Even as a trained teacher herself, Sangeet Srikanth knows that a well-rounded educational experience can’t be limited to the classroom.
Srikanth taught for several years in India before moving to the U.S. to pursue a master’s in education.
She was admitted to Boston University in 2002. After graduating, she secured a teaching job in Newton, Mass., which enabled her to sponsor a visa for her family to join her in the United States.
As Srikanth and her family acclimated to life in America, she and her husband began searching for beyond-the-classroom educational opportunities for their children — son Arnav and daughter Anishka.
“As a driven and motivated woman, I have been in pursuit of academic achievement all my school years,” she says. “But after coming to the U.S. and getting exposed to a lot of activities that kids can get involved in, I wanted them to be holistically educated and not focus only on academics.”
Scouting seemed like an attractive option for Srikanth and her family — a place where her children could learn lessons not found in textbooks or classroom lectures.
“None of the experiences in Scouting can be measured in terms of letter grades, GPA, test scores,” she says. “But you can witness and experience it every day in your son and daughter’s life.”
‘Every merit badge was a new life skill’
Srikanth first learned about the BSA in 2010 on a family trip to Boston when they happened upon an event celebrating the BSA’s 100th birthday. Her son, Arnav, wanted to sign up right away. Her daughter did, too, but this was before the BSA had opened all its programs to young women.
Arnav joined Troop 355 of Newton.
“Over just a year, I saw his self-confidence growing and him learning how to deal with failure — the two most important aspects that shape the identity of young adults,” Srikanth says. “Every rank advancement was a clear sign of leadership building. Every merit badge was a new life skill.”
Arnav became an Eagle Scout in 2017. That same year, Lokvani, a group that supports the Indian community in New England, awarded Arnav with its Rising Stars in Art and Community Service award.
The accolades haven’t stopped for Arnav. He will soon graduate from the University of Illinois with a degree in mechanical engineering.
‘Every day, my admiration for her increases’
As Anishka watched her brother advance through the Scouting ranks, she wanted to join.
“Fortunately, the BSA started enrolling girls in 2019, and the next thing she did was enroll in Scouting,” Srikanth says.
Anishka became a member of Troop 209G, and Srikanth saw her daughter gain confidence, develop public speaking skills and learn to communicate effectively.
“She became accommodating but at the same time stood up for justice and started speaking for herself,” Srikanth says. “Her ability to differentiate and make correct choices helped her mature much faster than some of her other peers.”
Anishka is now a high school freshman — a major milestone in the life of any teenager. But, Srikanth says, Scouting will help prepare her for whatever life may bring.
“Every day, my admiration for her increases as she excels in her maturity and ability to deal with the challenges of life,” Srikanth says.
Stepping up to lead
After two years as assistant Scoutmaster, Srikanth was unanimously chosen by her fellow volunteers to become Scoutmaster of Troop 209G.
“Parents appreciated how well I was able to connect with teenagers, exhibited strong leadership skills as ASM, and brought a repertoire of diversity, culture, and a STEM educator experience,” Srikanth says. “I should note that an education system does not teach all of these in classrooms. You learn them outdoors.”
Srikanth knows that Scouting works because she’s seen it — twice.
“Many of the values that Scouting instills not only align with Indian parents but all parents in general,” she says. “As my son was applying to colleges, I came to know from different sources that Scouting can give the Scout an advantage over other applicants. Most college admissions officers recognize the Eagle Scout award as an exceptional achievement.”
Still, she recognizes that Scouting can be a major time commitment for all members of the family.
“It’s about five to six years from start to finish — weekly meetings, camping trips, outdoor trips and finally the long-awaited Eagle project,” she says. “Some families find it hard to commit with their own busy careers. But I would like to send a message to my fellow Indian community members and all that the Eagle Scout award is a prestigious milestone recognized throughout the country and world. I would certainly motivate them to consider Scouting as an option that is a lifelong pride.
“Scouting structures their lives and gives them the most valuable experience that even the best classroom education may not fully provide.”