The Making of SEP– By Alphonce O’Bannon

TLUPS, like many other institutions, thrives to provide exceptional outlets for the intellectual, emotional, artistic, professional, cultural and leadership development of our students. However, what sets us apart is a strong and sincere focus on the holistic enrichment of our students. We want to them to find their place in the world and derive meaning and purpose from their experiences. We also want our students to be prepared for college more than anything else and we believe this approach will bring a sense of direction in the long run in a globalized world.

The best way, we believe, to achieve these goals is to create opportunities for students to take a step back and engage in self-inquiry, as well as reflect upon and articulate about those experiences- which in turn enhances their own personal vision and core values.We started thinking of these as student enrichment programs.

We realize that discussing student enrichment in the context of a common application or in a college admission process makes it a part of university prep, but our goals are far beyond that: the pursuit of integrity, the thrill of collaboration, developing a set of tools for introspection and reflection, and creating genuine desire for success and achievement, just to name a few key components. There are several programs that attempt this overall goal: NASA-sponsored trips, exchange programs to far-away countries, internships in renowned universities like John Hopkins, and our students have done all of these and more. But our quest was to develop a program where they can suspend. Unfortunately, in our opinion, most of the times, these kind of efforts are crammed into final 18 months before the college application.

We started the discussions about SEPs with Dr. Benson, Dr. Betsy, Dr. Pillai, and Dr Brooks to get their academic perspective while at the same, we stayed engaged in conversation with MV, Pankaj and Shajid to maintain focus on the specific needs of the Indian education system. Additionally, we shared our thoughts with our students (current and past) and parents, and they helped us to refine it further. We wanted to build a cost effective program while keeping it simple and effective –  Syam and I personally travelled to India five times, to Europe twice, and a whole host of different cities in America – evaluating programs, ideas, and gathering thoughts and concerns from professionals. Last summer, we gained some experience doing a pilot project in Iowa, USA with 6 of our students from India. We developed and experimented while going back to the fundamentals of university prep, working on increasing intellectual capacity, helping them be engaged citizens and developing their leadership qualities, as well as helping to habituate all these improvements. 

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Using the results of this initial trial as well as the enormous amount of feedback we had received from many professors, counselors, students and teachers around the world, the Student Enrichment Program was born. 

We have attempted to reveal our thought process throughout our development of this program in this introductory issue of TiGEs. Sohom is writing from a student’s perspective, while we have people like Doug and Michaela writing on enrichment in specific topics like theatre and American culture. We will continue to come back to this program and your comments and suggestions as well as critiques, and we are committed to publish them.

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 As a journal we do not wish endorse this or any program for that matter. We just want to share our journey, reveal to you the making of a program. Opinions expressed here are simply opinions of the corresponding authors.

All that being said, we hope you enjoy our explorations.