Pennsylvania 4-H member is a finalist for "Kid of the Year"
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Eighth grader Ronak Suchindra, a member of the Clover Rovers 4-H Robotics Club in Chester County, was one of 20 finalists selected from 5,000 nominees in the first-ever “Kid of the Year” contest presented by Nickelodeon, TIME and TIME for Kids this year.
According to Nickelodeon, “Kid of the Year” is a multiplatform initiative recognizing extraordinary young leaders who are making a positive impact in their communities.
Suchindra, of Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, was selected for his work with his nonprofit organization, Kids Connect, a learning platform he developed during the pandemic. Using Zoom, Kids Connect allows older kids to teach younger children various skills, such as coding, math, chess and origami.
Kid of the Year
Ronak Suchindra, a member of the
Clover Rovers 4-H Robotics Club in Chester County, PA.
IMAGE: Ronak Suchindra
Since its creation in March, Kids Connect has racked up more than 3,500 interaction hours with 800 students attending 20 different courses. Youth have joined from several states and even other countries.
Suchindra is no stranger to teaching. In previous years, he has spent his summers exploring robotics and coding with other kids in his neighborhood. He said not being able to do that this summer was part of the inspiration behind Kids Connect.
"I noticed many kids weren’t getting enough activities and other enrichment during the pandemic,” said Suchindra. “I also saw other kids helping in their communities, and I wanted to do something to help kids in my community. Our mission is to spread the love of learning to every corner of the world.”
Suchindra and other youth volunteers with a variety of interests and talents teach classes in the evening after school. He noted that it is not only learning fun and educational skills that can be applied to other areas of life, but also a cool way to connect with kids all over the world.
“I love teaching,” Suchindra said. “I’ve always been passionate about it, and working with kids really motivates me. I want to use the fact that I was a finalist for ‘Kid of the Year’ to reach more kids now that people are becoming more familiar with the organization. My overall goal is to reach out to more kids around the globe and teach them new skills.”
Suchindra is a member of the Clover Rovers 4-H Robotics Club, a program offered through the Chester County office of Penn State Extension. The club competes in robotic competitions around the state. He said being part of the club was another factor that inspired his passion for volunteer work.
“I’ve learned so much about coding and robotics and made so many friends and connections,” he said. “This club is so much fun and I enjoy it a lot.”
Toni Stuetz, 4-H extension educator, has known Suchindra and his family for five years. “Ronak really found his niche in our robotics program,” she said. “He’s been on the team for five years, and he emerged as a leader early on. He’s mature, well-spoken, responsible and conscientious.”
Stuetz said science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) lessons have been a critical part of 4-H’s science focus in recent years. Concepts are coupled with real-world lessons to help youth make connections between agriculture, school, community and work. 4-H STEM programs provide an opportunity to learn through a variety of projects, contests, challenges and clubs. Nearly all 4-H projects offer some sort of STEM programming.
“The kids learn to problem-solve and analyze data,” said Stuetz, who added that about half of the counties in Pennsylvania have a 4-H robotics program. “They also get experience with computer coding, computer-aided design, construction work and even improve their math skills. It’s a hands-on opportunity for the kids to learn skills they can take into other parts of their lives and a chance for some career exploration.”
Administered in Pennsylvania by Penn State Extension, 4-H is a community of more than 6 million young people across America learning leadership, citizenship and life skills. More information about 4-H can be found online at extension.psu.edu/4-H.