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Project SET (Student Empowerment Training)

PLEASE do not rush but read all the way through to understand the complete picture and impact of this project.

SET Feed Back Letters – Please Read through these before going through the Project Details

Project Report Aug 2016 -PWS-PCT-SET

Padala Charitable Trust has has partnered with a local NGO Pragathi Welfare Society in Burgula of Mahbubnagar District, TS and conducted SET (Student Empowerment Training) programme in 11 ZP High Schools.

Here is what we heard from the students after the interaction:

Kasturba Gandhi Girls Residential High School –
One girl from 8th class who attended the session came out to the front and said: “The amount of self-confidence I gained through this programme is unbelievable. Just like there is a general knowledge question on Kiran Bedi being the first lady IPS officer in India, there will be a question on my name in future and I challenge I will reach that position”

ZP Girls High School, Farooqnagar –
A 9th class boy named Krishna shared his feedback as follows:
“Because of an accident at an early age, I am a disabled person and cannot move my hand freely. My family cannot afford to support my higher education. So, till today I was thinking to drop out of school this year. But after listening to your Student Empowerment Training Programme and learning about those people who struggled and became successful, I firmly decided to continue my education. Once I settle in my life I am going to start a free school for physically handicapped children in villages”.

Govt High School, Farooqnagar –
Several girls mentioned that they understood the importance of life skills, the difference between literacy and education. They promised that they will not take stress about 10th class exams. Few of them promised that they will serve the society after reaching heights. There were many girls who said they have a better vision about their life now. Many of them challenged they will become IPS and IAS officers.

Ms. Anusha from 10th class said she will become a teacher and will come as a headmistress to the same school she is in now.

Ms. Vandana said she will come as a district collector to the same district and will work to improve the living standards of her villagers.

Ms. Puja mentioned that she was never inspired so much in any of the personality development sessions that she attended in the past.


Few Excerpts from feedback received

  1. After attending your session, I got a clear view of my life now. Many seminars were conducted in our college so far but this one was so different. Please let me volunteer in your activities from now on.  N.Meghana, 3rd Yr BBM, Aditya Degree College for Women, Kakinada
  2. ఆడపిల్లలను బయటకు పంపించ కూడదు అనుకునే పెద్దవాళ్ళు ఆలోచించే రీతిలో ఈ సెషన్ ఉంది. మరల మరల మా కాలేజ్ కి రండి సార్. – N. Hima Kalyani Sai, 3rd Yr B.Com, Aditya Degree College for Women, Kakinada 
  3. నేను ఆడపిల్లను, ఏమీ చెయ్యలేను, అబలను అని ఆలోచించే నా లాంటి ఆడపిల్లల ఆలోచనలను పూర్తిగా మార్చేసారు సార్ .  మాకు ప్రేరణ కలిగించే ఇటువంటి సెమినార్స్ ప్రతీ కాలేజ్ లోనూ  జరగాలి. మీరు ఇచ్చిన స్పూర్తితో  నేను ఒక బాధ్యత కలిగిన మనిషిగా బ్రతుకుతాను. నా వల్ల మరో పదిమందికి మంచి జరిగేలా నడుచుకుంటాను A. Jyothi, Aditya Degree College for Women, Kakinada
  4. Your session completely changed the attitude of a rebel student who has publicly apologized for his past misbehaviour. We have been trying to counsel him for last couple of years to bring this change. Thank you very much for making such a difference in our students’ way of thinking. – Sri Raju, Vice Principal, Pydah College of Engineering, Kakinada
  5. We have realized what else we need to teach the children in the classroom along with the subjects like Math, English, Science. Your session looked more apt to us (teachers) than to the children. Thank you for coming all the way from Kakinada and for changing the way we think about education. – Teaching Staff at ZP High School, Mudunuru, Vuyyuru Mandal, Krishna District
  6. We are living in such a world that even common ethics within the human totally disappeared and it is very necessary to conduct empowerment sessions like this everywhere. Apart from the motivational clippings you have shown, your real life story moved all of us and it is truly an inspiration. We have already started seeing the change in our students’ mindset and attitude after attending your session. Thank you. – T.Sujatha, Trainer, EGMM (TTDC), Amalapuram
  7. Very impressive presentation with great inspiring video clippings
  8. The session helps everyone to focus on specific goals even in the hardest times in life
  9. Great motivational presentation by an youngster to other youngsters
  10. Learnt quite a lot from the session especially not to worry a lot for small things in life like scoring less in the exams etc.
  11. The session has injected me lot of positive energy and now I know I am prepared for any challenge in life

1 – SET_FeedBack_DRDA Trainee

2 – SET_FeedBack_HM_Burugupudi_High_School

3 – SET_FeedBack_HM_Raaparti_High_School

4 – SET_FeedBack_HM_Thimmapuram_High_School

5 – SET_FeedBack_HM_Kirlampudi_High_School

6 – SET_FeedBack_HM_Geddanapalli_High_School

7 – SET_FB_Student_1

8 – SET_FB_Student_2

9 – SET_FB_Student_3

10 – SET_FB_Student_4

11 – SET_FB_Student_5

12 – SET_FB_Student_6

13 – SET_FB_Student_7

14 – SET_FB_Student_8

15 – SET_FB_Student_9

16 – SET_FB_Student_10

17 – SET_FB_Student_11

18 – SET_FB_Student_12

19 – SET_FB_Student_13

20 – SET_FB_Student_14

21 – SET_FB_Student_15

Project SET – FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the idea behind Project SET?

The idea is to mentor the school children & college students in rural areas & urban slums to empower and make them to realize their own potential by conducting interactive sessions in the school/college. This program also emphasizes on human values and social responsibility.

What is the age group you are primarily focussing on in Project SET?

High School & College (6th Class through Degree – 11 Yrs thru 20 Yrs)

What is the need of such projects like SET at the school level? Why can’t they wait until they reach College?

When the children are exposed to any empowerment sessions as early as 11 yrs old they get a chance to explore a lot more by the time they reach college (16 yrs). Most of the time it is the lack of awareness and lack of direction that hurts the rural talent.  We should catch and empower the diamonds in the mud at such an early age to make them realize their potential and give them equal opportunity.

Is there any specific group being targeted in Project SET?

Yes, children from Government High Schools and Colleges of Rural and Urban slums. The reason for this is 99% of these children hail from lower middle class families with no direction and motivation to continue their studies. In most villages the percentage of children who make it to the junior college (11th class) is less than 10%. This is more true in case of girl students.

Do you prefer any particular geography for the initial implementation?

We have already experimented this project with 20+ high schools in East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh. Now we can replicate this in any district of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

What are the immediate (short term) benefits you could notice with this project?

The very first thing we noticed that several children were motivated enough that they promised themselves:

1) Not to miss the school even a single day 2) Read at least one library book per week 3) Keep playing every day

Many of the short stories shared in the programme seemed to have made a deep impact in the children. This was obvious from the letters we received from them in which they mentioned about why it is important to share and care about a needy neighbour.

Most of the time the teachers themselves feel motivated while attending this session and that helps a long way. Some teachers actually promised to conduct follow up sessions to the children on the topics that we covered in this programme.

What are the long term benefits you could notice with this project?

In the long term we can expect the children who attended this session to handle any failure in life without any fear. He/she will grow stronger and will surely create a positive energy in the society by being socially responsible.

Empowered children after knowing the opportunities around will be able to understand the power of positive attitude, value based education, human relationships and last but not least, social responsibility. No matter what happens, they will stay focused towards the goal and lead the way.

*** However, we will NOT be able to measure this right away since it is an intangible benefit to the individual and to his/her family and hence to the society. We never know how many of them will be inspired to become leaders of tomorrow’s India.

Is there any benefit to the school staff/administration in this project?

As part of this project we offer free training to the interested teachers in each school/college so that they can further follow up with the children at regular intervals. This works better since the teacher can take it forward with each group without having to wait for someone like us to intervene. However, the bitter truth is we haven’t been successful in finding many people who are willing to work with us. We will keep looking and hopeful to find at least a few in each district.

What differentiates Project SET? Why is it so unique?

Project SET is very unique and need of the hour since these kind of counselling and motivational sessions (interactive manner using a laptop, projector and screen) hardly happen in any government school or college. Some corporate schools and colleges hire personality development trainers now and then since they can afford it.

The range of topics covered in this programme makes the project unique since they do not come under any classroom curriculum and hence the teachers will not have a chance to address them.

It is only through NGOs intervention that the government school children can be empowered enough to first realize their own potential, next to explore the avenues around them and finally to grow as socially responsible citizens.

The kind of short stories shared during this session help get 100% attention from the children. They are very short, crisp and with a definite connection with the topic in discussion.

The proposed idea/project is a new model that has not been tried/implemented to a decent scale to my understanding. The positive impact we noticed with such a short span of time after visiting 40+ schools is very encouraging.

This project can be implemented in any part of the country as long as we can find passionate individuals who can speak the local language.

What is the Availability and Sustainability part of this project?

1)      The project has already been experimented in several schools of East Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh. It can easily be scaled up to any other district with the required infrastructure (commuting vehicle, laptop, projector, inverter and screen). The content of the presentation stays the same no matter where we are.

2)      The Key Requirements for sustainability of this project are:

  • Hiring passionate individuals who can speak the local language and can motivate children effectively.
  • Infrastructure Support (Commuting Vehicle, Laptop, Projector, Screen, Inverter) so that we will have uninterrupted power supply and do not have to depend on the inconsistent infrastructure facilities at the government schools / colleges.
  • District Educational Officer’s prior permission to conduct these sessions in each school.

 What are the chances of partnership with Government?

We have not tried this yet but it can be given a thought. We can ask the district officials to evaluate the programme and once they understand the importance, they can make it compulsory to have in all schools and junior colleges. We can even request them to provide funding to support the project.

*** However, completely relying on the government support may not be a good idea since it involves some practical difficulties and we will have to work in their schedule. This might hinder the progress significantly.

ROI (Return On Investment)

Indicate approx. cost per child per annum

Assumption – All required infrastructure has been provided as requested.

Average strength of a high school is 300 (6th through 10th class). The approximate cost incurred to conduct a one day session at the school should be around Rs. 5000/- (transportation, food, honorarium for the person who conducts the session & for the helper, misc. expenses).

It is recommended there should be two more follow up sessions in the same academic year for each school. So, the total cost per annum per school (300 children) is Rs. 15000/-. The average cost per child per annum is Rs. 50/-.

The same calculation holds true for junior colleges as well with slight variation in the cost.

How will it be measured, and at what frequency:

The evaluation needs to happen at least twice a year. The interaction with the children and school administration should give us enough details about the impact the programme had in them.

Indicate approximate funding required in Year 1, Year2, Year 3

We can take two/three mandals (20 schools and junior colleges) as a unit with several thousand beneficiaries from underprivileged families.

Year 1 Funding

20 schools/colleges x 3 times x Rs. 5000/-  = Rs. 3,00,000/- (Three Lakh Rupees)

Year 2 and Year 3

We can go with the same funding for other mandals in the district.

Once we are convinced of the positive impact of this project, we can further scale it up to all mandals in the district and then to all districts in the state.

What are the critical success factors / barriers in this project?

One of the most critical success factors is the change in the mind-set of the child – Be positive no matter what happens and be humane all the time. It is very important to realize the power within you. Everything will be okay at the end, if it is not okay that is not the end.

The other success factor is the realization in the school staff that they should devote some time each day for playing games & for sharing moral stories.

Only barrier that I have come across in few schools is the reluctance of school administration to allow us inside the campus and interact with the children. But once they sat through the session and witnessed the impact on the children, they started appreciating the very idea of visiting the schools and motivating the children.

How committed are you in scaling up Project SET?

I have been experimenting on this project for last couple of years (meeting the expenses on my own) and I am extremely happy with the result. When I see some strange spark /glow in the children’s eyes during and after the session, I get enough energy to continue my journey to the next school. The only constraint I have is financial support to cover my expenses.

Here is the brief introduction of myself (Lead of Project SET)

My name is Surya Prasad Padala, M.Tech from IIT Kharagpur (1996 passed out). After working for 16 years in USA as a software consultant, I resigned my job and returned to India for good in December 2012. Since then I have been spending full time in volunteering to non-profits and exploring the opportunities where my talent can make a positive difference to the society. One thing that drives my passion is the very idea of paying it forward. I was financially assisted by an organization called North South Foundation (BREAD was its earlier name) during my engineering (B.Tech). That timely help made a huge difference in my life and that was the time I decided I should pay it forward once I am ready.  At the age of 40, I was able to quit my job with whatever savings I had from my 16+ years of earning. I feel I am blessed to have the opportunity to make a difference by paying it forward. Feel free to take a look at my initiatives at

You can count on me 100% and I can guarantee you that it is not so easy to find many passionate individuals like myself who is so hungry to make a difference by connecting the dots. You will be amazed by the change we can bring together in the lives of many underprivileged with so little investment. Please join me and feel the difference.

Complete Details of Project SET 


The purpose of this document is to outline the details of a new initiative from Padala Charitable Trust (PCT) to empower the students with simple but valuable techniques related to education, role models, human values, practical issues in life, inspiring stories, social responsibility etc.

The idea is to mentor the school children & college students in rural & urban slums to strengthen them and make them realize their own potential. Once we are able to create a positive attitude in them, no matter what happens, they will SUCCEED in life.


Current System of Education

As most of us agree today’s education system in India needs lot of transformation. Majority of the government run schools/colleges lack the basic amenities and committed teachers. In the class time table we hardly see any place for moral science, library period and games. The children are not prepared to handle any failure no matter how small it is. The issues with many of the corporate schools/colleges are little different. They do have better facilities compared to the government schools/colleges but their priorities seem to be different from student’s holistic development. Very few corporate schools & colleges have an agenda for social consciousness and care about counselling the students on much needed subjects like positive thinking, value based education, practical life, social responsibility etc. There has been very unhealthy environment developed in the recent past. Affordable quality schools are not available in quantity.

Because of the way our education system has been evolved, children are not encouraged to think on their feet and develop solutions to the problems. They are kept too busy to explore on their own. Parents most of whom are earlier products of this system are also more interested in their children exclusively devoting their time and energy to score high marks/ranks/grades in examinations and nothing else. To add fuel to the fire, the government officials have recently come up with senseless targets such as 100% pass out in schools in each district. This built enough pressure on the head masters to come up with all kinds of innovative methods like mass copying to reach the targets of 100% pass out and 10/10 scoring in 10th class.

To make any change in this kind of rigid and learning-unfriendly environment is not an easy task. However, it does not mean that we cannot do anything.


Today’s Burning Issue

Lately, we keep hearing about several very unfortunate incidents of suicides by college students & atrocities of various levels on girls and women.

Here are some very interesting & alarming statistics reported:

Reports from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), INDIA:

1)      The suicidal rate is 14 per hour & 1,20,000 per year

2)      Two thirds of these people are below age 40.

3)      Andhra Pradesh state ranks 2nd after Maharashtra with a 12.1% suicidal rate (Chhattisgarh has the lowest suicidal rate of 3.9%)

4)      Family Problems (stress) is found out to be the major cause and poverty is the least cause

5)      People with Primary Education level topped the list (25.2%)


WHO (World Health Organization):

1)      In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. Suicide is now among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15 to 44 (male and female). Suicide attempts are up to 20 times more frequent than completed suicides.

2)      Although suicide rates have traditionally been highest amongst elderly males, rates among young people have been increasing to such an extent that they are now the group at highest risk in a third of all countries. Youth suicide is increasing at the greatest rate.

3)      Mental health disorders (particularly depression and substance abuse) are associated with more than 90% of all cases of suicide.

4)      However, suicide results from many complex socio-cultural factors and is more likely to occur during periods of socioeconomic, family and individual crisis (e.g. loss of a loved one, unemployment, sexual orientation, difficulties with developing one’s identity, disassociation from one’s community or other social/belief group, and honour).

5)      Nearly 30% of all suicides worldwide occur in India and China

6)      It is estimated that these rates will be doubled by 2020 if nothing is done.

How shame on us to allow these things to happen in the first place? Everyone in the game needs to take equal blame including the students, parents, teachers & school/college administration, media and government. Clinical psychologists say, 99% of these forced deaths can be avoided with a second thought and/or simple counselling.

Our students are power-house of latent talents. We need to awaken the sleeping genius within them. 

SET (Student Empowerment Training) Programme

This programme is an initiative from PCT to create a positive energy in the young minds of our system. To be short enough, the goal of this programme is to inform (as many as possible), reform (as much as we can) and transform (as best as we can) our student minds!

Programme Agenda

This programme addresses the following topics:

  1. True Education (not just scoring high marks & ranks – there is much more to it)
  2. Positive Thinking (please try it out, commit mistakes and learn from them)
  3. Efficient Study Techniques & Time Management (respect your time and everybody’s time)
  4. Winning Strategies & Goal Setting (be a leader and not a follower)
  5. Practical Life after college (may not be as beautiful as we dream in the class room)
  6. Human Values & Relationships (we need to come closer to humanity)
  7. Social Responsibility (you are obligated to pay back to the society in any way you can no matter what you are and where you are)

Programme Objectives

Here are the primary objectives of the programme:

  1. Increase the awareness of ‘True Education’ among the children/students
  2. Change the mind-set of Children/Youth through Self esteem enhancement
  3. Make them aware of several possibilities that await them
  4. Inspire them to dream high and work hard enough to make the dream a reality
  5. Train at least one interested teacher per school and encourage him/her to continue the programme in the following years


Programme Approach

Content & Audience

Some of the topics that were mentioned above may not be relevant to some audience. For example, children at Primary School level need not be talked to about Social Responsibility as much as college level students. Similarly, more emphasis needs to be given while speaking to the girl students on practical issues especially after major events in life like marriage, children etc.

Hence, one of the most critical aspects of this Programme is to tailor the content to the intended audience. There must be a unique version of the content for each set of people.

Visual Aids

Though the presentation is given orally there will be several visual aids used in the programme. “A picture is worth a thousand words” since an image may be more influential than a substantial amount of text or speech. Similarly, the content will have several video clippings with real stories of real people.


The session for high school children can be up to 2 hrs with a possible 10 min break in between as needed. For college students the session can go from up to 3 hrs. Throughout the session there will be lot of interaction, stories, humour and visual aids to keep the audience stay 100% focused.


Programme Reach

The very goal of this programme is to reach & empower as many children/students as possible from rural areas. To start with, a small cluster of schools can be identified. Once we review our own experience, the feedback from the children/teachers/parents and lessons learnt, couple of more clusters will be identified to be worked on.


Programme Evaluation & Success Rate

For any programme to be successful, frequent evaluations are critical to help extend the reach further and also make required amendments to the programme content.

Here are few thoughts how we can evaluate the success rate of this programme:

  1. How many schools/children/students have been served and for how long? – Quantitative
  2. How do the schools & children benefit from the programme over a short term & a long term? – Qualitative
  3. What specific feedback is given by the audience in terms of ‘good parts of the programme?
  4. What specific feedback is given by the audience in terms of ‘need-to-improve parts of the programme?
  5. What specific lessons have we learned with respect to
    • Concept of the programme
    • Content of the programme
    • Mode of Presentation
    • Timing of Presentation
    • Illustrations used in the Presentation
    • Visual Aids used in the Presentation
    • Question & Answer Sessions with the Students

The bottom line is, we need to measure our success based on the impact we make on the people we serve — our students. When we see a change in the way students, teachers, school administrators and parents view the school/college education not as a final destination but as a launch pad to career success then we know we have made a dent and helped our people to create a cultural shift.


Programme Team

 Surya Prasad Padala, Project Lead at Padala Charitable Trust, Kakinada, AP, +91 73311-23044,

Deepthi Angara, Project Coordinator, Padala Charitable Trust, Kakinada, AP, +91 73311-26044,

 Rajyalakshmi E, Consultant at HP India Ltd, Bangalore, +91-88848-62201,

  (Available Part Time for the Project)


Current Status and Need of Partnership 

With our own funding we believe we have experimented long enough and in good number of schools to prove the point that any interventions from individuals and NGOs like Project SET does make a difference. Our experience has been very encouraging so far and we are convinced that we should scale this project up to every single school and college in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

We are now on lookout for partners to work with in taking this project forward. The partnership can be in terms of content development/improvement, voluntary hours and financial support.


Funding Requirement for Govt High Schools / Colleges

Average strength of a govt high school is 300 (8th through 10th class). The approximate cost incurred to conduct a one day session at the school should be around Rs. 5000/- (transportation, food, honorarium for the person who conducts the session & for the helper, misc expenses).

It is recommended there should be two more follow up sessions in the same academic year for each school. So, the total cost per annum per school (300 children) is Rs. 15000/-. The average cost per child per annum is Rs.50/-.

The same calculation holds true for junior colleges as well with slight variation in the cost.

We can take two/three mandals (20 schools and junior colleges) as a unit with several thousand beneficiaries from underprivileged families.

For 20 Schools/Colleges

20 schools/colleges x 3 times x Rs. 5000/-  = Rs. 3,00,000/- (Three Lakh  Rupees)

You are most welcome to choose the mandal/region you want to conduct this project. Once we realize the positive impact of this project, we can further scale it up to all mandals / regions.

One thing is for sure – Young India needs these kind of programmes to grow as healthy, efficient and responsible citizens.