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Young Achievers

Vinaya Seshan

Bangalore-based danseuse Vinaya Seshan (15) is making waves in the global dance circuit. The petite teen wowed judges at the recently concluded Dance World Cup 2017 staged in Offenburg, Germany, besting 300 finalists from 20 countries to win one gold and two bronze medals in the duet, hip-hop group and solo categories. 

The Dance World Cup — an initiative of the Munich (Germany)-based Ballettfoerderkreis Muenchen, a foundation promoted by renowned ballerina Korinna Soehn — is an annual dance competition open to children and young adults worldwide in genres ranging from fusion ballet, hip-hop and street dance to acro, jazz and showdance. The Dance World Cup 2017 staged from June 23-July 1 attracted 12,000 entries from 47 countries.

The younger child of V.S. Lakshminarayan, a senior director with DXC Technologies, and Radhika, a French language teacher, Vinaya is a class X student of Inventure Academy, Bangalore, ranked among India’s Top 15 co-ed day schools in the EducationWorld India School Rankings 2016-17. “This was my third time at the World Dance Cup. Last year I won three medals. So it was a great feeling to experience success this year too. I believe dancing in my blue school uniform brought me luck both times. I am also fortunate to have learnt the finer nuances of western dance from well-known choreographer Bharathi Kannan of IAMU Studio,” says Vinaya who also plays U-19 state-level football.

An accomplished tabla, guitar and piano artiste, Vinaya began winning informal dance competitions when she was merely six years old. “Those early wins inspired me to take dance more seriously, and I signed up for the after-school dance classes at Inventure and actively participated in the school’s theatre productions. In 2015, Inventure nominated me for a week-long dance workshop through which I qualified for the Dance World Cup 2015,” she says.

Vinaya is currently focused on preparing for the crucial class X board exams, and hasn’t yet zeroed in on a career. “Striking the right balance between academics, sports and extra-curricular activities is difficult but can be achieved with school and parental support. Whatever vocation I choose, dance and fitness will be an integral part of my life,” says this versatile teenager set to go places.

Paromita Sengupta (Bangalore)

 

Agastya Jaiswal

Eleven-year-old Agastya Jaiswal set a record as the youngest student to clear the class XII school-leaving exam of the Telangana State Board of Intermediate Education with an average score of 63 percent. Three years ago, Hyderabad-based Agastya successfully completed the state’s class X board exam with a 7.5 grade point average. This wunderkind is just back from an all-expenses paid 20-day trip to St. Louis, Missouri (USA) on the invitation of the Telugu Association of North America which conferred a ‘Young Achievers Award’ at its 21st national conference on May 28 upon him.

Currently enrolled in the mass communications undergrad degree programme of the hi-tech city’s St. Mary’s College, Agastya isn’t the only gifted one in his family. His elder sister Naina (16) is a table tennis star (ranked #6 worldwide) and the country’s youngest postgraduate. “From early age, our parents encouraged us to ask questions and explore new ideas and concepts. Learning was never a chore but enjoyable and interesting,” he says.

Agastya’s parents — teacher couple Ashwani Kumar and Bhagya Laxmi Jaiswal — while lauding the Telangana government’s decision to relax the minimum age criterion to enable Agastya to write its classes X and XII exams, believe it was their “innovative teaching methods” that helped the 11-year-old achieve this academic feat. 

“Over the years my wife and I have developed a unique pedagogy based on joyful learning that focuses on training the mind and body from early age to master academic skills. It worked for Naina, and now Agastya. We believe it can work for any gifted child,” says Ashwani Kumar.

Agastya’s career goal is to qualify as a doctor but he has to wait for another six years to write the entrance exam for admission into medical school. “When I turn 15, I will need to enroll in a Plus Two (science) programme to qualify to write NEET,” says the whizz.

While the 11-year-old has done his bit to improve the newly formed Telangana state’s education image (ranked #35 of 36 states for its literacy rate of 65 percent) which has waived his higher education tuition fees, it’s high time the Central and state governments wake up to instituting a formal programme to identify and support gifted children. 

Swati Roy

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