Amazing Teens

HealthBeats: The Heartbeat of the Health Community

Wouldn’t it be great if teens’ love of social networking sites could be harnessed to help them lead healthy, active lives?

One group of local teens turned entrepreneurs hopes to make that happen. Rangoli Bhattacharjee, Bhavna Singh and Divyansh Gupta have collaborated to create the framework for a comprehensive health resource called HealthBeats.

Imagine going online to your HealthBeats account to log your workouts, personalize menus, participate in forums with other users and get answers to health questions from professionals. The students believe their online portal has tapped into a medium that will really work for teens. And they should know, because they’re all high school students.

Singh, a 15-year-old rising junior at Enloe, describes the site as “kind of a combination of Facebook and Twitter. You have your own profile, both public and private.”

Bhattacharjee, a 16-year-old Caryite who is also a rising junior at Enloe, adds that there are three tiers of service — a free level with basic exercise and nutrition tracking features, a premium level that simplifies tracking and produces reports to illustrate progress, and a family plan that allows parents to get involved and work toward their own health goals.

The site was created as a group project for the TiE Carolinas Young Entrepreneurs business contest, which involved several months of business classes followed by the creation of a full business plan. Completing the process of research and development with only three people in a short time frame required many late nights and long hours, which were spent either working together or touching base via video conference.

Balancing such a large extracurricular endeavor with school work, volunteer opportunities and a social life wasn’t easy, but they all say they’d do it again because they fully support the cause they chose.
“The product reflects the amount of love and time and care you put into it, so it’s very important to have fun while you’re doing it. … Enjoy the process rather than the end result,” Bhattacharjee believes.

That approach paid off. They won the TyE Carolinas competition, won $5,000 from competition sponsor Wachovia and traveled to Boston in April to present HealthBeats to a panel of judges at MIT.
Their team mentor, Shishir Shonek, vice president of InContext Inc., credits the win to their positive attitudes and strong team ethos. “They really sold it. They’re very enthusiastic,” he noted. “I honestly for the life of me cannot figure out how they did it.”

“This program has opened a lot of doors for us. The way they treated us in the program wasn’t like students. We were treated like adults,” Singh said. Their maturity is evident in not only the results of their work, but also what they’ve taken away from the process.
“I feel like I made a network. If I need help with business, I have people I can call,” said Gupta, a 15-year-old rising sophomore at Panther Creek. He says they met with coaches, students and other business professionals to figure out what tools the site needed to include and how to implement them.

“We didn’t just get a textbook example of everything we learned,” he noted, admitting the hands-on experience was far more valuable than any classroom-only setting could have been.

The HealthBeats site has been largely developed, but is not yet live. The plan is to have it synch with the school curriculum for students in Wake, Durham and Orange counties, and the team hopes to have it implemented when the 2011 school year begins next August.

“We have some contracts to settle,” Bhattacharjee said, but the project seems to have plenty of support, and all the team members are optimistic that their five-year plan is off to a strong start.

The students’ desire to help others doesn’t stop with HealthBeats. Gupta participates weekly in the Read and Feed program, tutoring kids on reading skills, and is also a member of the REAL Teen Council, which educates teens on youth health issues.

Bhattacharjee volunteers with Cary Teen Council and has helped with India Fest. Singh created a youth group last year for the Hindu Society of N.C. and helped plan events like walkathons and cultural programs. She also participates in Pratham and Ekal Vidyalaya, nonprofit groups that benefit education in India.

The teens will have to turn control of the nonprofit HealthBeats site over to a board of directors before it goes live, but one way or another, they’re sure to stay involved in helping others throughout the local community and the world.

Taylor Bye Shoots for the Stars
By Heather Green

Question: What makes Taylor Bye tick?

Is it her pay-it-forward approach to life? Her love of helping those in need? Or is it just the fact that this 17-year-old, straight-A student with lofty dreams and a “’what’s next?” attitude is ready to take on a world of worthy causes?

Answer: All of the above.

Born and raised in Cary, Bye started dreaming big at an early age with aspirations of going to Harvard, becoming a lawyer and helping those in need. Fast forward 10 years later, as Bye prepares to graduate high school, her dreams have taken flight in a different direction. Bye plans to become a pilot in the United States Air Force following graduation, and she then intends to work for NASA with dreams of going into space to experience something out of this world!

You may be wondering what makes this sensational student stand out from all the rest. An impressive resume of clubs, activities and charity work barely scratches the surface of all Bye has accomplished in her adolescence. Bye has been involved with the infamous Cary High School band since 2006, the Alpha Beta Club, French Club, Winder Guard, Cary High’s’ soccer team, ROTC and National Honor Society where Bye and five other officers proudly organized Cary’’s Walk for Haiti. Not to mention this devoted member of First Baptist Church of Cary also participates in basketball, sign language and mission trips.

“Through FBC, I have served others on mission trips in the community and around the country.” Taylor explained., “These trips have allowed me to realize how privileged I am.”

In Bye’s limited spare time, she works at Pei Wei Asian diner in Cary, which happens to be her favorite place to eat with her family. She also enjoys unwinding with her adorable Bassett hound, Carly, and a sweet and spoiled feline named Bella, who keeps her warm at night. She emphasizes that no matter what she is doing, she loves experiencing new things and wouldn’t trade an exciting adventure for anything in the world.

Given a goal, she becomes motivated by the fact that she will be able to look back and grow from the journey no matter what the end result is. She is excited about taking advantage of what the world has to offer and looks forward to having fun along the way.

When it comes to being branded a noteworthy student, Bye humbly defines her role as someone who can be herself no matter what situation she is in and is devoted to the task at hand whether it is writing a paper, participating in a club or spending time with loved ones. She proudly describes her remarkable responsibility as being a self-motivated role model while keeping priorities in line.

“A noteworthy student is someone who is OK with making mistakes as long as they give it their all, knowing that they will be stronger in the end,” she explained.

So, does this terrific teen have what it takes to go where no man has gone before? According to Cary High’s Guidance Counselor Katy Rhodes and Cary High’s Dean of Students Linda Brannan … absolutely! Rhodes explains how Bye has affected those around her with her positive attitude despite the circumstances and how she is well-respected by peers and staff alike because of her polite and caring nature.

“Whatever Taylor chooses to do, she will be a confident, successful leader who empowers others to do the same.” Brannan said.

Where does this unstoppable youth draw her strength from, and what keeps this go-getter so motivated? “Having grown up in a Christian home, I draw my strength from the love of my family, but more importantly, from the love of Christ,” Bye said. She knows that as long as she puts forth her best effort, in the end, she will be loved no matter what. With support like that, anything is possible.

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