Persistence: A Journey that lasts a Lifetime
By Anainah Dalal ( Batch 2022)
“Where common sense meets common practice” the saying that describes Riverside and nowhere is it better imbibed in the Riverside culture than in the practice of ‘Persistence’.
The process of Persistence begins for students as soon as we enter Key Stage 3, that is in Grade 8, and continues till we graduate. But the experiences do stay with us at all times. When I joined Riverside in Grade 8, I was immediately introduced to the process in the form of having to create our own initiative to give back to our community.
Coming from a relatively conventional school, I was taken aback by the concept of having community service as part of my new school’s curriculum. When I started going to ‘Suvarna Mandir’ – an old age home , I remember being a little hesitant, somewhat unsure.
All I knew was I had to do good… ‘Riverside’ always encourages the students to build “content and character” – but I didn’t expect I would have to make an effort for anything past my immediate company and daily life. To me, doing good was equivalent to simply being a decent human being to those around me. Stepping into ‘Suvarna Mandir’ and the world of ‘Persistence’ made me realise it would require a lot of hard work, with the first step being learning to adapt to things outside my comfort zone.
After many sessions at ‘Suvarna Mandir’, however, I learned that comfort zones can expand. From sitting quietly in a corner during my first session there, I grew to take the lead in games of Housie and became more confident and involved with the grandparents there.
As I loudly announced numbers in Gujarati, grandparents grumbling with disappointment or exclaiming in joy, I learnt how doing voluntary acts of service can be so gratifying and enjoyable. In only a few months at ‘Suvarna Mandir’, I was made the CEO of the initiative, and for a while it was a struggle to balance the many responsibilities that accompanied the role. Luckily, I had seniors in school who guided me and helped me understand how to organise my time and efforts, making leadership and authority additions to the list of traits I developed due to persistence.
Aarjun Shodhan, my class mate and a fellow ‘Suvarna Mandir’ volunteer, reflected “My experience with Persistence has been one of the best things that has happened to me in my high school journey as it has helped me evolve in ways beyond academics. I remember being extremely reluctant and anxious about interacting with people, as it was far outside my comfort zone. But as time passed I noticed how just my presence had an impact because the grandparents actually looked forward to meeting me every weekend, and I realised over time that I reciprocated the same excitement. From starting off as a nervous adolescent to becoming a CEO with Anainah , my journey has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride but I wouldn’t change a thing about it.”
Aarjun and I spent only two years at Suvarna Mandir, but our experiences during that time have impacted us permanently. The effects of the values we learn from persistence are entirely visible in Riverside alumni as well, who implement them going forward in their journeys, in their universities and jobs too.
Manmay Avashia, a graduate of the batch of 2021, says “The Persistence initiative has always stayed with me because it has made me self-aware and has helped me mentor my juniors, which I believe now are very important life skills.It has mainly taught me to stay with an idea till the end and that has continued to help me even after school.”
Unfortunately, my time with the grandparents was cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic. With everyone restricted to their screens and devices, it became difficult to continue Persistence as it was. Try as we did, we could not manage to stay in touch with every grandparent at ‘Suvarna Mandir’, and other Persistence initiatives such as going to the cancer hospital, teaching the underprivileged children– all were in similar conditions. We were all unable to connect and interact with people with the same intimacy and ease as before.
In order to adapt to these unprecedented circumstances, we decided to reach out and be of service to the communities around us by beginning an online version of Persistence. Some groups engaged in online tutoring and activity sessions for the children in need, and were encouraged towards ‘small acts of kindness’ for those around them. These included going grocery shopping for an elderly neighbour or cooking a meal for security guards in their apartment buildings.
Aarjun adds, “Even though the world was at a standstill, Riverside refused to be. We quickly adapted to the new digital era and so did all our regular processes. I worked in a core team alongside my classmates and juniors to design persistence online, which was challenging, but we managed to find a way through.”
When schools reopened as the cases of Covid-19 dropped, Persistence had to be reimagined, with initiatives like the ‘Inclusive Campus Program,’ and ‘Animal Welfare’ starting to gain momentum.
In Grade 12, my understanding of persistence and its importance for building character was already written in bold letters across my mind. The values it instilled in me have been ingrained in my belief system, allowing me to encourage my juniors to continue the legacy of Persistence by showing them how having the simplest experiences can shape the person they can become.
To me, Persistence does not mean something as big as a complete 360 degree change in one’s personality, it can be something as simple as what Tanaya Dalal, a current Grade 9 student says
“I hope to learn how to stay consistent with something for four years.” The beauty of persistence lies in how it means something different for each individual, and the way everyone can learn something unique about themselves through the same experiences.”
All in all, when the ‘common sense’ of doing good and to become a responsible citizen of society becomes a ‘common practice’, implemented by volunteering and actively contributing to our communities, we develop ‘Persistence‘. In each student’s experience with Persistence, throughout the years, we find a journey that shows just how deep and unique the impact has been. And now I do not say that I hope what I’ve learnt from 5 years of Persistence stays with me, because I already know it will.