In this "First Person" interview, Lisa Van Dusen talks with Shilpa Yarlagadda, a 2014 graduate of Gunn High School in Palo Alto and founder of Club Academia, a video tutorial website that promotes "education of the students, by the students and for the students."
Born during a "sleepover," Shilpa Yarlagadda and her friends started making videos on the floor of her garage and have now made more than 500 that have been viewed all over the world. Up next: Club Academia Global.
Contemplating a gap year before she starts college at Harvard University, Yarlagadda is overflowing with ideas on how to take Club Academia global, and in particular, how to allow students to craft videos customized for their particular school's needs.
Collaborating with Stanford University computer science students, advisor Esther Wojcickij, and other enthusiastic supporters, Yarlagadda is en route to realizing her vision of enabling high school students to create and share accessible educational videos for each other. A 501(c)(3), Club Academia, has received free equipment (tablets and software), allowing the organization to save their first $20,000 grant from the Westly Foundation, and avoid expenses thus far. Yarlagadda recently gave the keynote speech at the Building Learning Communities 2014 ed tech conference, and was invited to join Dell's Youth Innovation Advisors.
Determined to make Club Academia similar to a high school club, the dozens of video-makers, co-founders Roya Huang, Mikaela Klein, and Keshav Varma, play games such as "Saltines," which she says is actually impossible. Terrified of horror movies, afraid of insects and wary of east coast weather, Yarlagadda describes herself as "shy on the inside." She fills small notebooks with "any interesting observation (she) realizes in a day." She credits her father with her desire to find creative solutions to yet unsolved problems around her.
Initially set on studying engineering, Yarlagadda's interests seem to be multiplying. When she lands in college, she now wants to take classes in creative writing, neuroscience, glass blowing, in addition to computer science. Already in touch with several of her future professors at Harvard, Yarlagadda is planning to expand Club Academia to include college-level material.