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700 students from 3 districts avail benefit of Avenues excellence prog

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By Our Reporter

SHILLONG, Aug 27: Over 700 high-school students from institutions in South Garo Hills, West Khasi Hills and West Jaintia Hills made the most out of a week-long personal excellence programme titled ‘APEX’ launched by Meghalaya-based social enterprise, AVENUES.
It may be noted that the intervention marks 20 years of the organisation’s youth engagement and capacity building efforts in the state. Simultaneous felicitation programmes for the pilot batches were held on August 25 across the three districts.
In keeping with the spirit of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, the APEX curriculum incorporates science concepts to instil critical thinking and a spirit of inquiry in young adults. The modules also integrate culture and folklore to help participants imbibe cultural pride, human values and respect for other cultures. Core modules include soft skills such as universal human values, setting and getting goals, public speaking, inter-personal communication, emotions and wellbeing, according to a statement.
AVENUES refers to this umbrella of skills sets as ‘Human Skills for the Future’, and clubs them broadly under three core areas — Communication Skills, Scientific Thinking and Wellbeing.
Principal of Pioneers’ Secondary School, Baghmara, Benjamin Marak, expressed his gratitude to the team from Avenues for bringing APEX to the school. “It has always been my prayer to facilitate the kind of learning that is wholesome and that helps build in our children the capacities to become instrumental to their families, society, and country. It is also our dream to provide the best of education in Baghmara and my aspiration for our children is to have a better education no matter where they come from.”
He went on to say that the communication, scientific thinking and wellbeing sessions as taught through the programme are essential for students to build their lives. “I thank Avenues for the passion and foresight to bring in the change and the best in our students. I can already see the difference in our children and I hope that this programme will reach other schools in the district and maybe have a similar programme for teachers,” he added.
Ribahun Kharjahrin, a Class 9 student of Rev JJM Nichols Roy Memorial Secondary School, Nongstoin, was one of the APEX participants and speaking of her learnings from the programme, she said, “In the past 5 days, I have learnt many things from the training by Team Avenues such as how to present myself with the right etiquette, manners and how to carry myself in a respectable manner. We all have goals but we don’t have direction and so we lose hope. But from this programme, I am now clear how to move towards my goal and that one day I will achieve it.” She went on to thank the trainers and the teachers of her school for the opportunity.
Deputy Commissioner of South Garo Hills, Shivansh Awasthi, who attended the felicitation programme in Baghmara, said, “All three components of APEX – Communication, Scientific Thinking and Wellbeing — constitute the Human Skills which capture both the sentiments of the NEP and what we are trying to achieve through schools in our district. In essence, each component caters to our overall development – mind, emotion and action.”
He went on to add that it is his hope that the APEX model would be scaled up. “One of the many things that are synonymous and consistent with Avenues’ interventions are that they are reflected in the confidence and energy of the participants. I hope that this programme will continue with more reach and impact,” he added.
Founder CEO, Avenues, Mark Laitflang Stone, presented the vision for the initiative during the Baghmara programme. “The APEX framework is a culmination of our experiences in soft skills training and personal development interventions for our youth over the course of twenty years in Meghalaya, and brings together the critical competencies needed to thrive in life. We realise that our team is uniquely positioned to deliver the core components of the programme in our state’s own languages, and it is our mission to assist and support stakeholders, leaders and teachers in every corner of the state to leverage the approach we have created. The model encourages students to express themselves with confidence, develop a respect for science, form information seeking habits, improve aspirations and embrace their emotions and identity. We intend to study the outcomes of the programme and further refine the framework for mass adoption.”
Agame Niasa A Sangma, a Class 8 student of United Baptist Secondary School, Baghmara, spoke about her APEX experience saying that it is different from normal classes in school. “One of the most important lessons for me from this programme is about Values because they remind me to always choose to be the best version of myself no matter what I do and where I go in life. The sessions also help me learn how to sit, stand and speak properly with confidence and proper etiquette whether in front of my classmates and teachers or when I meet people for the first time”.
The programme was fully-sponsored by AVENUES and was conducted at Pioneer’s Secondary School and United Baptist Secondary School in Baghmara in South Garo Hills; Thomas Jones Secondary School and Rev. JJM Nichols Roy Memorial Secondary School in Nongstoin, West Khasi Hills; and Adventist Higher Secondary School in Khliehtyrshi in West Jaintia Hills, from August 21 to 25.
It may be mentioned that AVENUES’efforts in Meghalaya have impacted over 100,000 youths since 2003 in areas spanning Communication, Personal Development, Skills, Life Aspirations and Wellbeing.

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