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  • Akhila Nookala and Sukriti Ojha

Building 21st century skills in school children: Part 1

Updated: Jun 21, 2022

Roopa's journey of discovering her individuality

In this candid interview with us, Roopa, a 10th grader from Govt. High School Amberpet shares her experience of learning outside the classroom and going on to find her uniqueness.


When we realized that ‘opportunities are everything’ to progress in career and life, we created a platform for our student solvers to access new growth opportunities to help them be the best version of themselves - that’s how Student Opportunities was born.

We piloted the program with a small group of school students in the year 2019 with the aim to better equip them with 21st century skills by providing them with short-term courses and internships aligned with their interests. Our Ecosystem Partners too were interested in supporting these students due to the proven potential they had shown during their problem solving projects. More than two years on, we found that the students who participated in the program are now more self-aware and confident and are showing great promise to take charge of their future.

Roopa Janampalli is one of the students who availed of the opportunities provided through this platform. A smart storyteller, Roopa studies in 10th standard at GBHS Amberpet and lives in Hyderabad with her mother, father, an elder sister, and a younger brother. She was also a part of our in-school problem solving program “Think & Make” during Grade 6-7. At the time, she had designed a vessel that would alert her mother if the milk boiling on the stove was about to overflow! After this, she participated in multiple skill building and awareness opportunities.

In a recent interaction with us, she shared her experiences of discovering new interests, learning new skills, and overcoming hurdles.

Here’s an excerpt of our conversation.

What was your first impression of the Student Opportunities program?

When I first got to know about the program, I didn’t think it would be helpful. Still, I pushed myself to give it 5 months and within sometime I knew I had to participate and explore more.

I was always told to focus on academics and it was said that the school curriculum will teach you everything. But by doing courses and internships, my knowledge improved. It changed the way I approached things. I could clearly see the amount of growth in myself in these years.

Now I really love doing both - academics as well as skill building courses.

Even my mother encourages me to participate in more such opportunities. I get regular updates on WhatsApp groups regarding new courses and internships.

Which courses did you participate in and what did you learn?

Internship at Tribes for Good

I participated in an internship program by Tribes for Good. Here I learnt for the first time how to use Google Workspace tools like Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Slides. It took me about 2-3 days to pick up and start using it for my projects.

In this internship, I also developed an audiobook for the first time. I researched about apps on Google and found an app called Video Maker and used it to make an audiobook. I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the Entrepreneurship Workshop during this internship.

Salesforce Coding Workshop

I attended a 2-day coding workshop at the Salesforce office along with my other friends from school through Inqui-Lab. Before the workshop I had no idea that something like coding existed. I got to know about different programming languages like Python and Java. I understood how the world is working on technology. I was using apps on my phone but didn’t know how they were built. This workshop helped me develop interest in this area of engineering - which is coding and technology. I also identified that I need to develop my critical thinking, analytical thinking, and time management skills to do engineering.

Have you recently utilized some of these skills in your day-to-day work?

Yes. I recently used Google Slides to prepare a presentation for a school assignment. In Google Slides I got to use a lot of features and tools to make my presentation beautiful. It’s time saving and cuts down on paper wastage.

Participating in various courses helped me meet new people. I utilized these meets to talk to people regarding things I’m curious to know and to seek guidance.

The opportunities have helped me improve my critical thinking ability. This helps me plan and set personal goals. I’ve also become more committed towards my goals.

What are the other things that you learnt in the process?

After participating in these opportunities, I found my strengths and weaknesses. I had increased self awareness as to what I can actually do and in which areas I need to improve. I have acknowledged my individuality and uniqueness.

For example, communication came out as my key strength. I learnt that I needed to improve my time management ability - it was difficult for me to manage my time between academics and new courses initially.

I am now more adaptable to new situations and schedules.

Before I availed the opportunities offered by Inqui-Lab, I thought books can teach everything. Now I know that there are so many things you can learn apart from academics. I came across people pursuing so many different kinds of careers. I got to know how various organizations work.

Earlier I thought that every organization is a business organization. Through

Inqui-Lab, I got introduced to social sector organizations for the first time.

This was a revelation!

I’ve gained more confidence. I have developed self belief that I can do anything that I wish to do. I have developed a positive attitude about myself.

You mentioned that initially it was difficult to manage time between academics and participating in new opportunities. What did you do about it?

I started preparing a timetable for every day. I used to plan in advance and imagine what my next day would look like. This way, I cut down my time spent on unimportant things and prioritized the important things. Now even our teachers encourage us to make time for out-of-class activities.

I think if time management is also taught as a skill it will be really helpful for students.

What new areas of skill-building do you think we should introduce for students?

I want to learn more about financial literacy and entrepreneurship. Managing finances is a skill that I feel everyone needs.

You really are a good communicator! I’m enjoying this conversation so much. How did you get to be so good?

I read a lot of books. I love writing and giving speeches too. That helps me develop my communication skills.

What are some of your favorite books?

My favorites are Value of Adventure, The Alchemist, and Atomic Habits. I’m currently reading Atomic Habits.

What would you like to say to other students about your experience with skill-building and internship opportunities?

I just want to say that don’t waste any opportunity that comes your way. Every opportunity will leave an impact that you would not have thought of. We are in this fast paced world which is changing continuously. So, the key is to keep learning new skills all your life. You can start building skills by participating in such new opportunities that come your way.

You will become more self-aware, learn more about your strengths and where you can improve too.

Roopa's illustration of how she imagines herself in the future.

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