When Cherry Hill triplets Gia, Karina and Araam Gupta were seventh graders at Rosa Middle School in 2019, they began their nonprofit Little Mentors, an effort to connect with schools internationally in the hope of tutoring other students.
Now seniors in high school, the sisters’ organization has grown significantly.
The Guptas started what would later be Little Mentors with inspiration from their dad, who wished when he was a child in India that he had the opportunity to speak to students around the world. His daughters made that effort a reality, and thanks to their father’s connections, they set up a meeting with students in India.
“We kind of thought that it would be a tutoring kind of organization, where we tutor kids from around the world, but I feel like that was kind of a misguided mindset,” said Araam. “And we’ve matured, and it’s not only us that can provide things, it’s also them.”
Thus, the group’s mission changed and Little Mentors was born.
“We wanted to redefine what mentorship was,” explained Gia. “ … One of the biggest premises of Little Mentors is that it’s supposed to be a mutualistic relationship, not a student from the U.S. to India, and they’re getting all the info, but we’re not receiving anything back or vice versa.
“The idea is that we can all teach each other,” she added, “and mentorship is pretty crucial to our organization because it’s the idea that everyone has a unique way of thinking, and we can learn from everyone, regardless of background.”
Gia noted that one of the reasons the triplets wanted to start the organization was because of their own travel experiences. They’ve been to more than 40 countries together, and after exposure to different communities and local initiatives, Gia noted that their world views had opened.
“When you’re in a place for so long, it’s kind of like an echo chamber,” she observed. “The ideas you’re surrounded with can become very confirming of each other, and that’s how you think the world works, because that’s all you hear, especially with social media.
“If someone else is telling you how certain groups behave, like a different nationality or background, the only way you can understand those groups is through those louder voices, and not from the people describing themselves.”
So it was important to the triplets to make those connections first hand.
“We don’t need a call with a thousand kids to talk about our goals and mission,” Karina said. “Even a one-on-one call from a student is often enough (and is) kind of magical to see the impact it can have.”
Today, Little Mentors works with students from schools in India, Mexico, Brazil, Nepal and other countries. Its most recent initiative was Teddy Talks, where the sisters interview leaders in different professions with whom they engage. Though it started as intimate conversations, the initiative has evolved into a podcast-style session posted to YouTube.
The triplets have also been incorporating more student voices recently by having students submit questions and videos in advance to share with leaders.
Recent interviewees included Mark Cuban, Okezue Bell and Amanda Zuckerman.
“You shouldn’t really underestimate yourself,” Araam related. ” … For Teddy Talks, our first assumption was that big people wouldn’t respond to them if you just emailed them, but a lot of people are really responsive to you.”
Little Mentors also has a chapter at Cherry Hill East staffed by a student board that is currently working on a cultural immersion art exhibit for people from different cultures and a diverse group of students who want to showcase their lifestyles. Little Mentors has more Teddy Talks in the works for the future.
To learn more about Little Mentors, visit https://www.littlementors.org/.
To view the recent Teddy Talks, visit https://www.youtube.com/@littlementors8179