Graduating Class Shows That it has Learnt Wisely at YLDP

The Youth Leadership Development Program Board of Directors after the 2014 Class graduation on Saturday, May 31 at India House. President Sushma Bhan is at extreme left, first row and Chairman Nat Krishnamurthy is on extreme left, second row.

The Youth Leadership Development Program Board of Directors after the 2014 Class graduation on Saturday, May 31 at India House. President Sushma Bhan is at extreme left, first row and Chairman Nat Krishnamurthy is on extreme left, second row.

 

 

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By Jawahar Malhotra
HOUSTON: Just how much they had learnt from each other over the past eight months became apparent the moment the first team of panelists sat down on the stage and started to present their topic. The team of four girls and one boy – all desi teenagers about to graduate from high school and move along into college – was poised, knew their cues and recited their portions of the topic with practiced ease. This was in marked contrast to earlier years when the kids were far less composed and not all were equally articulate.

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On the other side of the equation were the organizers of the event, the members of the Youth Leadership Development Program, for whom this fifth graduation showed how much they had learnt in presenting to the public the fruits of their mentoring of fresh young eager minds in a focused, tightly packaged event that kept everyone engaged. For the YLDP Board, many of whom have served for the entire six years of its existence, the experience of seeing their young charges mature before their eyes is satisfaction enough.
As in past years, the graduation ceremony of the 40 students who made up the Class of 2014 of the YLDP was held once again at India House with just over 100 people in attendance, this past Saturday, May 31 in the morning and ended just after a tasty lunch catered by Annam Indian Cuisine. The main hall was booked later for the India House Spelling Bee (see story on page 3) so soon after lunch was served the organizers quickly cleaned up and made way for that event.

The 2014 YLDP Graduates at the ceremony held in India House, with the Youth Leadership Development Program Board of Directors (seated), the Shell Oil guests and speakers with the Indian Consul General Partvathaneni Harish and his wife Nandita (center, second row).             Photo: Sarvesh Bhavaraju

The 2014 YLDP Graduates at the ceremony held in India House, with the Youth Leadership Development Program Board of Directors (seated), the Shell Oil guests and speakers with the Indian Consul General Partvathaneni Harish and his wife Nandita (center, second row). Photo: Sarvesh Bhavaraju

The students were divided into six panels who presented for the first time on the final topics that were given to them. Team A dealt with the Indian elections and did an admirable job looking at the subject from all sides, even touching on the Gujarat riots of 2002 which had become a hot issue in Narender Modi’s run for PM. Team B discussed the pros and cons of fracking for oil and gas in the US, even fielding a few questions from this reporter on the benefits to India and the Indian farmer. Team C took on the issue of polio eradication, weighing what the difference is between philanthropy and charity and using Bill Gates commitment as an example.
The panel presentations took a break so that the guests of honor, Indian Consul General Parvathaneni Harish and his wife Nandita could join in and allow Harish to speak to the graduates before he had to leave for another event. Known for his thoughtful delivery on many topics related to the events he attends, Harish homed in on the evolution of the second generation of Indo Americans and how their parents have passed along their religion, culture and values. “The most important battle of your life is the one with yourself, mind and body, not with spirituality or religion. ”Sheer practicality will determine who you become.”

Harish expanded on the dual concepts of delayed gratification and denied gratification, embedded in the Indian value system and culture. “Your parents came from this generation,” he said “ and practiced doing without now so that they would have a better future.” It is easy to get addicted to consume, he explained, but denied gratification which is an aspect of Indian life, implies that it is okay to say no.
The panel presentations carried on with Team F talking about the role that ethics played in leadership and what it takes to become an effective leader, a particularly difficult topic for which team members seemed to draw from personal growth experiences. They were followed by Team D which discussed the rise of social media and its implications for the quality of life now that it has become an integral part of worldwide communication. Wrapping it up was Team E which delved into the thorny issue of repatriation of art seized during turbulent times and wars.
While not a contest, the panel presentations allowed all the teens to get a chance to articulate their thoughts in a limited public speaking venue of the type they may experience in their working careers later. As Event Chair Poonam Taneja, a Shell Oil Project Manager, called them out, all the students were given their graduation certificates awards and a gift bag while sixteen among them were given $50 Shell gas gift cards for exceptional performance and perfect attendance. Rohan Deo was singled out for perfect attendance, best articles, service efforts and most proactive team leader.
Shell Oil has been a major supporter of the YLDP for years, giving it $10,000 for the past two years. It was recognized, along with the Indo American Charity Foundation and the Goradia Foundation, for financial support. A number of Shell Oil corporate leaders, including Dr. Snehal Patel, Gen. Manager of IT Downstream; Debra Stewart, Manager of Diversity and Mubarak Chowdary, Shell Asian Network Leader attended the event and handed out the awards. Earlier in the morning, Patel spoke to the students about science and technology and innovation and the expanding roles of India and China in the global economy.
YLDP President Sushma Bhan, also a Shell Oil executive, best summed up the progress that the youngsters had made by reminding them of the qualities of a leader. “A leader must never forget whom they serve,” she said. “Stay centered and humble, continuously learn and avoid ethical pitfalls.” Board Chairman Nat Krishnamurthy echoed that sentiment and expressed his admiration for the way the students matured and grew intellectually as they went through the eight month course.

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