If you’re familiar with my outreach organization ISAASE (pronounced “iss-ah-say”), have you seen the “Be Inspired” project yet? The project is all about inspiring the next generation of young South Asian American students, by sharing profiles on diverse role models and diverse stories of success. For our first interview for the project, I connected with Shaun Jayachandran. Shaun Jayachandran is a former basketball player, former teacher, and former administrator, and the director of international nonprofit Crossover Basketball and Scholars Academy India, which brings student athletes from the U.S. to a program in India “aimed at encouraging students to stay in school through teaching pillars of growth through athleticism and basketball.” The organization also brings amazing young people together for this great cause, and fosters relationships between all of them.
Shaun and I chatted about how his work has helped him and his volunteers see India in a new way, the importance of representation in the media, what he wished he’d had growing up, and the challenges facing young South Asian American students (and the teachers who work with them) today. Here are a few highlights from our conversation, if you’d like to read them…
On the power of representation and seeing yourself reflected in mainstream media:
“[Representation] helps you see you can have your own unique blend of what it means to be a good South Asian. You want to be a trailblazer, but you also think I want to know that there are others like me.”
On the growing up as a South Asian American kid today:
“Kids growing up now will be facing an increase in xenophobia that will exist to some degree for the rest of their lives. And sometimes [they may be] grappling with the idea that [they’re] still not [seen as] American. When are you fully a part of America?”
On the difficult job teachers have ahead of them in supporting Brown American students:
“As teachers, do we have the toolbox for helping them unpack [what it means to be Brown in America]? How are we preparing for these new questions?”