Turlock resident Shivani Thakur is not your typical teen.
As a senior in the International Baccalaureate Program at Modesto High School, where she is ranked first in her class, Thakur has already made a name for herself as the founder of Advocation for Vaccination! — a program that aims to improve vaccination rates by encouraging vaccination and dispelling negative and incorrect information about vaccines.
“I began thinking about this project two years ago,” said Thakur. “I was concerned that kids entering kindergarten were not being vaccinated. There was recently a measles outbreak in California because parents had not vaccinated their children.”
As part of Advocation for Vaccination! Thakur raises awareness about different vaccination programs and works with pediatricians to discuss different strategies that can be used to convince parents to get their children vaccinated. She has created Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, as well as her own website in both English and Spanish to help make useful and correct information about vaccines more accessible. She is scheduled to present her program to Turlock Sunrise Rotary in January, and she is hoping to give a presentation to the Turlock Chamber of Commerce with the help of former Turlock Mayor John Lazar. She also plans to do weekly vaccine awareness nights with her own presentations, as well as with community leaders and pediatricians.
“The goal is to improve awareness of vaccination benefits, increase vaccination rates in our community, and end the fear of anti-vaxxers,” said Thakur. “We want to make sure that everyone is aware of why vaccination is important and make sure that patients understand the potential risks of not getting vaccinated.”
As if running her own vaccination program was not enough, Thakur finds time to tutor her peers in math and physics at Modesto High School. She was also previously a tutor at the Kumon Math and Reading Center.
“I love working with people. I enjoy teaching people. And I enjoy helping people to learn new things and teach them in new ways that makes a lot of different to them,” said Thakur. “I also hope to instill in others the similar passion and love for learning that I have.”
Thakur’s passion for helping others extends to the Valley ACT Academy, which she set up in 2014 to help students in eighth through 10th grades succeed on the ACT exam.
“I want to help students from a disadvantaged background and those whose parents have not gone to college be exposed to the ACT materials,” said Thakur. “This will allow them to be better prepared and go to a better college. I also hope fill in the role as a mentor for these students for college readiness.”
Thakur served as the board chair of the Valley Educational Foundation, which helps provide scholarships to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and is involved in Project Hope, a program at Modesto High School that carries out projects in the local and global community to raise awareness for those less fortunate. She said that over the last four years, Project Hope has raised over $30,000 for community projects, including the Tuolumne River Cleanup, and global endeavors such as sending money to build schools in Ecuador Africa and wells in Haiti and India. This year, the goal of Project Hope is to raise money to improve health projects in rural China.
To top it all off, Thakur also has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
“A lot of the things I do are a byproduct of my situation and circumstances. I feel very fortunate to have so many resources — including great teachers and mentors. I want to be able to help the members of the community who are not as fortunate as I am,” said Thakur. “I have wonderful parents, wonderful teachers and I am grateful to have been a part of such an internationally-minded program like IB that truly encourages the development of a considerate leader and global citizen.”
In her last year in the International Baccalaureate Program at Modesto High School, Thakur is showing no signs of slowing down. She plans to further her education after she graduates by studying global health and social justice.
“I think I can affect the most change using my background in global health,” said Thakur. “I want to pursue medical studies, become a doctor and then help implement health changes that have the most impact in the global community.”