June 5, 2008
Outstanding seniors, Class of 2008
(Page 2 - Previous Page)Kaplan also boasts a 4.0 GPA, serves as student council vice president and will publish her first novel, a coming-of-age story, through HarperCollins this summer.
Kaplan credits her family's unconditional support for her astounding success. Always determined, Kaplan said her family -- her mother is feminist lawyer Susan Estrich, her father is Marty Kaplan, associate dean of USC's Annenberg School of Communications -- never challenged or questioned her lofty ambitions. Being the next female president may not be so far off -- Kaplan plans to study government when she matriculates in the fall.
Graduating from: YULA Boys School
Heading to: Yeshivat Har Etzion and then UCLA
There's an unspoken rule among Orthodox teens in Los Angeles that you can either be involved in the outreach-oriented NCSY youth movement, or the religious Zionist B'nei Akiva. But you don't do both, and you certainly aren't a leader in both.
Ian Lurie wasn't interested in such arbitrary separations. With a reputation for being a serious mensch, no one doubted his earnest desire to help people out and to bring together people who might not otherwise mix. This year, Lurie was regional co-president of NCSY (National Conference of Synagogue Youth, the Orthodox Union's teen arm), and he is head of high school activities for B'nei Akiva and a counselor in the group's Shabbat afternoon program for kids.
While he sometimes had to navigate scheduling conflicts, that was worth it for him, because he wasn't willing to give up either of the values the groups represented.
NCSY brings together kids from Orthodox schools, community schools, secular private schools and public schools, all with the goal of deepening Jewish commitment. That mission has allowed Lurie to act on his desire to see people of different backgrounds come together. Through B'nei Akiva, he's been able to teach others about Israel, a focal point in his Jewish identity.
The valedictorian at YULA boys high school, Lurie also opted for the "all of the above" option when choosing an outlet for his volunteer instinct. He coordinated volunteers from YULA for both Chai Lifeline, an organization that helps families with chronically ill children, and for Yachad, an Orthodox Union organization that hosts a weekly activity for developmentally disabled adults. He's spent two summers with Yachad, traveling to Israel and the East Coast as a one-on-one counselor for a participant with disabilities. He plays a similar role in Etta Israel, a Los Angeles organization, where he attends monthly activities and several Shabbatons a year, paired up with a young adult with developmental disabilities.
Lurie manages all this -- and intramural basketball and biking -- along with a grueling school schedule. He is in YULA's advanced Gemara track, which lengthens his day by more than three hours -- from the usual 7:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., to an exhausting 8:30 p.m. -- twice a week and Sunday mornings, as well.
Next year he's headed for Yeshivat Har Etzion outside of Jerusalem, and after that he'll start UCLA. It was a tough decision to go to UCLA over an East Coast school with a more vibrant Orthodox presence, but he sees it as another opportunity.
"I plan to get involved and be active in Hillel," he said. "I'll be there for whatever they need me for."
Graduating from: Milken Community High School
Heading to: MIT
Richard Dahan recently came up with a new hobby. He's collecting synonyms to answer the question, "How are you?": superb, excellent, splendid, magnificent, fantastic, spectacular.
And it's not just because Dahan speaks in superlatives -- it's because he really is that happy, and that grateful, for everything in his life.
The salutatorian of Milken Community High School's graduating class, Dahan is a science whiz, a leader among his peers and social-action oriented. And he shares it all with three siblings of the same age -- he's one of a set of quadruplets, whom he calls his best friends. All of them will attend MIT next year.
In most of his endeavors, Dahan has had one or more of his siblings at his side. A member of Milken's Mitchell Science Academy, Dahan led Milken's team in the FIRST Robotics competition for high schoolers. While the team's Killer Rabbit robot didn't win, they did get the spirit award for their 10-foot-high castle, matching red coveralls and swords.
He also participated in a safe-cracking competition in Israel, where teams build locking mechanisms using physics principles -- such as magnets and ball bearings that had to be arranged in a specific order to shoot a rifle fast enough to open a lock.
Dahan gets quite a kick -- intellectual and humorous -- out of these competitions, which is why he gathered friends to reconstitute the school's science bowl team after it took a year off.
As president of the school's National Honor Society, he tutored peers for about 130 hours a year, and also started a program where seniors mentor juniors on what to expect from the college application process. Through Milken's Yozma leadership initiative, he ran a blood drive and a fluorescent light bulb sales drive. With the profits, they donated fluorescent bulbs to the SOVA food pantry to help the needy save on electric bills.
He's been on the cross-country team for four years and plans to keep running alongside the Charles River -- or maybe on it during winter, he jokes -- at MIT.