then what’s the point of all the hard work of becoming a scientist?’. I replied to them saying that if someone finds a cure for AIDS, chances are it’s going to be a very expensive medicine. So what I will do then, is develop a low-cost cure for AIDS. Then everyone will be able to afford it!”.

 Suma is a remarkable example of the behavioral trajectories girls exposed to Agastya display; that of independence, confidence and perseverance. Rather than being passive and uninvolved in the betterment of her community’s problems, Suma is empowered and takes charge of things.