Student’s work with refugees earns Encinitas Youth of the Year honor


The Encinitas City Council awarded Shovik Sarkar, 16, the city’s inaugural Youth of the Year Award.

Mayor Kristin Gaspar presented him with the award during a regular council meeting May 27, with members of the Sarkar family cheering him on.

A San Dieguito Academy student, Shovik said he was very honored to receive the award, which recognizes his volunteer work in tutoring underserved and refugee youth.

Shovik was nominated by Scotland Muir, an eighth-grader from Diegueno Middle School, and voted the award by members of the city’s youth commission.

In his acceptance speech, Shovik told those present, “Many of you know me as the student who loves math and encourages other to participate in math competitions, represents SDA’s academic team, and belongs to National Honor Society. What you don’t know about me is that I am deeply passionate about inspiring students to enjoy learning.”

As a youth ambassador for International Rescue Committee in San Diego, Shovik attended a summer program in 2013 when he learned about refugee crises and worldwide conflicts.

Part of the program’s requirements was to tutor students in reading at Marshall Elementary School in City Heights.

After the program, Shovik met with City Heights community leader Lameck Nyabenda, who spoke to him about the lack of education for refugees in the area. After going to several homes tutoring youth refugees himself — with his mother, Sheila Mitra-Sarkar, supporting his efforts — Shovik realized that he could not meet their needs alone.

“So I started a tutoring program called Each One Teach One (EOTO),” said Shovik. The program is sponsored by City Heights Community Development Corporation, which serves as fiscal agent for donations and grants.

Using technology, other youths were able to tutor refugees through Skype, using the IXL website to teach math and reading.

Tutor volunteers come from San Dieguito Academy, Diegueno Middle School and other schools in different cities.

“I train all of the EOTO tutors and I facilitate the first lesson with the tutee,” Shovik said, adding, “The program has been very successful.”

Shovik is supervising six high school tutors and four middle school tutors. During the past year, 22 students received tutoring in their homes.

On average, students received 30 hours of tutoring. In the past year, Shovik has tutored for 190 hours. He also spent 20 hours on online training and another 10 hours on collecting and distributing donations. Online volunteer tutors have provided 170 hours of tutoring, he said.

Besides tutoring, Shovik ran an SAT workshop for low-income students in a church in North Park, facilitated by the nonprofit Target 1800. Students completed practice tests and drills and learned from others.

“We Skyped-in other tutors, some from Florida. At one time we had tutors from India,” said Shovik.

He will be focused on college applications next school year, but said that he will be collaborating with an India-based nonprofit start-up — StudyFriend — to tutor math.

“By engaging more capable school students in the learning of less privileged children, it will build an important bridge across the social divides that exist in our stratified societies,” commented StudyFriend representative Tamo Chattopadhay, by email.

The program aims to fill a big void by developing local-language and culturally adapted learning materials for millions of students in India and elsewhere.

“Shovik brings a unique multi-cultural perspective — and his own learning about tutoring from EOTO — so we are thrilled to have a partnership with him,” added Chattopadhay.

“It makes me feel good that I can spread my knowledge to others,” said Shovik, humbly. Visit to learn more about Each One Teach One.