SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) Studies show only one in five American high school seniors are proficient in geography. A South Bay teenager decided to do something about that, and what he’s accomplished earned him this week’s Jefferson Award.
Arvind Sridhar leads a weekly after school class at Sacred Heart Nativity in San Jose. The senior at Bellarmine College Prep founded the nonprofit Geography for Tomorrow to teach geography to underserved children for free.
“I realized just how important it is to be geoliterate and know about different places and different issues,” Sridhar explained.
Sridhar started Geography for Tomorrow three years ago after doing a community service project at another school. He discovered that the fourth graders didn’t know the capital of Canada.
“I knew that maybe I could use my passion and knowledge of this field to empower these youth,” he remembered.
With the help of more than 70 volunteers, Sridhar has taught geography to more than 200 students in south and east bay schools. His teaching tools include games, atlases, and even a giant map from organizations like National Geographic. The 17-year-old develops his own curriculum, one that has impressed Sacred Heart Nativity Principal Lorraine Shepherd.
“When Arvind sent his lesson plans, I was blown away,” Shepherd said. “thought I was looking at the lesson plans of a seasoned teacher.”
This year, Sridhar expanded beyond the classroom to host a Geography Bee at a San Jose middle school and organize “Geo Day” for kids and their families at a community center.
Volunteer Joaquin Schmidt marvels that Sridhar can lead a nonprofit and excel in advanced placement classes, too.
“To be able to do all that and the, I don’t know how many APs he took last year and this year, it’s insane,” Schmidt said. “I don’t know how he does it.”
So for sharing his passion for geography, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Arvind Sridhar.