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A life lesson  for the teacher

2013 ConVal grad spending year in India

Upon graduating from ConVal in the spring, Isaiah Claggett-Singleton decided to follow in some different footsteps from his college-bound peers. With family friend and Himalaya Education Foundation founder Jay Hardikar’s encouragement, Claggett-Singleton took the road less traveled — literally — when he chose to spend a gap year volunteering at the Himalaya Public School in Chaukori, India.

Claggett-Singleton, whose parents had supported the HEF in the past through donations and by putting on a benefit concert, recently wrote in an email, “After thinking about it, I decided that volunteer-teaching at the school would be a great way to experience something different while spending my time doing something worthwhile.” Claggett-Singleton added, “I wanted to take some time to travel and gain some worldly experience before I further my education.”

Claggett-Singleton has been accepted to Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore., and plans to attend next year, but he is spending nine months furthering the education of others first. Waking up in the early hours and working well into the evening each day, the young Dublin resident teaches English and social studies to students ranging from 4th to 12th grade. In between classes, Claggett-Singleton plays games with the younger students, shows the older students American football, and takes a Hindi class. With plans to stay until April, Claggett-Singleton is HPS’s longest-term volunteer, according to his mother, April Claggett.

Claggett, an artist and educator from Dublin, Rhine Singleton, a professor at Franklin Pierce and the father of Isaiah, and Jordan Claggett-Singleton, a senior at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and Isaiah’s older brother, all arranged for time off to join Isaiah in India for a type of family gap year. “In a sense, we are tagging along with Isaiah,” wrote Claggett in an email.

Though his family is present on his first trip to India, Isaiah Claggett-Singleton is working in different realms from his parents and brother. While his mother and father help work with some students on music and on projects like painting a mural of the solar system, Claggett-Singleton’s older brother is learning how to build shelters out of bamboo and tin for this summer’s flood victims. “We’ve seen firsthand the makeshift tent villages along the river valleys since entire villages were wiped out,” said Claggett in her email.

The younger Claggett-Singleton is focusing on teaching, though he wouldn’t mind participating in the HEF-sponsored outdoor education program made possible by an EMS donation the Ledger-Transcript reported on Sept. 26. “I am here to help in whatever way possible, and if that means getting involved in the outdoor program, then I am more than happy to do so,” Claggett-Singleton wrote.

Claggett-Singleton appears to be content going wherever he is needed, as long as it’s in Chaukori. Praising the village’s friendly people, “fantastic” food and beautiful views of the Himalaya mountains, Claggett-Singleton summed up his experience so far: “Chaukori is a great little town and the community at the school is great. I have no complaints and am loving every minute.” Looking to months between now and April, Claggett-Singleton added, “I am looking forward to the rest of the time I have here.”

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