FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, NJ
Recently, 45 Middle and High school students, dressed in colorful Indian 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 received certificates of completion.
“I am reminded of my own cultural origin and heritage”, Chief Guest Jigna Rao, director, Center for Continuing Studies, Division of Life-long Learning, Mercer County Community College, is quoted saying in a press release from STARTALK. “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 Foun-dation, a New Jersey based non-profit institution, in collaboration with Franklin Township Board of Education.
“This is our fourth year conducting STARTALK program at this ven-ue”, 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 (sic). Most of our students come from Indian-American families. However, we have also reached out to non-Indian families for allow-ing their children (to) learn Hindi and Indian culture,” he said.
The Guest of Honor, Franklin High School Principal Frank Chmiel said, “We are very proud to host this program at Franklin High School. Sangam-Franklin STARTALK Hindi program has added di-versity in our community. We feel that this program should continue in future.”
“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 ac-complishments 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 sto-ries 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 en-joyed performing on stage,” playing different characters.
A day long field trip was organized to take students on a guided trip to nearby Colonial Park, where Surina Rashid, an official with the Park Authority, briefed them on the highlights of the park including its Rose Garden and the Fragrance-Perennial garden.
Later, at the community center, Bharat Sevashram, 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 8.