Pranali Garud

Pranali Garud. Photo by Paul Neevel.

“I was a first generation learner,” says Pranali Garud, an ex-“untouchable” from a working-class family in a slum in Mumbai, India. “Our parents sent us to an English medium school for girls and boys, with no playground. The monthly fee was low, and free public schools don’t teach English.” She continued her studies through junior college and three Mumbai universities, earning a bachelor’s in journalism and master’s degrees in cultural studies and social work. She produced documentary photo and film projects and worked as a radio DJ. She met Lalit Khandare in 2015, they got married two years later, and the couple moved to Eugene in 2018 for his job as a professor at Pacific University. Within weeks of arrival, Pranali began volunteering with local social service agencies: the Relief Nursery, Mike’s Closet at Churchill High School and the Center for Community Counseling. “I also did some counseling for international students from India,” she adds, “who were feeling isolation and cultural shock.” When COVID came on, she began taking courses at Lane Community College. She especially enjoyed an ESL class offered by Cybele Higgins. “I liked her teaching style,” she notes. “I asked her to design courses for underprivileged girls in India.” Together with Higgins and Khandare, Garud recruited teachers in Eugene and collaborated with SAKHI, a nonprofit for girls’ education in India, to provide tablets and internet access to 16 girls from urban and rural slums in Maharashtra state. The girls attended English Boot Camp, five weeks of intensive online classes and an ongoing workshop for career guidance. Higgins serves as lead teacher for the camp; Garud and Khandare are project managers. “Our project has a dual purpose,” Garudi explains, “teaching kids in India and training culturally competent teachers locally.” To support English Boot Camp, visit

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