One teen’s dedication to community and mastery of his passion has transformed the lives of Bay Area babies and young children facing developmental delays. When the pandemic struck, Rithwik, a senior at Irvington High School in Fremont, came up with an innovative way to volunteer and give back. As one of the top 100 U.S. chess players in his age category, Rithwik used his passion for chess to support the next generation of learners.
As an 11th grader, Rithwik was in the midst of his SATs, ACTs, and AP exams. Despite these pressures, Rithwik started building a successful online chess classroom by creating lesson plans and customizing a software to teach his favorite game to children and seniors. He charged a nominal fee of $8/session to those who could pay and offered free classes to others so all could participate. He decided to donate his earnings to a worthy program benefiting children.
Over the next 6-8 months, Rithwik spent about 325 to 350 hours preparing his software, creating lesson plans, and conducting sessions. Rithwik’s classes spread and soon he had students spanning the country and the globe, including Texas and India! Juggling sessions, time zones, and his studies was not easy, but Rithwik was able to master them all through planning and organization. Motivated by his commitment, Rithwik’s family and friends matched his earnings and he raised $4,000 in total!
Rithwik came across Kidango by passing our building every day on his way to school. Once he saw our website, he was inspired by our mission and chose Kidango as his beneficiary organization. Specifically, Rithwik donated to Kidango’s Early Intervention & Inclusion Services (EIIS) program because he believes children with special needs face more challenges with their development and would benefit from additional support.
“It was my pleasure to support a department and organization of such importance whose work is absolutely vital to the success of the community. I’m really happy that I was able to do this and that I was able to help Kidango as well as my community by doing something that I love.”
Kidango’s EIIS provides for the needs of infants and toddlers with developmental delays ages birth to three years, while also providing support to families. EIIS is provided in a “natural environment” whenever possible, meaning the classroom is composed of typically-developing children as well as children living with special needs. This inclusion approach assists in peer-to-peer learning, with all children learning from each other, maximizing growth of all children in the classroom.
Beyond Rithwik’s volunteerism for Kidango, he is a member of Students against Period Poverty, advocating for free access to hygiene products in schools. Rithwik is currently applying to universities and is interested in pursuing public policy that impacts communities and schools.
Kidango is inspired and motivated by Rithwik’s passion and dedication to community. We are honored by his decision to donate to EIIS so we can continue supporting children with developmental delays and disabilities. Rithwik’s story shows that even in the times of the pandemic, when social distancing norms put a damper on volunteering, motivated children can still make a big impact in the community in unique and innovative ways. We hope that Rithwik will inspire more children and adults to pursue their passions, give back, and support the next generation of learners!