About Geography for Tomorrow

Humble Beginnings

Geography for Tomorrow began as an idea inside Chief Geographer Arvind Sridhar's head, one winter day in December 2013. He began teaching one small classroom of 5 students at Clyde Fischer Middle School, a school in the Alum Rock School District, in March of 2014. Underserved, low-income neighborhoods, Arvind rationalized, would have less of an opportunity to learn about their world, since they had more immediate concerns. Therefore, his program, he felt, would have the most impact in these communities and their schools. Initially, things were rough. Students weren't very excited, and Arvind was new to the teaching concept. However, fast forward several months and countless hours of work, and Geography for Tomorrow had spread to 2 new sites. All 3 sites have over 10 kids who regularly came to sessions and were very excited about the material. This was due in part to the refocusing of the curriculum onto more career applications of geography topics, as well as fun activities, games, and videos. This refocusing lead to the formation of the first 10-week certificate program in geo-literacy, in July 2014. In this program, Arvind made sure that each topic covered was tied in to a career application and a daily activity, making sessions both informative and fun.

Beginnings
Team

Growth

Arvind's 10-week certificate program was working phenomenally in teaching kids about their world, with over 80% success rates. However, in November 2014, he realized that if he wanted his organization to thrive, he couldn't do it all alone. In other words, he needed to recruit volunteers to join his cause. He began with 6 friends from his school, Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose. The Christian Service Department at Bellarmine was instrumental in providing transportation and support to all the volunteers, so they could go to the various sites and teach students according to the 10-week certificate program curriculum.

Others Notice

After expanding to 4 sites by March 2015, Arvind set his sights on getting support and visibility. He was able to meet several high-level directors at the National Geographic Society, the premier government funded non-profit organization for geographical exploration in America. He also met with the director of the California Geographic Alliance. He talked about his program, and both organizations loved it. They generously offered their support and advice to take Geography for Tomorrow to the next level by making the 10-week certificate program replecable on a national scale and fool-proof. They also helped gain visibility for the program at the 2015 National Geographic Bee competition, to excite geographically talented middle school students from around the country to join the cause. Arvind and his team made a video played at the competition, and the National Geographic Society was key in making it happen. Both organizations also provided invaluable resources, which are used today to teach sessions. For example, the table maps that they provided allowed for much more interactive group discussion, instead of passive lecturing off of a standard wall map.

National Geographic Team
Sacred Heart Team

Expansion and Future Plans

With the help of National Geographic and the California Geographic Alliance, Arvind and his team made the program more diverse. They introduced a 7-week certificate program, more simplified, concise, and fundamental, and created a completely new 5-week certificate program for elementary schoolers, allowing them to engage with the themes of geography through hands-on activities. The team also introduced a GeoCoding program and a Space Sciences Program for students. GFT became an official non-profit organization in May 2015, and, as of October 2016, has over 90 volunteers from 4 different countries who have collectively spent over 1000 hours serving youth around the world through teaching, curriculum developement, recruitment, and outreach. In May 2016, GFT organized its first ever annual GeoDay event at the Roosevelt Community Center in San Jose, featuring activites for youth and their families brought by Google and the CA Geography Alliance. Google's Cardboard VR Field Trip activity was definitely a hit, and GFT looks forward to working with Google further to infuse technology into the geo classroom. In the future, the team hopes to disrupt the online space with both web and mobile-based geo-literacy programs, to reach countless more.

About Arvind Sridhar: Founder, President, and Chairman of the Board

I am a Senior at Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose and the proud Founder and President of Geography for Tomorrow. I have been passionate about maps, atlases, and cultures since I was in first grade. Travelling used to be and still is my obsession, since I love to visit new countries and learn about different people, cultures, and issues confronting our global society. I have had the honor of placing 10th in the California State Geography Bee in 2013 and becoming a national finalist in the 2015 U.S. Geography Olympiad. I began Geography for Tomorrow to bring opportunities that I enjoyed to those who do not have access to them. Apart from geography, I enjoy programming, biomedical engineering research, serving as the Co-Editor in Chief of my school's political review, and basketball.

Arvind Sridhar

Board of Directors

Dr. Thomas Herman

Dr. Thomas Herman has been on the board of Geography for Tomorrow since July 2015. He currently serves as the director of the California Geographic Alliance and is on the faculty at San Diego State University. Dr. Herman has been instrumental in providing GFT with generous donations of maps, globes, and atlases in order to enrich our classes. Further, he signs on the certificates that students receive once they compete a GFT program, certifying them in geo-literacy. Dr. Herman has been a key mentor and supporter of GFT, serving as a keynote speaker for the GeoDay 2016 event in San Jose and presenting a Giant Map activity to the youth.

Ms. Emily Henderson

Ms. Emily Henderson has been on the board of Geography for Tomorrow since August 2016. She currently leads the Google Geography Educational Outreach program at Google Maps and has been an instrumental supporter and partner of GFT since November 2015. We are working together on an initiative to infuse technology into the geo classroom, through activites like Cardboard-based virtual reality field trips and Chromebook-based map application building. We are also planning field trip opportunities for GFT students and volunteers to experience Google Maps's campus and learn about Google's pioneering work in mapping technologies. Ms. Henderson has also been instrumental in providing GFT with monetary grants to hold GeoDay 2016 and purchase T-shirts for volunteers/students.

Mr. Kerby Woo

Mr. Kerby Woo has been on the board of Geography for Tomorrow since August 2015. He is a financial advisor at Creative Planning, Inc., and originally helped GFT become a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in July 2015. He has been instrumental in helping GFT become legally incorporated and attain non-profit status, enabling GFT to establish partnerships with companies and other organizations.

Mr. James Rumohr

Mr. James Rumohr has been on the board of Geography for Tomorrow since August 2015. He currently serves as a CityYear AmeriCorps Team Leader at Clyde Fischer Middle School, San Jose, California. Mr. Rumohr has been instrumental in helping Geography for Tomorrow's chapters in the Eastside of San Jose flourish. He has also given guidance as a member of the board to expand, form the nonprofit organization, and coordinate with & train volunteers. Overall, Mr. Rumohr has been instrumental in helping Geography for Tomorrow realize its vision.

Student Leaders and Volunteers

Our Inspiring Leadership Team: South Bay

Niko Kern

Senior, Bellarmine College Preparatory, San Jose, CA

Niko has been serving with Geography for Tomorrow since January 2015, and he is currently the co-team-leader at Sunday Friends and the team leader at Mathson Middle School and serves as the lead teacher trainer

Joaquin Schmidt

Senior, Bellarmine College Preparatory, San Jose, CA

Joaquin has been serving with Geography for Tomorrow since January 2015, and he is currently the co-team-leader at Sacred Heart Nativity

Andrew Song

Junior, Bellarmine College Preparatory, San Jose, CA

Andrew has been serving with Geography for Tomorrow since August 2015, and he is currently the team leader at St. Elizabeth Seton School

George Ajit

Senior, Bellarmine College Preparatory, San Jose, CA

George has been serving with Geography for Tomorrow since August 2015, and he is currently the co-team-leader at Sacred Heart Community Services

Samarth Girish

8th Grader, Challenger Shawnee, San Jose, CA

Samarth has been serving with Geography for Tomorrow since July 2015, and he is currently the co-team-leader at Sunday Friends

Edwin George

Senior, Bellarmine College Preparatory, San Jose, CA

Edwin has been serving with Geography for Tomorrow since December 2014, and he is currently the co-team-leader at Clyde Fischer Middle School

Carlos Martinez

Senior, Bellarmine College Preparatory, San Jose, CA

Carlos has been serving with Geography for Tomorrow since August 2015, and he is currently the co-team-leader at Sacred Heart Nativity

Matthew Abraham

Sophomore, Bellarmine College Preparatory, San Jose, CA

Matthew has been serving with Geography for Tomorrow since August 2015, and he is currently the co-team-leader at Sacred Heart Community Services

Christian Hunter

Senior, Bellarmine College Preparatory, San Jose, CA

Christian has been serving with Geography for Tomorrow since August 2015, and he is currently the team leader at the Campbell Library

Nihal Talur

Sophomore, Bellarmine College Preparatory, San Jose, CA

Nihal has been serving with Geography for Tomorrow since August 2015, and he is currently the director of the app development subcommittee

Tharun Shiju

Senior, Bellarmine College Preparatory, San Jose, CA

Tharun has been serving with Geography for Tomorrow since August 2015, and he is currently the director of the curriculum development subcommittee

Atharva Mehendale

Junior, Bellarmine College Preparatory, San Jose, CA

Atharva has been serving with Geography for Tomorrow since January 2016, and he is currently the director of the website subcommittee

Our Inspiring Leadership Team: Outside of the South Bay

Mary Carmen Reid

Senior, St. Joseph Notre Dame High School, Alameda, CA, USA

Mary Carmen has been serving with Geography for Tomorrow since July 2016, and she is currently the director of GFT's Alameda chapter

Liliana Clarke

Teacher, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand

Liliana has been serving with Geography for Tomorrow since July 2016, and she is currently the director of GFT's New Zealand chapter

Dorothy Nguyen

Teacher, San Francisco, CA, USA

Dorothy has been serving with Geography for Tomorrow since February 2016, and he is currently the director of GFT's San Francisco chapter

Our Amazing Team of Volunteers

Bellarmine College Preparatory: Alex Yang, SriRaam Mehtalia, Rushil Mehra, Devansh Taori, Spencer Tsang, KJ Lee, William Pramono, Peter Feghali, Perry Willig, Shaivya Gupta, Andrew Romero, Mark Visenio, Alex Chu, Dante Lucchesi, Viet Nguyen, Nick Gregovich, Alexander Jaime, Mike Lee, Edward Pascua, Roby Halupka, Ted Fuell, Rishabh Menezes, Ethan Mancini, Ryan McNamara, Dylan Doblar, Brandon Bumanlag, Saahil Ahuja, John Molina, Malcolm Davis, Sam Diab, Griffin Soule, Leo Garcia, Chris Maamari, Henry Lyon, Steven Peck, Ben Ravizza, Spencer Karr, Juan Orozco, Ramin Eghtesadi, David Santana, Christian Nunez, Nolan Roggy, Andrew Tran, Sean Costello, Aaron Fernandes, Yash Vanvari (Past Leader), Hieu Nguyen (Past Leader), Jacob Boerma (Past Leader), Ben Ha (Past Leader), Christian Jimenez (Past Leader)

Other: Working Boys Center (Quito, Ecuador), Shruti Sridhar (Notre Dame San Jose), Andrew Doan (Mission San Jose), Robin Manning (Kyle, Texas)

Our Adult Mentors

Dr. Joseph Kerski (ESRI, Colorado), Ms. Kristen Bednarz (National Geographic, Washington D.C.), Dr. Brenda Barr (National Geographic, Washington D.C.), U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren and Staff (California District 19), Mr. David Tran (San Jose City Council, District 3), Mr. Omar Torres (San Jose City Council, District 2), Dr. Martin Lewis (Stanford University, California)

Partners, Sponsors, and Supporters

The California Geographic Alliance

Invaluable Support, Mentorship, and Donations of Materials

The California Geographic Alliance began working with GFT in December 2014, initially by providing GFT with a very generous donation of maps, globe balls, atlases, books, pencils, stickers, and other materials to enhance our classes. Since then, Dr. Thomas Herman (the CGA's director) has been a guiding mentor for GFT, helping certify GFT's curricula, provide all GFT students with geo-literacy certificates, inspiring GFT volunteers, giving GFT opportunities to attend geography conferences, and bringing activities like the Giant Map activity to GFT sessions and events. From the outset, the CGA has been dedicated to helping GFT expand its student base, reach more students, and provide each student with resources to succeed.

Google Maps

Support and Sponsorship for Infusing Technology into the GFT Classroom

Google Maps has been working with GFT since November 2015, and has been one of our biggest supporters. Together, we began an initiative to infuse technology into the geography classroom. We collaborated to introduce Cardboard Virtual Reality Glasses paired with an app called Expedition to GFT students, enabling them to take VR field trips around the world. Needless to say, the students have absolutely loved this activity: its unique form of experiential learning has increased their capacity for learning phenomenally. GFT is also planning to hold field trips for GFT students to Google's headquarters, inspiring the students about the pioneering work Google is doing in mapping technologies. Additionally, Google is procuring device kits for GFT to use in its classes, consisting of Cardboards, Chromebooks (for students to engage in hands-on map creation activities), and Android devices. Google has also been a key supporter in implementing GFT's GeoCoding Program.

The National Geographic Society

Guidance with Curriculum Development, Bringing the Geography Bee to GFT Schools

The National Geographic Society began working with GFT in April 2015, sending books and other geo-themed materials for GFT to enhance its lessons with the students. National Geographic was instrumental in helping GFT develop its certificate program curricula, suggesting fun, hands-on activities like community mapping to implement and other interesting topics to discuss within the lesson plans. Thus, GFT's curricula were infused with interactive elements and were ultimately certified by NatGeo's education and curriculum development team. Additionally, National Geographic was extremely generous in providing fee waivers for GFT schools to conduct the National Geographic Bee, a fun and competitive annual geography competition to increase geo-awareness among youth. In 2016, with their help, GFT was able to bring the Geography Bee at no cost to 50 of its students in the Alum Rock School District.

ESRI

Support and Mentorship in Developing GeoCoding Program Curriculum

Esri and GFT have been collaborating since July 2015, working primarily with Esri's education manager Dr. Joseph Kerski. Dr. Kerski has been instrumental in helping GFT develop its GeoCoding program, which allows students to create map-based applications using Esri's free online tools, including ArcGIS and Story Map Builder. With Dr. Kerski's help, GFT was able to procure an ArcGIS/Story Map account and enable its students to create map tours of cities, countries, and regions that they find particularly fascinating. Apart from the standard GeoCoding program, GFT used Esri's tools to develop a program to engage students in creating map tours of the locations where their favorite sports teams play in away games.

San Jose City

Sponsorship of GFT Events and Programs, Support for Expanding GFT to New Sites

The San Jose City has been an instrumental partner and supporter of GFT since August 2015. GFT has been fortunate to receive monetary grants of up to $300 from various City Council officials in order to hold events and purchase new materials for students. Additionally, the City has opened doors for GFT to begin sessions and hold events at new venues. For example, working with SJ District 3 and Councilmember Raul Peralez, GFT was able to hold its first annual GeoDay event in 2016 at San Jose's Roosevelt Community Center. Additionally, GFT has worked with SJ school boards and is currently discussing with school board officials the possibility of incorporating GFT's curricula into the district-wide school programming.

CityYear San Jose

Invaluable Support for GFT Programs at Various San Jose Schools

GFT and CityYear have been working together ever since March 2014, just months after GFT's inception. CityYear and its amazing AmeriCorps volunteers enabled GFT to get onto its feet and run from there. CityYear operates in the middle schools in San Jose's Alum Rock School District, and they originally offered to incorporate GFT sessions into their after-school program. They provided GFT with in-session guidance and helped select and organize students who were interested in taking GFT's classes. They also gave GFT invaluable guidance regarding expansion to new schools and other sites, as well as maintaining GFT's presence online and in the media. James Rumohr, Jakob and Jesse Rosenberg, Ian Verderame, and countless other CityYear volunteers have been instrumental in GFT's success.