Turlock resident Ashish Thakur isn’t your average high school student.
Between earning a blackbelt in Taekwondo, excelling in Modesto High School’s International Baccalaureate Program, tutoring high school students and hosting computer coding camps, the freshman-turned-turned junior (he was able to skip a grade of school) is now working to increase awareness about childhood diabetes.
Thakur spoke to the Noon Rotary Club of Turlock on Tuesday afternoon about his project Educate to Eradicate DM II, or Type 2 diabetes mellitus, which aims to teach underserved community members about how they can prevent the disease by encouraging healthy diets and physical activity in children.
“Seeing the area that we’re in and the opportunities to help that one can provide, I believe I can make a major impact for people in this community,” Thakur said. “Having awareness can lead to one having a more conscious lifestyle.”
Aimed at parents, business leaders, community advocates and education administration, Thakur has created social platforms in both Spanish and English to educate the public about Type 2 diabetes in children. According to his research, 30 percent of boys and 40 percent of girls are now expected to develop the disease at some point in their lives, and one out of every three children is either overweight or obese.
The solution to this problem? Thakur believes education is the first step. The son of two physicians, Thakur has always been encouraged to live a healthy lifestyle, he said, though his time in the public school system has shown him that there is more work that needs to be done.
“As I was growing up I could see that they were making more conscious decisions about the types of lunches that they provided, but I think having a more extensive education on nutritional food groups can be a major help.”
Thakur’s Educate to Eradicate DM II project does just that, informing students and their parents about the food pyramid, what foods to eat sparingly and how much physical activity children should partake in. He has reached out to local Turlock schools to try and bring his informative program straight to the students who stand to learn the most from it, he said, and so far, he plans to speak at both Turlock Junior High School and Walnut Elementary School.
“I believe it’s good to try and find a balance in life — being able to balance having fun with being healthy,” Thakur said. “I believe that raising awareness can help to decrease Type 2 diabetes.”
Thakur followed in his sister’s footsteps when presenting to the rotary club. Now a sophomore at Harvard University, then-MHS senior Shivani Thakur spoke to the club last year about common vaccination myths and misconceptions. In addition to his sister Shivani, Thakur credits his parents, grandparents and the rest of his family for his accomplishments, from the Ashish Thakur Science Foundation he created to help local students earn scholarships to his Kids Who Code camp, where he mentors six junior high school students in computer programming.
His most recent endeavor to educate and eradicate childhood diabetes is one that he is passionate about, Thakur said.
“I find that in this area it is very prevalent, and overall in this nation, and I believe that it is a very important issue which can have a multitude of effects on individuals,” he said. “I’ll hopefully be further expanding this project.”