Episode 21 – Connect the World to the Classroom: A Conversation with Akash Patel

Image - Episode 21 Guest - Akash Patel
It's About Language, with Norah Jones
It's About Language, with Norah Jones
Episode 21 - Connect the World to the Classroom: A Conversation with Akash Patel

“The truth is that all of us humans are the same, regardless of where we come from. We all have the same aspirations for our family members and for our loved ones. And that’s what my scholars experience in this global citizenship curriculum, to help them realize that we’re all the same, which is a powerful way of promoting peace and understanding in the hearts and minds of our children.”

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Those of you who have heard Akash Patel speak — in person, on video, in virtual events — know that he is a remarkable, energizing, and kind human being (bio). In this episode he is passionate to show us the path to creating kind and compassionate human beings. Every example he shares of something he has done he specifically connects to ideas for how we who listen can take action. He invites us all to receive the gifts of global connection for which he established his Foundation, and to take steps to find how we can share our gifts, perhaps ones we ourselves did not even know we have.

Be inspired by stories of empathy in action, in order that you may also better the lives of others. Feel, not just listen to, Akash’s affirmation, “joy leads to life’s purpose,” and gain new purpose to find and share your own. I asked Akash to be my guest because I know he is dedicated — despite the tragedy and sorrow he has experienced in his own life — to making a difference in th elives of others, and has the rare skill of inspiring each of us to rise to new dedication in our lives to do the same, and to connect us each to the other in the world, as we are supposed to be.

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It’s About Language – Episode 21 – Connect the World to the Classroom: A Conversation with Akash Patel

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Norah Jones:     It is a great pleasure to welcome to this podcast. Akash Patel. Hi Akash.

Akash Patel:       Hi, good evening, Norah. How’s it going?

Norah Jones:     It’s going well. And it’s going even better because you have said that you would be my guest, and I’m very, very excited about what we’ll talk about together, you and I. You have provided me with a couple of statements. You have so many aspects of things that you have expressed. I am going to invite everybody that listens to this podcast to make sure to check out my website so that they can see your biography and the list of your experiences, and especially those links to things that you do say in the world. Today, you have provided this particular statement: “How do we connect students [to the world] while being isolated from it?” And, Akash, I’d like to add that statement that comes from your Happy World Foundation website: How do we help students preview their misconceptions about other cultures, and dispel stereotypes, and fight bigotry and prejudice? How do we do those connections? And those helps?

Akash Patel:       Absolutely, Norah, I’m so incredibly excited and thrilled to be here and looking forward to having the robust conversation with you about these themes.

Norah Jones:     That’s great. And what would you say is the absolute starting push? If I said to you, we’ve got to do this starting tomorrow morning, because it’s late enough tonight, I think, for both of us… but tomorrow we’re going to go out and we’re going to do this. How would you start out tomorrow doing it?

Akash Patel:       Norah, I think we are in an unprecedented time, a time when children are experiencing depression or they’re feeling isolated. And that’s exactly what I put in the theme, that how do we connect our children with the world during these unprecedented times when we are isolated from the world? So what can we do to bring the world to our classrooms? So a few years ago, when people did not use technology or teachers were not used to using technology as much, teachers could complain, Hey, I’m not tech savvy. I don’t think I could video call somebody from some other part of the world. But now we live in COVID-19 times when people can’t complain that they aren’t tech savvy. We are all tech savvy. So at Happy World, what we do is we have opened up a database of over a thousand speakers from over 120 countries.

Akash Patel:       These speakers are available for free to your listeners, whether they’re a Japanese teacher, a Korean teacher, a Spanish, or a French teacher, they just have got to reach out to us and be like, Hey, I would like to connect my scholars to somebody from Lesotho or somebody from India, somebody from Spain, somebody from Equatorial Guinea, or Venezuela, because that’s what our scholars need today. During these unprecedented times if we can help bring some joy and ignite some empathy and action civics in the classroom, what a magnitude of a difference it would make in the lives of our scholars.

Norah Jones:     Magnitude of difference, is right. Now, this is found on the Happy World foundation website — that they can find these connections?

Akash Patel:       Absolutely, Norah. So, it would be on HappyWorldFoundation.us.  Or you could look up our Instagram or Facebook page and just send us a direct message and be like, Hey, I teach Spanish in rural Virginia, or, Hey, I teach German and I’m in California. And I would like to connect my scholars with a native speaker of German from Germany. I would like to connect my scholars with native speakers of Spanish from Bolivia or from Argentina. And we will make it happen in less than 24 hours. We’ll connect you with the speaker and your job would be to connect with this speaker, send them the Zoom link or the Microsoft Teams link, and once the speaker joins your classroom, your students should be out there with their maps, asking questions in target language, to find out where this mystery person is from. So they could play mystery hangout, and then engage in a conversation with this person about their country, their culture, their jobs, their professions.

Norah Jones:     Brilliant. Now, Akash, you just provided a variety of ideas along with just plain old linking up. You provide a lot of professional development and ideas as well, don’t you?

Akash Patel:       Yes, Norah. And the particular one that we focus on is anti-bias education or anti-racist training in the foreign language classroom. So through all of these connections that we facilitate, we are trying to bring in humans of color from different nationalities into the schools. So when children meet these people, they see a brown or black or white man or a woman in a positive light. They see this person who’s a working professional, whether it’s a volunteer from Afghanistan, who is an engineer and speaks multiple languages, and is video calling a classroom in Arizona. So students can now see people from Afghanistan in a positive light and not associate them with some sort of a stereotype that has got to do with bombs and a war.

Norah Jones:     Hmm. Hmm. And there’s a lot of passion in everything you do. There was also passion in your voice, right then. What is it that leads you to this passion and this ongoing education and to the recognition of this need, these biases and overcoming these biases?

Akash Patel:       It’s a terrific question, Norah. That goes back to a few years ago, when I came to the state of Oklahoma. I was in Iowa studying nuclear engineering the first semester in August of 2009. And then December, I decided I’m going to quit this because this is not for me. I moved to Oklahoma, not knowing what I want to do. And then I end up getting my Associates in liberal studies, my Bachelor’s in education…. I get certified to become a high school math teacher and an elementary school teacher. I student teach my first assignment in a small, rural community of less than 200 people in the whole town where people had never seen somebody like me. And then I go into the schools and the classrooms and the students are like, Whoa, we’ve got a teacher who’s Indian American. And he’s teaching us about elephants and his work with sea turtles and traveling all over the globe.

Akash Patel:       So that’s where, Norah, I saw a need. I saw the children and I saw a gap in global education. I saw that a lot of these kids had never left their farming communities, and they didn’t know necessarily where Dubai or Mumbai or Johannesburg was on a map. I, on the other hand, had the privilege to have traveled to over 50 countries, speak six languages. So I was like, what can I do to bridge this gap? Because as one human. I can only do so much. But what if I bring in all of my contacts from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, from all of these different countries and video call them using Facebook video calling, WhatsApp, Skype, Google Hangout. Because back then in 2014, we didn’t have Zoom. I mean, maybe we had it, but it wasn’t as popular as it is during COVID-19 times. So I mobilized this group of volunteers and created a small database that could video call my rural classrooms in Oklahoma. And then I realized what if I shared this gift with teachers from all across the state of Oklahoma and then slowly, what if I share this gift with teachers from all across the United States? And that’s what we do today. Today, we have a database of over a thousand John Lennons. I call them John Lennons because they do this for free.

Norah Jones:     Wow. Wow. And you, and you just kept leveraging your friendships, your connections…

Akash Patel:       And the friends of friends of friends because these friends have other connections. So they lead you to a giant network. And every time we facilitate a video call, the pictures from those calls help inspire action in folks who were like, Oh, I think I could do this too.

Norah Jones:     That was where I was going to go next. It’s not only that it’s provided, but that it also demonstrates a pathway for others to take action in lives to make a difference.

Akash Patel:       Absolutely, Norah. And you know, we have been predominantly serving American classrooms. So when the Americans saw the amount of global citizens, individuals from all over the world, chiming in their time and their talents to help American children learn about the globe, other Americans were inspired. They were like, what can we do to give back? So now I’ve got high school students. I’ve got teachers who are like, Hey, I’ve got 20, 25 minutes of my time. Can I video call a classroom in Turkey? Or may I video call a classroom in Argentina and help a group of university students learn some English? So that’s action civics.

Norah Jones:     Speak more about the action civics. What a great term. What are some of the other pathways that you reach, that you use, to have others understand that concept and to engage in it?

Akash Patel:       Terrific. Norah. That action civics and empathy component is so important because I get, you know, especially being in the South sometimes backlash. They’re like, why do you need to do all of these video calls? So I tell even the most conservative folks, Hey, when I video call people from Sudan and Bangladesh and countries where children don’t have the same resources as they do in the United States, that even though my scholars are from a Title I school, poverty is not anywhere compared to the poverty of children in Africa or Asia. So that inspires empathy and that empathy in turn inspires action. I’ll give you a recent example. A group of kids scattered a group of kids, or like video called zoom, a group of kids in the Kiribati Islands that are tiny. I told them the Pacific Ocean being flooded because of global climate change.

Akash Patel:       So the children in Scottsdale, Arizona, the first question they asked the kids in Kiribati, what do you guys do for recess? And the children have they’re… they’re like we just go outside and jump in the water because their school is right across from the beach. So one of the children there remarked that, Hey, very soon, our school’s going to be under water and we are going to be climate refugees. So the teacher that we helped facilitate this call the next morning, she sends me a reflection of one of her inner-city scholars from Scottsdale, Arizona showing me a picture of that scholar’s reflection with the bed. And the scholar said, Hey, miss, I don’t think I could do much to help these climate refugees from Kiribati, but I think I can share my bed with one of them. And that’s powerful empathy in action that even though this child lives in a Title I, like, even though he studies in Title I school in an impoverished community, that doesn’t have much himself, he still feels that he can make a difference in someone’s life. And that’s an important lesson in giving, that we don’t have to be rich to make a difference in someone’s life. And all of these video calls that we help facilitate, they’re inspiring and sparking empathy and preparing our children to be the empathetic global citizens and giving citizens of tomorrow.

Norah Jones:     Akash, that is a beautiful story. And it reminds me, then, what other ways of training those that may not know how to evoke those stories? What other events do you provide for those parents, those teachers, those administrators, those governmental legislators in order to demonstrate the power of what you’ve just shared here?

Akash Patel:       Norah, we’ve got plenty of resources at the non-profit. What we need is a willing and a passionate teacher. Hey, the teacher may not be as well-equipped, may not have facilitated over a thousand calls in her classroom like I have, but Hey, I need somebody who has the willingness to bring this to their classroom. It’s like me adding Norah today on my cell phone and then calling her. It’s that simple. Our non-profit has made it so easy. You just reach out to us. We give you the contact. We even give you resources. Like we give you pre-prepared questions that your students can ask in the target language to the mystery Hangout speaker. So we literally provide step-by-step on how you could facilitate these calls and how could you lead these calls into some action civics into your classrooms?

Norah Jones:     That’s brilliant. And how is it then that these step by step… these resources that you are providing, they lead to this empathy, they lead to this direct action, this civics in action. One of the things that came to me here recently, this very week was about the General Assembly, the Global Engagement Summit and helping educators to get engaged with understanding and working with sustainable development goals. Does that integrate the experiences that you’re bringing, that you’re talking about?

Akash Patel:       Absolutely. And I’m going to give you another example here, Norah. My classroom recently had the opportunity to video call one of our volunteers who happens to be the CEO of Community Recycling, an international non-profit organization, that recycles stuff in the United States and sends it to countries all over the globe. So the first question my scholars asked is like, wow, that’s such a cool initiative, but what can I do being in Dallas, Texas? So the man, he sends us a box with shipping paid for, and he says, drop in your gently used clothes or your shoes and send that box to back to me. So we sent the box back to him and he video calls us again. And he’s like, Bella, look at your shoes. They’re going to the Philippines. Or, hey, Alexis, look at your shirts, they’re going to children in Sudan. So for the first time, these kids at a Title I school had realized again that they didn’t have to be rich to make a difference in someone’s life. And we championed sustainable development goals through something as simple as a video call that sparked this empathy and this action that is dealing with climate change through these recycling processes. And it’s helping uplift people out of poverty.

Norah Jones:     How do you make people aware? There are many examples of things that you have done and your biography, as I say. You have provided for my website, also your TED Talk on global citizenship. What are some of the more effective ways that you’ve been able to get this message out to some of the grownups in the audience, shall we say?

Akash Patel:       Norah, there’s a few resources that I want to discuss tonight. And of course some are on there on your website, but I also want to reach out and give you a couple others, partners that are doing the same work that we do, but in a different avenue. Now our job at our nonprofit predominantly revolves connecting children with global citizen adults from over a hundred countries for free live and for free, whenever the teacher wants it. There are other organizations like Empatico.org, which is sponsored by the Kind Snacks. This organization works with pre-K through elementary classrooms, connecting classrooms to classrooms. Now we don’t connect classes to classes. We connect classes to humans, to global citizens. Then we’ve got Skype in the classroom with Microsoft, another initiative that connects K–12 and university classrooms with other classes or field trips. They even offer free virtual field trips, where your students, without having to leave their Zoom classroom, can make it to the Yellowstone National Park, or they could go to the Taj Mahal. And that, too, live and for free.

Norah Jones:     Wow, that’s phenomenal. Thank you for distinguishing these different opportunities for learning and for growth coming from different organizations. And help those who may not be familiar with the Happy World Foundation. Why did you establish it?

Akash Patel:       Norah, in 2014, as I said, I was in Oklahoma student teaching in a rural community. When I saw that spark in the eyes of the kids, when I introduced them to global experiences, I started a nonprofit called Global Experiences Foundation, a 501(c) (3) organization. Now fast forward four years, 2018, April of 2018 on the 9th of April, I lost my only sibling, my twin brother, Happy Patel, to a plane crash. So when I lost this 26 year old, young and dynamic human from my life, I was devastated. And I was like, what do I do to overcome my grief, and to honor my twin’s memory? So I sat down with my best friends and we were like, Hey, I’m already running this initiative called Global Experiences because we all need global experiences. We all need this cross-cultural understanding and this dialogue to help us dispel stereotypes and to become champions of anti-racism and anti bigotry and anti prejudice.

Akash Patel:       So what do we do to honor his memory? You were like, why don’t we just change this movement from global experiences to a Happy World? Because the ultimate goal of global experiences is that all of us live in a joyful world, free of bigotry and prejudice. So we changed the name of the non-profit. We changed the logo to a globe with glasses that my twin brother used to wear, the happy glasses that are glasses with no lenses in them. So we put the happy glasses on there and we changed the logo and it’s called Happy World Foundation.

Norah Jones:     And that world has a brand new vision, thanks to that memorial to your brother that’s changing the world. Thank you for sharing that story. Akash.

Akash Patel:       No, thank you, Norah. And I want to just briefly address a couple other things too, that the non-profit does. So if there’s any social entrepreneurs, any teachers who want to start their own ventures, we have a Happy non-profit clinic. So it helps start-up founders who want to start their own non-profit organization file for exempt status pro bono. So an attorney would charge you $2,000 or $3,000. We charge you nothing. And since my brother’s passing, we’ve helped over 59 organizations across the United States file for exempt status with the IRS. Now, when my brother passed away and I was gone for his funeral and memorial for three weeks, the students at my school, they raised $1,500 to give to my family for the funeral. My family was like, there’s no way we could accept money from children. So we gave it back and the children refused to take it.

Akash Patel:       And they started a program called the Happy Meals for the Homeless. So ever since that year, we have dedicated over 10,000 meals to the homeless by matching every dime and each year dedicating the same amount of money that my scholars donated to make sure inner-city homeless people in the regions that we serve have access to nutritious meals. We’ve got a mentorship initiative. We’ve got a global ambassadors leadership Institute that takes applications from teachers, from students, from change makers and grassroots activists who want to become global citizens. It’s a scholarship-based program that we offer each year. It meets only eight times on eight Saturdays. We connect you with ambassadors, with global citizens, and we give you the opportunity to create change in your communities. We’ve got a global citizen awards gala program that honors global citizens from across the United States. And we have multiple other programs that you can access through our HappyWorldFoundation.us website.

Norah Jones:     That is a rich environment for folks to get a tremendous number of gifts available to them. And I can certainly speak to the powerful experience of providing the pro bono work for helping others to set up non-profits. That’s definitely sowing the seed for plenty of harvest in the years to come. What is it that your students seem to especially resonate with? Not just your students, but in general, what have you seen happen in young people’s lives who have so much struggle sometimes with their own identities or as I tend to be focused on in my work, with finding their voice and listening to the voice of others? What are some of the most important things that you’ve seen happen?

Akash Patel:       Norah, firstly, I think bringing these global experiences has helped my students of all colors, whether it’s white, black, brown, these students are now seeing individuals of color in professional settings. Folks who are career bound, who are wanting to become doctors or engineers and lawyers. And they’re video calling my students to practice their language skills with them or to teach them about their country. So I’ve got this scholar in my classroom who comes from a very poor background and he’s a first generation, going to be a first-generation college student. If he makes it to college, he now sees people just like him doing incredible things in life. So the one great thing I have seen out of this is children saying, Hey, Mr. Patel, someday, I’m going to be in Machu Picchu. And I’m going to take my mother there to Peru because I’m going to find a professional job and I’m going to go to college.

Akash Patel:       So that’s a powerful thing that we can gift to our kids. Because a lot of what’s happening right now, Norah, you see the negativity around race relations. It’s because we do not portray people of color in positive limelight. Everything in the media portrays these people of color doing negative things. So when we bring in these positive role models in the schools, it shows kids, Hey, there’s something to aspire to. That someday I can travel to these countries or someday I can look beyond the four walls of this classroom and beyond the four walls of the communities that they live in and aspire to the great things that are out there for them. And secondly, you know, I’m a fairly new teacher. Now I’ve got five or six years experience in the classroom. But when I was a brand-new teacher, you know, the greatest challenge that I had, like most teachers do, is how do I manage a group of unruly scholars that don’t want to sit in one place? So I was like, Hey, if I video call people from Bangladesh and India, what I saw, Norah, is some of my most unruly scholars, they asked me questions like Mr. Patel, why don’t they have anything on their walls? And Mr. Patel, why do they have to walk for 30 minutes to make it to school? So that is the transformative power of empathy that I didn’t have to read a classroom management book to inspire a change in behavior or attitudes of these kids. It just happened naturally through the connections I fostered in my classroom.

Norah Jones:     Making connections helps naturally to flower. How have you seen that in educators? What are some of the stories that you have seen with educators that have been engaged in these experiences?

Akash Patel:       You know, since you were connecting with me from Virginia, one of your teachers of Virginia…. you know, she also happens to be a leader in the FLAVA organization or Foreign Language Association of Virginia, JoAna Smith, a high school teacher. And she started connecting after I did a keynote presentation in Virginia. She’s like, Akash, I really want to try this out in my high school. So one day she sent me a text message. She’s like, Akash, you know what? Recently at my school, there were scholars who were trashing the school building or who vandalized the school building and broke some windows around the school. So her high school Spanish classroom, they told her, Hey, Ms. Smith, I wish these vandals or these colleagues and friends of ours who vandalized the school, they were in your classroom, and they were connecting with these people from Colombia and Venezuela so they could see how fortunate they are to live in the United States. Such a powerful thing that she could have sent me, that, Akash, those video calls that I fostered really changed the attitudes of my scholars. They are now so responsible to an extent that they also want to help the folks that are out there destroying the school property.

Norah Jones:     That’s amazing. And that’s a story from Virginia in this case. Do you see students then…. Here, you’re talking about these scholars who have used their experience and wish to share that specific experience with their peers who have created this problem. What other stories have you seen of students that having gone forward in the world turn around and bring others along with them?

Akash Patel:       So, you know, particularly I want to address the impact that these calls has on language learning. You know, how it inspires them to wake up and be like, Hey, Mr. Patel, who are we calling this week? Or who are we going to be calling next week? So it’s that excitement and that enthusiasm, that something like this brings to them. And then they know that, Oh, we connected with this person. So for example, I had a group of J-1 [visa] visiting scholars in my exploring languages classroom. This is a classroom where I introduced scholars to people from over a hundred countries because the whole idea of this class is for them to explore the vast diversity of languages. So this is pre COVID-19. I brought him actual individuals in the classroom, a group of J-1 visiting scholars on J-1 visas that are like temporary visas for exchange from Brazil, came and spoke to my scholars about their country and taught them some basic words in Portuguese.

Akash Patel:       So these guys, they so well bonded with my scholars that their last day they were working with my scholars, they gave them a soccer ball, autographed by each one of them. And this was like a group of fifth graders. So they really, you know, to this day, this is three years ago, they came and gave them the soccer ball. To this day, they play with that soccer ball, thinking that it came from real soccer players. But those are the kinds of relationships. Now, there was a classroom to classroom engagement where we connected a classroom in India with our peers in the United Kingdom and my scholars in Dallas, Texas. Now right before their STAR exam, which is what we refer to our state mandated tests, the group of scholars from India and the United Kingdom gave my scholars a surprise video call. They called my scholars.

Akash Patel:       They were out there in a field, or like on the playground with flags of the United States, United Kingdom and India. And they performed a dance and they were like, Hey, Hey guys, good luck on your exam. So it’s all about the relationships we build because you know, yes, there’s impact on empathy or yes, it’s helping language learning, but it is about the joy it brings to kids. And a lot of times our scholars just need that joyful experience. You don’t know what they’re going through. Several of mine that have gone through things that are, that are unimaginable, that I can only empathize with because I’ve never lived through those stories, but I know I can give them a safe haven. I can give them a place that’s joyful, that they look forward to every morning. And they’re like, Mr. Patel, where are we going to call tomorrow? That’s what I’m looking for. I want them to have a joyful experience and that joy lead them to their passions or that joy lead them to their life’s calling.

Norah Jones:     Joy leads to life’s calling. Akash, you have so much positivity. It flows out in everything you do, meaningfully so. You’re careful with your words. Here’s one word, for example, that it’s neat that you have, you consistently use, the word scholars where so many would say students. Why do you pick that word? What is it doing for your scholars? And those that are around them and the educational and community experience?

Akash Patel:       That’s a terrific question, Norah. And that word scholar… you know, there used to be a time when I would call them and refer to them as students. So just like I expressed to you that our job at the non-profit is to portray humans of color, whether they be white, black, or brown in such a positive light that the media often does not. So that when children look up to these people, they look up to people from Afghanistan as positive role models and not as what they see on the TV. So in the same way, I think when you lower the standards, when you use… I’m not, I’m not saying students is a bad word, but I think it’s about the standards that you set for your scholars. When I use the word scholar, I know they’re are set to a higher standard than the rest of them, that they are expected to be bilingual.

Akash Patel:       They’re expected to be the global citizens of tomorrow. They’re expected to be empathetic global citizen Americans who will use their privileges and freedoms in this country to uplift those in other countries around them. And that’s why I use the term scholar because I think very highly of them. And I know they can get to that scholarly level. I know they can motivate themselves and their communities and lift anybody out of whatever condition they’re in to excellence and to greatness. And that’s why we’ve got to change the narrative, we’ve got to bring in the positives, we’ve got to lift, you know, those standards and expectations. And when you start treating them or referring to them as scholars, they start manifesting themselves into a scholarly way of life.

Norah Jones:     When one chooses one’s words carefully and especially purposefully, like you’ve just done, it sends the message. What other words have you found to be especially powerful to provide that uplifting, educating, and empowering experience for your scholars, for their parents, guardians, the community, administrators, what are some other keywords that you’ve established, Akash?

Akash Patel:       Norah, as a foreign language educator, two words that mean the world to me, and for the passionate work that we do at a Happy World, is “global citizens.” That not only are my scholars going to be the scholars of tomorrow, but they will be global citizens. Last year was a prime example of bigotry and prejudice and racism, and all of the negatives that you could think about in terms of race relations or relations between folks of different countries and different nationalities and different religions. But we know that when we start young in the public schools, in the K through 12 schools, when children are young, yes, they may have racist beliefs, or they may have stereotypes of others, but you know that they were not born with these beliefs. They come to your classroom and you have that incredible opportunity to mold their minds and their attitudes, without having to tell them what to do.

Akash Patel:       Your curriculum itself is so rich of anti-racist, anti-bigotry experiences, and full of multicultural and multilingual, that it naturally molds them to seek the truth. And the truth in this case is that all of us humans are the same, regardless of where we come from. We all have the same aspirations for our family members for our loved ones. And that’s what my scholars experience in this global citizenship curriculum in my classroom. That there’s a human from Equatorial Guinea that’s dark-skinned, to there’s somebody who’s fair-skinned in Mexico, or from any other part of the globe. But they’re all ultimately the same, regardless of whether they’re Catholic, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, they all share the same aspirations. And that’s such a powerful way to help children review their misconceptions, like you mentioned at the beginning of the podcast. To help them realize that we’re all the same, which is a powerful way of promoting peace and understanding in the hearts and minds of our children.

Norah Jones:     That it is. And I certainly am going to continue to encourage anyone that’s listening to this podcast to check out my website with all of the resources that you’ve provided, and to check out certainly your website to be provided those tools, insights, opportunities for themselves and for their scholars. Akash, as much as I would like to be able to do this for hours, I’m afraid I’m going to have to turn to you at this particular point and say that I would really like for you to take these last few minutes to do the following. If you would turn, emotionally, to those who are listening to this podcast and give them one last invitation, exhortation, warning… You’ve provided so many opportunities for thought. What’s the last thing that you want to say to our listeners?

Akash Patel:       Norah, I want to tell your listeners tonight that, Hey, I know these are hard times. These are unprecedented times when even teachers are struggling, they’re burned out. They’re like, what do I do to not just take care of myself, but also to bring joy and life into my classroom? We at Happy World are committed to improving the educational quality of the experiences that scholars receive in their classroom. And we are here to support educators who are willing to bring in the global experiences into their classroom. So I just want to appeal to the educators or to the administrators or to the community members who are tuning in. Hey, it’s as simple as adding a contact that somebody you just recently met on your phone and dialing and calling them. That’s how easy it is. You just have got to reach out to us and be like, Hey, I want to get started. And I want to connect with somebody from the Spanish-speaking world or from the Italian-speaking world or from Asia, Africa, Antarctica, or any of the part of the world. Or I just want to take my students on a virtual field trip because we are tired of these COVID-19 lockdowns. We have got the resources to make that happen in your classroom, and to help you bring joy to help you spark empathy, global citizenship, cross-cultural understanding and action civics in your classroom.

Norah Jones:     Thank you very much, Akash; that is a wonderful invitation, a wonderful exhortation. And thank you for those wonderful opportunities. It’s been such a pleasure to just have a fantastic conversation with you and thank you for all that you’re doing. Thank you. And thank you for inspiring others that are doing amazing work.

Akash Patel:       And thank you, Norah, for your leadership for compiling these stories, because how inspiring, even just being able to tune into a podcast and transforming the life of one educator. This is just such a powerful way of reaching folks during an unprecedented set of time. So I want to send my heartfelt commendation.

Norah Jones:     Thank you very much. I appreciate that. And I wish you well, your scholars well, and please keep on being happy and sharing that with the world. Thanks, Akash.

Akash Patel:       Thank you, Norah.

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3 thoughts on “Episode 21 – Connect the World to the Classroom: A Conversation with Akash Patel

  1. Akash is amazing…an inspiration for all in his passion to unite the world. I love the story about how he has honored his dear twin brother by renaming his foundation to Happy World, and how Happy’s signature glasses are “worn by the world” on the foundation Web site. Akash has accomplished so much for schools and children, engaging them with the message that you don’t have to be rich to show empathy and do something to help others. Just beautiful! Thank you for another uplifting podcast – I enjoyed it on my morning walk today! Congratulations Akash on truly making a difference! 😎

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