Liam Tvenstrup, a junior at Braden River High School, always knew sleep was important, but he never learned why it’s important.
Being a part of the inaugural class of the Brain Health Scholar program helped him answer that question.
Tvenstrup learned the different chemicals the body produces when sleeping and how lack of sleep can affect physical and mental health.
Tvenstrup decided to make changes in his own life to assure he would sleep better and improve his own brain health. For example, he makes sure he’s ready to sleep by 10 p.m. so he can get at least eight hours of sleep per night. He already has noticed he’s able to go through a day without getting tired like he had in the past, and he’s more alert.
As a part of the Brain Health Scholar program, Tvenstrup and other East County scholars have learned not only the basics of brain health but preventative measures for brain illnesses and how to decrease risk factors.
The scholars helped in developing the community perception and prioritization pilot and final surveys for youths and adults.
The inaugural class of Brian Health Scholars consisted of 69 high school and college students from 19 schools and universities who were ages 16 and older. Twelve students from East County participated in the program.
Hilton Hudson, a junior at the Out-of-Door Academy and son of the Brain Health Initiative founder Stephanie Peabody, said the program gave him an opportunity to develop more skills in terms of researching as well as to obtain a better understanding of brain health.
“What I enjoyed most was the ability to dive deep into brain health generational-wise instead of just the basics of brain health and the mental and physical aspects of brain health,” Hudson said.
Tvenstrup said learning from the program directors and leaders of the Brain Health Initiative as well as researchers from Harvard Medical School gave him a look into what he could be facing when he goes to college and pursues a career in neuroscience.
A large part of the scholars’ work in the program was bringing more awareness to the community about brain health. They would go to events such as the Brain Health Initiative’s lecture with Lisa Genova, a neuroscientist and best selling author, to talk to attendees.
Emma Cecil, a junior at Lakewood Ranch High School, said she tries to share the knowledge she’s gained through the program with everyone she can.
Cecil recalled being in line for an Ivanka Trump rally when she met a man and they started talking about volunteer hours. She was able to share her experiences with the Brain Health Scholar program and tell him what she had learned.
“I told him about how it can affect families, how it can affect friends,” Cecil said. “He listened and he asked questions. We had a real conversation and then we were at the front of the line.”
Participating in the Mindful Triathlon last November was one of Hudson’s favorite activities as a scholar because of the community aspect. He had to run a 5K before participating in a morning of yoga and meditation with community members at Bob Gardner Park.
Scholars interested in entering the medical field, like Hudson and Tvenstrup, will be able to use the knowledge they gained in their futures.
Hudson hopes to become a neurosurgeon. He said understanding how the brain works physically and mentally will help him to know how to care for incoming patients as well as how to continue to care for and support patients after surgery.