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Our Stories


Our Stories

Meet Avani, a Clarke Florida alum from 2008, pursuing an undergraduate degree in Information Technology. Avani has a bilateral hearing loss that was discovered when she was 10 months old, shortly after her family moved to Florida from India. She wears cochlear implants to help access sound and uses listening and spoken language to communicate. 

Avani was enrolled in her high school’s International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, a rigorous two-year program dedicated to curriculum and service. Avani was an active member of the National Honor Society, Hispanic Honor Society, Interact Club and participated in her high school’s orchestra. Avani was accepted into the University of Central Florida’s (UCF) COMPASS — a program that helps undergraduate students explore career options in STEM-related fields. 

During the peak of COVID-19, Avani’s last years in high school were a challenge. However, Avani highly attributes the fact that she made it through those arduous times from her friends’ unwavering support. “Having a good group of friends has really helped me — especially throughout the pandemic. We didn’t have an official prom that was sponsored by the school, so my friend and I had a pandemic-friendly one at home,” explains Avani.  

Avani is now an undergraduate student in UCF’s research program, a decade and a half after she attended Early Intervention and Preschool Programs at Clarke Florida where she learned to listen and talk. 

Avani is a 2023 recipient of the Caroline A. Yale Memorial Fund Scholarship and will use the funds to support her academic aspirations. With her degree, Avani aims to explore her interest in academic research. Avani has conducted research exploring how nanomaterials can potentially help degrade harmful substances in the environment. Currently, Avani’s research leans toward data science, mapping out evacuation patterns during a hurricane. 

“Avani continues to amaze us! She started exceeding our expectations as a toddler and continues to do so in college. She makes us very proud,” notes Geeta Shandilya, Avani’s mom and a teacher of the deaf at Clarke. “As a parent and a professional, I see every day the limitless possibilities for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. We will always be grateful to all the professionals who have supported Avani’s growth and who have helped her reach where she is today.” 

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