Saturday Art Class: Meet the co-founder - Manasi Mehan
By Manasi Mehan, co-founder of Saturday Art Class.
I co-founded Saturday Art Class, a non-profit education organisation promoting life-skills, social emotional learning and character development in low-income schools of Mumbai, via Art, in July 2017. We aim to educate children about important values and life-skills to create more wholesome individuals who can better navigate their lives beyond the walls of the classroom.
Currently, I play the role of the CEO and look into programme management (overseeing programme delivery), managing operations functions (finance, human resource management) and key stakeholder management. As a former Teach For India fellow (2015 - 2017) I have an insight into the grass-root level education in India. I have a masters degree in Sociology, and a background in psychology. Additionally, with 4 years of experience in the social sector, I have the required skill-set and insights to lead a transformative education program.
I firmly carry this belief that education is the most powerful weapon that can change the world. A change that can positively shape lives and bring hope in difficult times. However, it is also true that education is missing in the lives of those who need it the most.
As a Teach for India fellow, I have first handedly experienced the education inequity and inequality that my students faced, in the local government school that I was placed at, as a classroom teacher for two years. Along with this disparity, another discouraging factor was the context in which my students were brought up. Their socio-economic backgrounds prevented them from having a healthy childhood, let alone a chance at holistic education. This further drove me to the realisation that solely academics did not constitute "Education." Education also had to have space for imagination, creativity and free expression, factors that helped children grow beyond school.
This led me to my journey as a co-founder of Saturday Art Class where through creative thinking, imagination & free expression, we aim to build more confident children who can thrive beyond their communities and take on the world. As the CEO, I have led my team to develop a model that builds an arts based social emotional learning curriculum and implemented this in more than 15 partner schools to 5500 children in the past three years. We have used the power of youth engagement to build a strong volunteer base, which comprises of like minded individuals from across the city and diverse backgrounds to come and implement our curriculum in these classrooms
I have also recently been initiated as a fellow in the Gratitude Network. They accelerate the growth of high impact social entrepreneurs, both for‐profit and not‐for-profit, working to improve the lives of children and youth in these three critical areas: education, health & wellbeing, children's rights. Through this fellowship I have realised the power of cross cultural connections and global communication and learnings. I believe that as educators and leaders, the only way forward is to learn from each other through shared experiences.
My proudest moment
Seeing my vision for Saturday Art Class turn into reality. Every time I enter a classroom where the children are immersed into one of the lesson plans based on our Social Emotional Learning and Art curriculum, I feel a renewed sense of pride and fulfilment.
To see children create, think critically, think about possibilities and ideas way beyond an adult’s thinking capacity and imagination and seeing how children collaborate and work together when given a chance, is what makes me the proudest!
Dealing with failure
It’s best to be realistic in these situations and have a plan B incase of failure. For me, failure has taught me the 2 most important tricks of life: patience and grit.
If you’re patient with your process, you will be patient when you fail, and having grit will give you the mindset to keep trying various methods and processes to finally achieve the goal you have set for yourself or your organisation.
My future goal it to see a Social Emotional Learning curriculum for all children, irrespective of their background, and to ensure that art, along with other compulsory academic subjects, is given the importance and recognition it deserves to get.
My top 3 tips for young people who starting out
If you’re thinking of starting out, my top 3 tips for you would be:
1. Fail fast. Be ready to fail but understand that every time you fail, you learn the most important lessons that will later enable you to grow. 2. Research. Research well about the idea you would like to take up and build on this research. Be as invested in your idea, as obsessed with it, as you can possibly be! 3. Mentorship. Have a mentor to help you think through your decisions and a strong support system that pushes you to never give up, everytime you feel like you want to.
Article published: May 2020
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