STARTALK Hindi Program pays tributes to common men of India.


Franklin Township, NJ:

Last week Forty five Middle and High school students, dressed in colorful India attire, arrived at Franklin High School auditorium to showcase their Hindi skills learned at Sangam-Franklin STARTALK Hindi Program, a three week intensive summer Hindi learning program, and receive certificates of completion. 

“I am reminded of my own cultural origin and heritage”, said Jigna Rao, Director, Center for Continuing Studies, Division of Lifelong Learning, Mercer County Community College, who attended the event as the chief guest and sat through the hour long cultural performance by students. “It is heartening to see young students speak Hindi as they performed theatrical activities on stage”, she said while distributing certificates of completion to all students.

The federally funded program was organized by Hindi Sangam Foundation, a New Jersey based non-profit institution in collaboration with Franklin Township Board of Eduction. “This is our fourth year conducting STARTALK program at this venue”, said Ashok Ojha, director of the program and president of the foundation. “Our goal is to introduce Hindi and the Indian culture at an early stage for students who are born and growing up on USA. Most of our students come from Indian-American families. However, we have also reached out to non-Indian families for allowing their children learn Hindi and Indian culture”,  he said.

“We are very proud to host this program at Franklin High School”, said Principal Frank Chmiel, who attended the event as the Guest of Honor.  “Sangam-Franklin STARTALK Hindi program has added diversity in our community. We feel that this program should continue in future”, he said.

“We introduced varieties of interesting stories from India under the theme of ‘Storytelling’, for our learners,  most of them Middle and High School students. These stories connected learners with the accomplishments of ordinary people of India”, said Sanjyot Tatke, lead coordinator of the program. “The characters in the stories, such as, Dashrath Manjhi, the Mountain Man and Jadav Payeng, the Forest Man, proved to be very inspiring for students”,  she said. “These stories presented local issues, such as,  global warming and preservation of natural resources, in global contexts. It made Hindi learning at our program very meaningful.”

Ojha said, “The curricula of our program was developed with rich cultural content. We integrated our daily learning plans with varieties of cultural activities including folk dances and skits that students enjoyed performing on stage. They played characters,  such as, Kansari, a princess who left her palace to work as a farmer so that she could feed the hungry; Dashrath Manjhi, who cut the mountain to construct a road; Jadav Payeng, who saved his village from global warming and created green habitat for endangered wild animals. A day long field trip was organized to take students on a guided trip to nearby Colonial Park, where a park authority named Surina Rashid briefed them on the highlights of the park including its Rose Garden and the Fragrance-Perennial garden. After spending two hours in the natural surroundings we headed to a community center, Bharat Sevashram, where two guest speakers Mamta Tripathi and Sanjana Tatke spoke about their experiences.

Sangam-Franklin STARTALK Hindi Program was launched on July 22 at Franklin High School in Somerset, NJ. It ended on August 8th, the fifteenth day when the students presented on stage their Hindi skills.