June 7, 2007
A not-so-random sampling of the Class of 2007
(Page 4 - Previous Page)While many students in their final year of high school are struck with "senioritis" and cutting back on work and school involvement, Kasper has become a pioneer in her last semester by working on a culminating project in Milken's pilot program, "Graduation by Exhibition."
The list of activities goes on: Kasper was on the varsity dance team, served as secretary of the class council for four years and organized the senior bonfire, in addition to numerous other events.
Luckily, the spirited over-achiever is not going to be far from her proud parents. She is headed to USC's prestigious Marshall School of Business and plans to become a lawyer.
There's No Crying for Baseball
From: New Community Jewish High School
To: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Baseball has always figured prominently in Alex Friedman's life, whether he's playing it or watching it. But when he transferred from Calabasas High School to New Community Jewish High School (NCJHS) in 10th grade, Friedman found himself at a school without a baseball team.
So he told NCJHS Athletic Director Sina Monjazeb, "We need a baseball team, or I'm not coming." During his first semester, Friedman and a few friends gathered a group of interested students and contacted baseball coach Ethan Bowlin, who helped supply the team with equipment and training.
In less than a year, with the support of the administration, NCJHS had its first baseball team, which has become central to the school's athletic program.
Friedman, a first baseman with pitching experience, was named team captain at the start of the first season, requiring him to meet with the coach after each practice, in addition to serving as a team role model.
The empowering experience of creating a team from scratch changed Friedman's approach to school. While at Calabasas High he was mostly unmotivated and had mediocre grades, he says he "switched on, academically" at NCJHS. He particularly likes math and the abstract thinking of Jewish philosophy, such as discussing the works of Spinoza and Abraham Joshua Heschel.
Now Friedman sits at the front of the class and has raised his GPA to 3.9. On and off the field, hard work has become a central part of his life.
Friedman will be attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison, yet another school that lacks a baseball team. There, he is looking forward to getting involved in a Jewish fraternity, studying religious philosophy and math, and of course ... starting a collegiate baseball team.
-- Jay Firestone, Contributing Writer
Help for Survivors
From: Wildwood Secondary School
To: University of Wisconsin-Madison
After visiting concentration camps and bygone shtetls with Camp Ramah's Poland Seminar in the summer after her 10th grade year, Laura Taubman felt that she needed to do something.
As someone who strived to be "a lifelong learner and teacher," she began an internship at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust in her senior year and became a student docent.
When the time came to prepare for her 12th grade project, a requirement for all seniors at Wildwood Secondary School, she knew this was her opportunity to make a difference -- not only to enhance her knowledge of World War II tragedies, but to encourage others to learn as well.
First, she drew from her experiences at the L.A. Museum of the Holocaust and taught two courses on the ghettos and concentration camps to her classmates.
The school also required that the project include a personal challenge or community involvement aspect. Extremely disturbed by the knowledge that 30,000 U.S. Holocaust survivors live below the poverty level, Taubman set out to raise funds for -- and awareness of -- that population.
Taubman began her efforts in December by contacting Jon Kean, director of the film "Swimming in Auschwitz." He agreed to donate the film for a screening. From there, the high school senior secured a venue at the Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills. Once the location was determined, she joined forces with Jewish Healthcare Foundation Bikur Cholim and its Holocaust Assistance Survival Program.
The May 7 screening saw more than 250 in the audience and raised $20,000 for the Bikur Cholim Holocaust Survivors Assistance Program.
"It's our responsibility to tell the stories our grandparents won't be able to," Taubman said.
Taubman is also the editor of her school yearbook, captain of the soccer team, a counselor at Camp Ramah in Ojai, and holds an after-school job. Next year, she plans to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is excited to further her involvement in Holocaust programming.
From: Milken Community High School
To: USC Marshall School of Business
Like many teens, Jordan Asheghian spent hours on the phone talking about relationships. But for Asheghian, those conversations happened with people he didn't know. Since ninth grade, Asheghian has been volunteering for Teenline, taking anonymous phone calls from distressed teens who need someone to talk to about anything from relationships or depression to abuse or addiction. Asheghian underwent 60 hours of training, in addition to many more hours of observing and role-playing, before he was able to take his first phone call.
"It can get tough but it was also very rewarding," said the Milken Community High School senior. "I feel like I helped a lot of people, and I feel like I learned a lot about myself."
Asheghian took those listening skills back to Milken's Vatikim (Veterans) program, where he advised about 15 ninth-graders to help smooth their transition to high school.
For the past two years he has co-led Milken's weekly Sephardic Minyan, leading prayers, discussions about Persian and Sephardic culture, or sharing Sephardic food. The experience was especially rewarding since about half the minyan was Persian or Sephardic and the rest were Ashkenazi.
A solid student who took AP classes and excelled in math, Asheghian's primary passion is soccer. A highlight of his soccer career came in 2005, when he was captain of the USA team for the international youth Maccabiah Games in Israel, which occur every four years. USA came in fourth, and was the only team to tie Israel, which won the gold medal.
He was captain this year and last of Milken's varsity team and received an award for excellence from the league's division. He's been playing since he was 11 and for the past two years has been in the Premiere Division of Club Soccer -- one of the highest amateur levels around.
He plans to keep playing Club Soccer while he studies at the Marshall School of Business at USC next year, and hopes to continue his affiliation with the Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills.