The Brain Health Scholar program provides education and training for Scholars over 2 years (4 terms) and includes opportunities to serve the community at an advanced level as a Brain Health Community Educator and through different tracks (e.g., Early Childhood Brain Health Promotion, Youth Mental Health, Brain Healthy Lifestyle-Public and Community Health, Arts and Culture, Dementia Risk-Reduction, Brain Healthy Nutrition). View a video about the program.
The Brain Health Scholar program is a competitive appointment open to high school, undergraduate, and grade college student leaders (15 years or older) who participate in a youth program or attend a private or public school within the greater Suncoast region or a BHI associated college or university.
An authorized representative of a collaborating organization will nominate identified student leader(s). The qualified candidate(s) should have an interest in science, medicine, health and human services, community or public health, and/or education. Brain Health Scholars have the right to refuse the nomination and may withdraw from participation at any time during the project. Apply.
About the Program
Scholars work with the Brain Health Initiative in its effort to promote and protect brain health, prevent and fight brain illness, and improve performance for all ages throughout the Suncoast region. Specifically, Scholars help carry out the community engagement, research, and innovation agenda with the Brain Health Initiative to better understand and take action on the brain health and well-being concerns, values, priorities, and attitudes of both youth and adults. Brain Health Scholars receive an annual certificate of participation documenting service hours.
2020-2021 Pilot Program Outcomes
In its inaugural program more than 69 students were appointed Brain Health Scholars and completed 6 months working with BHI clinicians and researchers learning about brain health in general, and how to increase protective and decrease risk factors through lifestyle behaviors. The Scholars participated in didactic training related to the science of brain health, as well as the scientific process of community-based research. The Scholars participated in the development of the community perception and prioritization pilot and final surveys for youth and adults and through this process, learned that two of the most prevalent brain health risk factors among Sarasota and Bradenton youth are sleep and stress. Further work with the students clarified the role that social media and sedentary lifestyle plays in interrupting sleep and adding stress into their daily lives. This learning has crystallized for the BHI the need to work together on improving youth and adolescent mental health as one of four core themes for the Brain Health Initiative. With funding, the Brain Health Scholars will have the opportunity to work alongside BHI faculty and producers, writers, and researchers of the Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma. The students will lead a Community Town Hall panel discussion regarding the implications of social media use to youth and adolescent mental health. This will lead to development of a public health campaign to support brain healthy use of social media among youth and adolescents.
The potential of this program to boost brain health protective factors in youth and those with whom they associate while providing Scholars the opportunity to explore potential academic and career paths is enormous. Below are some quotes and attached is a portfolio from the inaugural class of Scholars about their experience in the program:
“I didn’t expect that my mental health, my physical health
and even my grades would improve….but they did.”
“I turn my phone and all other screens off about a half hour
before bed and meditate, this simply helps me sleep better.”
“The more I learned, the more I realized how
pertinent brain health is to my own community.”
“The program taught me multiple important aspects that go into
maintaining one’s brain health, as well as the extent to which brain illness is present in society today – more so now than ever before.”
“I was able to learn how social media, physical exercise, and even
the foods you eat can affect the way your brain grows throughout your lifetime.”
Superintendents from Manatee and Sarasota Counties have requested we offer the Brain Health Scholars program to students from every high school in the region. And more than two dozen College Admissions offices, having learned about the program through student college applications, are requesting the BHI resources to help establish Brain Health Scholar Chapters on their campuses.
This single program provides a compelling example of the ways in which individuals can learn to be brain healthy. It also equips participants with the tools to help lead the BHI’s brain health movement and campaign for families and communities aimed at changing how we care for our brains and transforming how we promote optimal performance and approach brain illness.