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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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By Teesta Sullivan


Karate from 4 to 5 Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; soccer from 6 to 7 Tuesdays and Saturdays; piano on Friday … Extracurricular activities can be wonderful for children. They can add discipline, responsibilities, social skills and self-confidence. However, there is a dark side to too many activities; children can become burned out, have difficulty keeping up with their studies or be too busy to simply be a child.

Some parents are driven by peer pressure; they simply want to keep up with the Joneses. Others may be well meaning, but so anxious to provide their children with all the opportunities they themselves never had, that they lose sight on how the child is handling the pressures of so many activities. Children should interact and participate in programs with other children; however, we must remember that they also need down time. Ann Zander of Colorado State University notes that children have 12 hours per week less free time today than they did 20 years ago.

Teesta Sullivan
Another thing to note is that children are joining extracurricular activities from a younger age than they did in years past. Parents need to keep in mind that not all children reach the same social and emotional milestones at the same time. Aarti may be ready at 3 to start an exercise class, but Sanjeev may be painfully shy when away from his mother.

Young children change so rapidly that it is sometimes difficult to recognize when they are stressed. The younger child also may not have the language skills to adequately describe how they are feeling, so we must look at their behavior for clues. Following are some signs of stress in young children:

Increased moodiness;
Regression to earlier behaviors;
Inability to sleep, or recurring nightmares;

If your child is suffering from two or more of these symptoms on a regular basis, it may be time to sit down for a heart to heart. No matter what the child’s age, if he is overscheduled, chances are he will show some signs of stress. So, how do know how much is too much?

According to R. Murali Krishna, president of INTEGRIS Mental Health and the James L. Hall Jr. Center for Mind, Body and Spirit in Oklahoma, children should be allowed to create a “wish list” of activities to choose from. Krishna suggests that parent and child together sit down and discuss which activities to pursue, and which ones to take a break from.

It can be difficult to balance activities that a child wants with those the parent wants for the child. Parents need to remember that they are in charge, and can certainly choose activities they feel will be beneficial for their children as well. An extremely shy child may not want to engage in any outside activities; however, exposure to other children may be beneficial for his social growth

Sometimes, the child becomes overloaded with activities of her own choosing. It is important to sit down with your child and realistically try and map out how much time they need to devote to their various activities and obligations. Things to consider should include:

Will they still have free time to be with their family?
Will they be able to complete their school assignments?
Will they interfere with any chores or jobs?
Will they have time for themselves?

As the new school year begins and we deal with the excitement of starting fresh activities, let us try to maintain a careful eye on the amount of time we are committing for our children. As it is, they grow so fast. It is better to make memories of time “wasted” playing with your children than to regret the lost time tomorrow.

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.

Story provided by AAKASH PATEL

Aaakash patel, left, is all smiles while posing with the Indian Prime Minister manmohan Singh, center, and Congressman Joe Wilson.
In 1993, India Abroad founder Gopal Raju realized that the professional success of Indian Americans did not translate into political influence. As a result, he kicked off the Indian American Center for Political Awareness (IACPA), a national non-profit organization.

In 1994, IACPA started the Washington Leadership Program (WLP) to introduce college students to the political process through Congressional internships. The idea was to offer students a first-hand look at the political process while receiving leadership training.

Each year, IACPA selects 16 students who participate in the eight-week summer program. The students receive two weeks of leadership training and a six-week internship with members of Congress. WLP has so far placed approximately 150 interns with more than 12 senators and 50 Congressman.

Aakash Patel, a Florida State University senior and graduate of Sickles High School in Tampa, just completed his internship with WLP. Patel was the first student selected from the Tampa Bay area in the program’s history. He interned with Congressman Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), former co-chair for the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans.

Here are some of Patel’s most memorable experiences from his summer in Washington, D.C.:

I will never forget the first day of my internship with Congressman Joe Wilson (R-S.C.). I arrived to work and began to do the usual intern office work. At around 5 p.m., Congressman Wilson was finished with his meetings. At 5:15, the internship coordinator asked me into the congressman’s office for an introduction. Congressman Wilson not only knew a little bit about me, but he started asking me questions about and the Tampa Bay area.

Ten minutes later, the congressman said it was time for him to give a speech at an event. He then looked at me and said “Would you like to come to this event with me.” The next thing I knew, we continued chatting as we were walking down the halls. We then entered the event and several people greeted him. Without hesitation, the congressman introduced me, to everyone who walked up to him. That is when I knew that I was placed in the right office.

Weeks went on in the office and continued to educate me on information that I needed to know. Everyone in the office became like a big family. Whether it was going to a baseball game, soccer game or attending a fundraiser, the staff in my office always invited me to events so I could see the different sides of the political spectrum.

Everyday was a new adventure. Some days, I was in the office answering phones and giving Capitol tours to constituents, while other days I was with the congressman at press conferences or hearings.

I attended some events with Manmohan Singh, the prime minister of India. I was fortunate enough to be in the VIP viewing area on the White House South Lawn at the official arrival ceremony of Prime Minister Singh with President Bush. I also attended the Joint Session of Congress to hear Singh’s address. After the Joint Session address, I was with Congressman Wilson at the House International Relations Committee meeting where Prime Minister Singh gave an informal testimony. After a few minutes of questioning by the members, the bell rang for Congressman to go vote, so the meeting was cut sort. I looked at my fellow WLP intern Parth and told him we should go get a picture. My camera was acting up so we were trying to fix it.

The next thing we know, Prime Minister Singh came to our side of the room and stuck out his hand right in front of me. I shook his hand and he looked at me straight in the eye and said, “You are the future and we in India are proud of you." I was in shock. Congressman Wilson also came over and said a few words about me to the prime minister. I couldn’t believe it. Then I, Congressman Wilson and Prime Minister Singh posed for a picture. That is one picture and one day in my life that I will never forget. After these eight weeks, I know now that I want to work and serve my community just as I have seen firsthand through Congressman Wilson.

Aakash Patel is a Political Science and English Literature double major at Florida State University. He is in his second term as a member of the Student Senate, and is an award-winning delegate on the traveling FSU Model United Nations team. Before his internship, Patel worked part time for three years as an editorial assistant for the St. Petersburg Times Capital Bureau. He also is a two-time recipient of the Florida Capitol Press Corps Journalism Scholarship and a recent graduate of the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s College Leadership Florida (Class VII) program.

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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