As a successful product manager in the Bay Area for the past three years, Govind Wakhlu knows that he’s gotten where he is thanks to role models, mentors and friends who inspired him along the way.
Now, he’s giving back to his new community and helping today’s students find the path to their own success stories.
“If you’ve been given a lot, in terms of opportunities and abilities, career, and education, I feel it is a moral responsibility to give back,” he said. “You didn’t get there alone.”
Govind is in his early 30s and a senior product manager at car rental startup Turo, which made tech industry news recently for renting out Erlich Bachman’s colorful SUV from the popular HBO comedy “Silicon Valley.” Govind just started his second school year as a volunteer with the San Francisco Education Fund, carving out an hour every week to help students at James Lick Middle School, working with them on their math skills during school hours, in their regular classroom.
“The teacher I helped was always very appreciative. The kids themselves, even if they don’t say it, they show that they like me there,” he said. “I feel math, in particular, is important. I want kids to feel enriched, empowered, and feel better about their skills. I think this is how we move to a better society, a more peaceful society. I want them to have these tools in whatever they do. I want to be a part of bringing about that change.”
Govind helps students with math concepts and helps them practice to work through any problems they have in class. But he’s also hoping to network with other volunteers and strike up friendships with students through the school year.
“I’m building a level of comfort and trying to show them that the things they are learning are things I still use in my day-to-day job. I can show them it’s not just for the next exam, but something they can use throughout their life,” he said.
Though Govind has chosen to focus on middle school math tutoring, the Education Fund offers volunteers the opportunity to work in different areas they’re passionate about, from reading practice with elementary school students to college and career counseling for high school students and one-on-one mentoring at all levels. Govind describes it as “different strokes for different folks.”
Govind has a history of volunteerism dating back to math tutoring for peers in high school and computer software tutoring for elders in Chicago. When he relocated to the Bay Area in 2013, he was looking for a way to give back in his new community. He did a simple Google search for volunteer opportunities, joined the Scrum Alliance, checked out BayAreaMentoring.org, and quickly landed on the Education Fund, which provided training to get him ready for the classroom.
“I had some experience and comfort, but understanding the structure of the course and the work I was expected to do was very helpful,” Govind said. “It’s such a small amount of time. You want to have the highest impact and get them to learn the most. But if they are very distracted, you want to know if there are some strategies to bring them back.”
Some students eventually opened up to the idea of being helped. They began to ask questions, and Govind said he could see they were engaged. That level of asking questions is important not only to master middle school math, but for jobs like the one Govind has.
“I am who I am thanks to role models, mentors and friends who inspired me, helped me think logically and approach life fearlessly,” Govind said. “I hope to pass it back to kids who can use some of what I learned, and use it to live joyful lives.”
Want to make a difference in San Francisco public schools? Become a volunteer.
Don’t have the time to volunteer? You can still make an impact by donating to the San Francisco Education Fund.