BERKELEY (CBS SF) -- An idea from two UC Berkeley business graduates is connecting students all over the globe during the pandemic.
As students, Saumya Goyal and Danielle Egan turned their thoughts to teenagers who were isolated and bored, while sheltered at home at the start of the pandemic.
"I thought it was a good idea to provide kids with the spaces to learn and meet other friends and that sort of thing," she said.
Goyal agreed, and the pair founded Connect-in-Place in May 2020.
"Let's get everybody connected, let's build on mentorship opportunities and get online friendships going and see how that builds a summer camp kind of feel," Goyal explained.
The pair's nonprofit offers free, mostly-summertime classes for middle- and high-schoolers.
Goyal said they'd hoped for maybe 50 students to participate, but so far, more than 5,000 students have taken more than 500 classes.
College students volunteer to teach what they're passionate about, from Bollywood dancing to surviving stage fright to astronomy and academics.
High school junior Changji Gaelan has taken 10 classes from Connect-in-Place, from engineering to how Star Wars was filmed.
He valued the social interactions he'd missed on campus.
"I felt confined in my house, due to me being unable to communicate with students when I joined the program. The teachers allowed for open discussion most of the time," he said. "It was a great experience. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
LEARN MORE: Jefferson Awards for Public Service
His sister and business advisor to the nonprofit, Jas Gaelan, calls Goyal and Egan a powerhouse pair.
"The reason they were successful in everything they were able to accomplish for Connect-in-Place is because they were able to keep their vision, purpose and students above themselves," she said.
Connect-in-Place has also expanded, creating opportunities for underserved students by holding college and career events and study groups for standardized tests.
And it's given away donated laptops for those who've needed them.
"Even going forward, just increasing the access to allowing kids to find what they're truly passionate about, like knowing how important that was for me growing up, it's really a joy to be able to bring that to other kids as well," Egan said.
Goyal added, "Education has always been a really big priority for me and Danielle so this felt like a really good way to do something positive for the community."
So for creating a space for teenagers to Connect-in-Place, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Danielle Egan and Saumya Goyal.
As business administration graduates, Egan now works in New York for LinkedIn, and Goyal, in San Francisco for Deloitte.
They remain advisors to the nonprofit while college students lead Connect-in-Place.
The summer session is taking applications at https://www.connectinplace.org.
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