The Tools I Wish I’d Had Growing Up

teenage boy sitting on desk wishing he had help while growing up

Sonny Thadani shares how he created NYC-based edtech standout Robin so kids today have the tools he wishes he would’ve had growing up for him.

Early Life Experiences

I was born and raised in NJ to immigrant parents that came to the USA from India. I was partially raised by my grandparents, who taught me a lot about family, work ethic, and respect for my elders growing up.

I like to joke about how I was the top lemonade state salesperson for 3 years running in my neighborhood- but it probably speaks a lot about where I am today being all part of the plan.

I got that early entrepreneurial bug from my mother. She cared much more about my personal happiness and impact on the world than me having to be a lawyer or doctor.

My wife is one of the biggest rockstars I know both personally, and professionally. At home, she’s CEO of our family of five (featuring three high-energy little ones), and at work, she runs one of the most exciting conversational AI firms operating today. So yeah, she’s no slouch!

Friendship has always had a deep and profound impact in my life- my friends have always been there for me during my biggest wins and toughest challenges. I mention this because it’s the perfect Segway into the work I’m doing these days at Robin, inspired in the beginning by someone who is now a dear personal friend of mine. But when we first encountered each other, we were strangers.

Growing Up and Life Changing Encounter

Seven years ago, I met Mark Barden, a father who lost his son in the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. That Dad introduced me to the Sandy Hook Promise, an organization dedicated to preventing gun violence in schools by teaching young people to recognize, intervene and get help for individuals who may be socially isolated or at risk of hurting themselves or others. I was so inspired by their mission, which was all about creating a culture change that destigmatizes talking about mental health.

I began reflecting on my own life growing up and realized the big impact that mentors and coaches have had on my happiness, well-being and fulfillment. Working with a coach encouraged me to deepen my relationship with myself and taught me certain tools, like mindfulness, that allowed me to make better decisions, improve my relationships and build resilience. All skills that I wish I had learned as a teenager so that I could have more readily handled challenges such as my parents’ divorce or being cut from the high school basketball team.

The Journey to Help

I co-founded Robin with Scott Farber to bring the power of human connection to schools through coaches like those who so greatly impacted me. Our coaches help destigmatize the mental health conversation by creating safe spaces in schools for all students to be able to open up about their challenges, support each other, and ask for help when they need it.

Whether inspiring large groups at an assembly or facilitating interactive experiences for smaller groups, Robin coaches teach a broad range of life skills and provide a safe space to emotionally connect and support each other transforming the way to think about ourselves and our connection to others.

Robin Coaches bring the CASEL-aligned curriculum to life through engaging videos that teach skills and strategies for students to improve their social, emotional and mental health. Students learn, practice and deepen skills through independent reflection, discussions, group activities and student-led project-based learning.

I encourage folks to read our whitepaper to learn more about the work happening at Robin, and how to get involved. Let’s help those now that need the help while growing up.


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