Humans of Harker: Bonds for a lifetime

Kushal Shah seeks to connect with others through education and medicine


Esha Gohil

“Everyone’s an unfinished puzzle. And that’s part of the reason why I want to connect with different people. I feel that learning about someone’s different experiences gives me a more complete perspective of the world and of the problems other people deal with. I might not be able to help them, but I can somewhat alleviate their pain and help them through their situations,” Kushal Shah (12) said.

Business psychologists. Biotech entrepreneurs. Medical professors. These are just a few types of people with whom Kushal Shah (12) has formed connections and helped connect others. Whether he is meeting new people or hosting speaker events featuring a diverse group of professionals, Kushal is always looking to reach out to others and form meaningful ties.

Joining the Harker Journalism program allowed Kushal to enjoy the benefits of connecting with others with different backgrounds. Kushal wanted to give other people access to these people with diverse backgrounds.

“Being a journalist gives you access to people who you wouldn’t really be able to talk to if you weren’t a journalist, or wouldn’t have the opportunity to do so. I wanted to help other people who aren’t journalists, to have that same sort of access,” Kushal said.

Along with a few friends, Kushal started a local chapter of an organization called Talks on Innovation, Leadership, and Entrepreneurship (TILE), which connects professionals in various fields with locals. Kushal invites professional business leaders, entrepreneurs or innovators to speak to students, kids or even adults at local libraries and other public venues. Kushal and his friends have managed to connect many students to professionals in their field, allowing students to gain insights into various skill areas.

“I’m happy to say that we’ve invited seven or eight speakers to speak to over 200 students to share their own experiences and some of their own advice, like how they founded their own business or tips on good qualities of a business leader, innovator or entrepreneur from the perspective of someone who has dove into that industry,” Kushal said.

As the president of the Silicon Valley chapter of TILE, Kushal led three sub-teams in charge of marketing, public relations and marketing.

“I grew to understand that it’s not just about everyone coming together to single-mindedly work towards one objective; it’s about having fun while you’re doing something meaningful,” Kushal said. “One way to keep everyone interested and engaged while they worked on their own tasks was staying light-hearted – having fun while doing it.”

Krishay Mukhija (12), who has been friends with Kushal since elementary school and worked with Kushal in TILE, praised Kushal’s ability to effectively organize and direct the program, and more importantly, his skill in connecting everyone in the organization to a common goal.

“[Kushal] was very efficient and allocated the responsibilities. Within a span of one and a half weeks, we were able to have our first TILE speaker event that he was able to organize, which was very impressive,” Krishay said. “He lays down the goals, and he’s very good at outlining the steps. And at the same time, he also makes it really fun, taking us along each part of the process and telling us why everything fits into the bigger picture.”

Krishay recounted Kushal’s ability to easily interact with people during their earliest TILE event, which was held at a local library.

“Kushal was fearless and was even asking random people in the library whether they wanted to come to hear about this guy who talked about Japanese entrepreneurship,” Krishay said. “He’s really open to talking to people, and he’s very outgoing.”

Outside of TILE, Kushal has continued to connect with others through education, tutoring local students in various subjects.

“I started [tutoring] last year because I myself struggled with my AP classes, and I figured that I’m not the only one who’s struggling. So I reached out to some of the local parents in my neighborhood, a lot of students at a local public school, and I asked whether any of their children would want any help free of charge with any of their classes,” Kushal said.

Kushal has continued to tutor during remote learning, where it can be more difficult for students to learn in an online environment.

“With remote learning, it’s harder to understand where a student needs help. But unlike in a classroom, [I] can focus on one student in particular,” Kushal said. “Learning is a physical interaction with another human being who understands what your weaknesses are, and what your strengths are and can help work on your weaknesses so that you can grow better at something.”

In both tutoring and TILE, Kushal finds joy in helping others learn and explore their passions and watching as they learn.

“During our first TILE event, when the speaker was talking about his own business and giving advice and teaching not only the students but also the adults as well in the room, his eyes absolutely lit up. Watching his eyes light with passion and then watching the audience nodding their heads and getting into it and being engaged was very fulfilling,” Kushal said.

Outside of education, Kushal has also been able to connect with others through his experience with shadowing at a hospital.

“Before my internship, I thought that being a doctor was about treating specific diseases or conditions or injuries,” Kushal said. “It was crazy how my initial perspective of how and what a doctor really does is really different from the understanding I actually ended up leaving the hospital with. Being a doctor is not just about treating a condition; it’s about caring for your patient.”

During his time interning at the hospital, Kushal met people from diverse backgrounds and learned to appreciate their perspectives and experiences, rather than judge them. Memorably, Kushal met a teenager his age who had endured a motherless, abusive childhood and joined a gang.

“Everyone’s an unfinished puzzle. And that’s part of the reason why I want to connect with different people,” Kushal said. “Learning about someone’s different experiences gives me a more complete perspective of the world and of the problems other people deal with. I might not be able to help them, but I can somewhat alleviate their pain.”

Deven Parikh (12), who has been friends with Kushal since elementary school, described Kushal’s openness to others and his desire to help others.

“Kushal is dedicated but also easygoing. He’s always down to meet new people, and he’s someone who’s very approachable,” Deven said. “He’s also a very generous person – he’ll be there for you if you need help. He’ll be very generous with his time if I need help.”

Kushal’s experiences at the hospital have reinforced his wish to be a doctor in order to treat and care for others.

“As a doctor, as a medical professional, I’ll be able to do so much more to help. But I wouldn’t have to focus on a specific injury; I would look at this holistically on the patient. I would want them to recover physically, mentally and emotionally,” Kushal said.

Throughout his experiences with teaching others as well as watching others be treated, Kushal has made innumerable connections and memories, experiences that have greatly influenced his passions. No matter where he goes, one thing is clear – Kushal will continue to pursue his calling to help others.

“Life is too short to care about what other people think about what you do. Do whatever you think is truly important to you,” Kushal said. “You don’t want to leave the earth not having done something that really mattered. You want to have some sort of significance to the world.”