Founding Story

How it all began

Riana Shah grew up in Ahmedabad, India. The traditional Indian education system she attended, like many education systems around the world, was built to produce technicians, not thinkers.  Students engage in test-based rote memorization where questions are silenced and curiosity is stamped out.Upon moving with her family to New York City to pursue a better life, Riana found herself in Bard HighSchool Early College, a public school in New York City. Founded on the belief that high school students are ready for the academic challenges of a college education, her experience was filled with critical thinking and intellectual discovery.
In open-ended class discussions, Bardian professors would ask questions on the nature of society andthe self. Conditioned by her previous traditional educational experience, Riana would ask herself whatthe “correct” answers to these questions would be – what did the teacher want to hear? Over time,however, she came to realize that this type of black-white thinking was a result of effect of theeducation system she had been raised in, and did not reflect the intricacies and nuances of the world.This realization liberated her, and she wanted her peers across the globe to have the same opportunityof intellectual growth and empowerment. That is when Independent Thought & Social ActionInternational was born.