Sharanya Misra

Monica Pesswani

Co-Founder @ The Apprentice Project. Womenpreneur 2018 in the Social Sector, AIC, NITI Ayog”.

Monica Pesswani on #IInspire

Success isnt about how much money you make, its about the difference you make in peoples lives. Michele Obama.

A software professional, seemingly eons ago. Now, a social change-maker in the education sector. Monica Pesswani is the girl who dared to escape the beaten path and discovered her own!

First things first – What is TAP?

About 2 years ago, three young, passionate and spirited fellows of ‘Teach for India’ came up with a unique system that would transform the education scene of India. Anand Gopakumar, Prashant Kumar and Monica Pesswani are today the co-founders of a non-profit organization called ‘The Apprentice Project’ or TAP. With a motto of ‘Teach what you love. Learn what you love’, TAP aims to go beyond the thought that education lies solely in books. It provides a one-of-a-kind platform for students of low income families to explore their passions, coaches them in life skills and nurtures them, helping them realize their true potential.

Monica Pesswani with TAP on #IInspire

Why was TAP conceived?

“There is a lot of emphasis only on academics in today’s education”, Monica shares. “But the need is to provide holistic education, to go beyond rote-learning. TAP empowers children by letting them choose what they want to learn”. Monica, Prashant and Anand are products of a biased education system that graded them only on the basis of academics, and that’s what got them thinking. “We were not asked what we wanted to do in school. If you didn’t get good grades, you ended up thinking you were invisible, with no identity to call your own. Every child deserves to do what he/she loves, to be more prepared for real life. Many of these kids finish schooling. But after that, they are lost”. TAP offers courses in 4 verticals – Visual Arts, Performance Arts, Sports and Technical Arts. “Where these kids lack are the basic 21st century skills like confidence and collaboration. TAP provides them exactly that.” Organically combining children’s interests with life skills, TAP conducts sessions on Art, Dance, Public Speaking or even Hackathons and in the process fosters self-awareness, critical thinking, communication, ownership and self-reflection.

How does TAP Function?

TAP is an organization that is being nurtured with the love and efforts of 130 highly skilled volunteers, called facilitators. These individuals spend their weekends in 15 low-income schools across Pune, making a difference in the lives of nearly 1600 students! With a vision of touching the lives of a million children across India in the coming years, TAP is steadily making its mark in the world with changing methods of education.

Monica Pesswani with TAP on #IInspire

Monicas journey before TAP A very interesting affair indeed!

She has been a dabbler, following her heart over social expectations. After a graduation in Elec-tronics and Telecommunication Engineering and a couple of years at Infosys, Monica realized she wasn’t cut out for the technical world. That’s when a friend recommended that she apply for YIF, unknowingly changing her life as she knew it. “At the Young India Fellowship, they help you dream, and help your dreams come true. One year there completely changed my life. I interacted with 190 other students from diverse domains and realized that there so much out there I had yet to learn!” YIF changed her perspective and gave her the wings she had always yearned for. From YIF, Monica went on to work directly with Mrs. Harshbeena Sahney Zaveri, Vice Chairman & MD of NRB Bearings in Mumbai. Working on group strategy, helping establish a start-up for the parent company in an area as interesting as 3D Printing and Artificial Intelligence and working closely with Mrs. Zaveri was immense learning, Monica admits. And yet, she knew there was more. “I felt a void. I was seeking something, but I didn’t know what!” She first set off on Uttar Yatra reaching out to the flood affected regions of Uttaranchal and then landed up facilitating the Youth, Environment and Sustainability programme at UWC Mahindra. It was there, in that interactive teaching environment listening to specialists in the fields of gender, environment etc., that Monica realized how impactful teaching could be. That’s how TFI happened, and the rest, as they say, is history! “I always needed to feel that I was making a difference through my work…With the diverse experience I have had, I am actually able to use all my learnings in building TAP. Slowly, I have been able to piece it all together.”

Monica Pesswani with TAP on #IInspire

So, has she made a difference?

Yes, TAP has many success stories already. “There was one boy who wanted to learn Bharatanatyam but was initially hesitant because it was a ‘girl’s art’. Three Bharatanatyam classes later, he came up to me and said Dance is worship. So when other boys tease me, I tell them its all about worship and I will do it in the way and form I like…. The change in mentality in kids is our biggest success…they are breaking stereotypes in every possible way!”. But are gender stereotypes visible at that early an age, I ask? “Kids begin to understand gender roles very early on and the landscape clearly shows that such thoughts are already ingrained in their minds. They already align themselves with particular boxes. Boys don’t want to dance because it’s a feminine art. Similarly, very few girls enroll in courses like coding and sports. But there are exceptions and we have been encouraging kids. This year we are pushing girls as well to participate in Hackathon.”

A quick candid chat before pack-up!

“Ever since TAP, I have begun to realize my potential as a woman. I find that my empathy quotient is really high which helps me go that extra mile to break barriers with these kids.” Women around her have been extremely determined, she shares. “In fact, my mom and sister have been my biggest supporters all through my journey. I think if I wanted to go to the moon tomorrow, they would pack my bags and expect me to get back with great news!”, she laughs. As we part, she sounds content and happy. “Work is very fulfilling. I am doing something I always wanted to do”.

Monica Pesswani has been featured in the ‘I Inspire’ series of this blog.
You can reach her or her team on their FB page or visit the pages in the links above.
The Apprentice Project is a Non-Profit Organization that depends on people like You and Me to contribute to society. To find out how you can do your bit, do visit http://theapprenticeproject.org/donate/.

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The ‘I Inspire’ series on Sharanyas blog www.la-dolce-vita.co.in intends to bring to the fore stories of common women around us who inspire with their life, work and thoughts. The series seeks to encourage women to stand by each other and quell the wide spread misconception that women are women’s enemies.

Disclaimer: Views or opinions represented in the linked blogs/websites of people featured under the ‘I Inspire’ series are personal and belong solely to the owner of the blog/website. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Sharanya’s www.la-dolce-vita.co.in.

All image copyrights are held by either Monica Pesswani / The Apprentice Project / Sharanya’s www.la-dolce.vita.co.in

0 Responses

  1. Such an awe inspiring narrative Sharanya. Kudos to Monica and her team for going the extra mile…And you have done justice to her journey through your series. Thank you for bringing such strong and diverse stories to the fore.

  2. Such an awe inspiring narrative Sharanya. Kudos to Monica and her team for going the extra mile…And you have done justice to her journey through your series. Thank you for bringing such strong and diverse stories to the fore.

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