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On-demand, online learning: Q&A with Devi Sahny

Continuing our series featuring IB graduates turned entrepreneurs, we connected with Devi Sahny, Diploma Programme (DP) graduate of Antwerp International School to share her inspiration for launching online mentorship platform Ascend Now and of course, her IB experience!

Q&A with Devi Sahny

By Devi Sahny

What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

“When I think about middle and high school, it isn’t what I remember, it is who.”

I’ve always been fascinated by the journey of learning and believe this path is inherently very personal. Everyone is wired differently and the tools one successful student employs may not work for others. Understanding the variation in these tools and skillsets inspired me to found Ascend Now: a one-on-one online coaching platform where students (aged 5-18) are matched with instructors based on their needs, personalities and aptitudes. All classes are held online and students can take them from anywhere at any time. Think, “sports coach but for academics.”

When I think about middle and high school, it isn’t what I remember, it is who. My English teacher, who inspired me to write a poetry anthology when I was 13. My basketball coach, who motivated me to run drills until my face was cherry red. My high school counsellor, who was the epitome of a role model and who remains a mentor till today.

The one tool everyone needs is a coach. With the increase in academic pressures and school competition, students need a positive role model and more support to cope with these added demands.

Tell us more about Ascend Now and how it works? What ages and what subjects do you offer?

We work with students aged 5-18 across most academic subjects (e.g., essay writing, STEM, humanities) and build different aspects of student’s personal development (e.g., learning how to learn, time-management 101, the art of decision-making). We also help support students across the Primary Years Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP) and Diploma Programme (DP).

Q&A with Devi Sahny

What differentiates us is that we make the coaching process extremely personal. We spend time figuring out what makes a student tick and teach him/her in that way. To give you an example, we have a student who is an audible learner and learns best via voice notes and storytelling. We then curate the IB history and biology content he/she is learning, to present in a more accessible way for the student. When this particular student began working with us in 2018, she was failing and the principal had asked her to choose a less challenging boarding school.

Today, two years later, she is the top of her class. We’ve had a series of students who have fabulous ideas but struggle to pen them onto paper in an essay format.

One of our DP students, Nicole, from UWC South East Asia East Campus (UWCSEA East) stated, “I began the IB having almost no confidence in my ability or time-management capability. I was predicted to score below average across all my subjects. When it was time for mocks, I decided to alter my mindset and with some help from the Ascend Now team, I passed my exams with flying colours. I could never have imagined getting a 6, let alone getting a 7. I passed with five grade 7s and was shocked! It’s funny how things happen when you just put your mind to it.”

We tackle this problem by first teaching students how to think clearly; if you do not have clear thoughts, how will you pen them onto paper? Once the thought process is clear, we teach a step-by-step writing approach that is consistent across curriculums. Most importantly, students develop self-awareness on what their personal learning journey entails. Understanding how you learn is the best knowledge you can have. That is what we believe at Ascend Now.

In what ways has an IB education supported your career?

“I felt confident majoring in two subjects … as I had developed some critical thinking skills from the IB.”

In hindsight, more ways than one. I pursued the DP (class of 2011) at Antwerp International School. The IB is recognized globally for a reason: it covers all subjects with a practical and innovative approach. While it can be intensive with many supplemental requirements, such as theory of knowledge (TOK) and extended essay, these courses are deliberately inserted to challenge and encourage new ways of thinking. The focus on six areas of learning is important because who really knows what they want to specialise in at age 16? I certainly didn’t know but found that studying varied different content helped me gauge what I enjoyed and what I found challenging. I recall my math teacher in high school saying during one of her office hours, “Devi, you are very bright but mathematics or engineering … it may not be for you.” Ten years later, she was right—I still can’t stand it!

After the DP,  I attended Georgetown University and I found that IB created a solid foundation for my writing. I felt confident majoring in two subjects (economics and philosophy) as I had developed some critical thinking skills from the IB. The hundreds of IB students we work with echo similar sentiments. One of our IB students—whom we supported across all 6 of his subjects is currently studying at Princeton. He wrote us an email recently with the subject title, “The IB was the best decision I made,” and I couldn’t agree more.

Q&A with Devi Sahny

Devi Sahny is the founder and CEO of Ascend Now, an online mentorship platform designed to support a student’s personal development from age 5 to 18. Devi earned her IB diploma from Antwerp International School and went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in philosophy and economics from Georgetown University. To learn more about Devi, you can connect with her on LinkedIn here.

To hear more from Diploma Programme (DP) graduates check out these IB programme stories. If you are an IB grad and want to share your story, write to us at alumni.relations@ibo.org. We appreciate your support in sharing IB stories and invite you to connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter and now Instagram!

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