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Bhavik Shah, of Tampa, a junior at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and Kunjal Gandhi of New Port Richey, a freshman at UF, recently founded an organization called SHKiDs (Students Helping Kids With Diabetes).

Bhavik was inspired to found this organization after volunteering his time as a counselor at a Florida Diabetes Camp for children with diabetes. SHKiDs’ aim is to raise funds for children to attend the diabetes camp and provide the necessary medical supplies for kids with insulin-dependent diabetes who cannot afford them.

On March 19, SHKiDs held an Organizational Canoe Race benefit. Teams donated money to take part. Bhavik was encouraged by the event’s success and the group hopes to hold a similar fundraiser next year.

For more information and to support SHKiDs, click on

By Teesta Sullivan

Teesta Sullivan
New research is uncovering more information about our brains and how they function. Previously, the belief was that genetics were the primary determinant of a person’s later character and intelligence. Today, that belief is being re-evaluated.

According to Eric Jensen, author of the book “Teaching with the Brain in Mind,” and a noted education expert, “Today, consensus tells us that heredity provides about 30-60 percent of our brain’s wiring, and that 40-70 percent is from environmental impacts.”

What does this mean to our children? It means that we need to offer a variety of activities to our children so that they can be exposed to different stimulus. Education, music, arts … We now know that the human brain is more complex than any computer in existence today. The brain can send and receive messages throughout a person’s body at speeds as fast as 220 miles per hour.

Millions of neurons are being wired in a child’s brain from birth to age 8. In fact, from age 9 through the balance of an individual’s life, the total neural connections made in those remaining years combined will not equal the number of connections formed in any given year of life up to the age of 8. This is the reason it is imperative that a child be given every developmental advantage during this critical, formative time period.

Studies following children raised in orphanages during World War II found that children did not do as well when deprived of stimulation. Recently, there was an article in Newsweek magazine that stated “Circuits in different regions of the brain mature at different times. As a result, different circuits are most sensitive to life’s experiences at different ages. Give your children the stimulation they need when they need it, and anything’s possible. Stumble and all bets are off.”

As research is recognizing the value of stimulation in a child’s development, and especially stimulation from an early age, more programs are being designed to provide this enrichment. Baby Einstein, Discovery Toys and Baby Genius products are prime examples of this trend to develop enrichment education products.

Jensen theorizes that there are two important parts to enrichment education. First, challenging students in their learning, and second to give the students a way to learn from their experiences through interactive feedback. “The single best way to grow a better brain is through challenging problem solving,” writes Jensen. “The school-age brain almost ‘glows’ with energy consumption, burning at 225 percent of the adult levels of glucose. The brain learns fastest and easiest during the early school years. It nearly explodes with spectacular growth as it adapts with stunning precision to the world around it.”

As parents, we need to be aware of the many factors that can influence our children’s development. There will be many aspects of our children’s lives that we are unable to control, especially as they grow older. What we can do is try to ensure that they are surrounded by appropriate stimulus at appropriate times, positive peers and lots of love.

Teesta Sullivan has a JD, a MSH and B.A. in Psychology. She is the area developer for FasTracKids and also president of Legendary Beginnings Inc., an authorized licensee of FasTracKids. She can be reached at (813) 792-0077.

Know of any youth who have won an award or have a recent accomplishment? Send in your news on youth to Shephali J. Rele, Khaas Baat, 18313 Cypress Stand Circle, Tampa, FL 33647 or e-mail Be sure to include school name, grade and age.

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