Seventh year of STARTALK program in PA

Indian-American students in PA completed three week Hindi Summer Program

North Wales, PA:

When a group of Elementary and Middle School students visited India they wanted to do something to protect the eggs of Ridley turtles on the beaches of Odisha and help villagers in Gujarat state providing food for Asiatic lions in the Gir forest. The visiting students wanted to volunteer with local people creating awareness about protecting the natural habitat of endangered animals, such as turtles and lions. 

These young learners were made virtual trips to different destinations in the four directions of India in order to gain understanding of the geography and the unique culture of India.  They enjoyed swimming in Kempty waterfall of Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, took part in the famous Dussahara parade of Mysore in Karnataka, admired the architecture of Konark Sun Temple, visited the beaches of Odisha’s coastal region to see Ridley turtles laying eggs. The tour ended at the Gir forest of Gujarat where students volunteered to work with the villagers for preservation of the unique habitat of Asiatic lions. 

These tourists had a specific goal in mind. They wanted to improve their speaking, reading, and writing skills in Hindi while learning about the cultural products and practices of Indian culture. They participated in a three week intensive summer Hindi Language and Culture Program called STARTALK, conducted by Yuva Hindi Sansthan,  a NJ based non-profit organization, in collaboration with North Penn School District based in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.

“On July 12th, the final day of the program, 55 students, ranging from First to Ninth grades, most of whom belonging to the Indian-American heritage communities in Bucks county of Pennsylvania, took part in an hour long stage presentation to showcase their language and cultural proficiency based on what they saw, what they did and what they ate during their virtual trip to the four regions of India-Odisha in the East, Uttarakhand in the North, Mysore in the South and Gujarat in the West”, informed Ashok Ojha, program director of YHS STARTALK Hindi Language and Culture Camp. “We have been conducting STARTALK program for the past seven years in the area”, he said.

“The success of YHS STARTALK Hindi Program is a proof that Hindi was increasingly gaining recognition and popularity in USA”, said Upendra Chivukula, Chairman of Yuva Hindi Sansthan, who was the Chief Guest of the event.  He appealed to the audience, comprising of mostly parents of participating students, to work together for strengthening the  efforts of YHS to promoting Hindi. “The United States administration has designated Hindi as a critical language for business, commerce and national security. It is our duty to promote the learning of Hindi among the next generation of Indian-Americans”, said Chivukula, who is currently the Commissioner of Utilities in New Jersey. 

Highlighting the efforts of the Government of India in promoting Hindi, Guest of Honor Dr. Dayashankar Vedalankar, who represented  the Consulate General of India in New York, said that his office was committed to extending its support for expanding Yoga practices and Hindi learning in USA. 

Both Chivukula and Vedalnakar presented Certificates to graduating students,  teachers, volunteers and community supporters. 

“The program has been so popular that we exceeded our enrollment target of 40 students”, said Sanjyot Tatke,  lead coordinator of the program.  She said that young learners enjoyed the program as they gained valuable knowledge and experience of India’s geography and culture. “Our instructors came from as far as Atlanta, GA and Durham, NC who successfully motivated students engage in varieties of linguistic and cultural activities during the three weeks of program.”

The YHS STARTALK Hindi Program program was launched on June 24 at Gwyn-Nor Elementary School in North Wales, PA. It ended on July 12th, the fifteenth day when the students,  dressed in traditional Indian outfits, performed varieties of cultural dances, skits and songs related with the geography and cultures of Uttarakhand, Mysore, Odisha and Gujarat. 

Laxmi Ojha