June 5, 2008
Outstanding seniors, Class of 2008
(Page 3 - Previous Page)He's looking forward to the intellectualism, quirkiness and enthusiasm he encountered on a visit to MIT. His siblings all have different areas of interest, so he's pretty sure they'll be able to stay close but independent.
But first, he and his siblings have some rare plans for this summer: The Dahans are going to relax.
Graduating from: New Community Jewish High School
Heading to: UC Riverside
It was easy to spot Alex Fard at his graduation from New Community Jewish High School last week -- he was the guy with swirls of glitter and large yellow stars stuck to his cap, pumping his fist and high-fiving his classmates as he took his seat on the stage.
While it would have been easy to pinpoint him as the head of the class spirit squad, it soon was apparent that his exuberance went a lot deeper. Fard's personal tragedy in ninth grade made school a focal point of stability for him, and turned him into a galvanizing force for his class.
Two months into his start at New Jew, Fard's father died suddenly, after a surgery went bad. The youngest of four children, Fard sat shiva with his family for three days then hurried back to the place that in just a few months had become his second home.
Friends rallied around him, learning in the process what it meant to support a friend. The school offered him regular counseling, and teachers gave him their home and cell phone numbers, checking in on him regularly.
He also became close with other kids who had lost parents at a support group at Our House. Perhaps it was that experience that allowed him to be there for two other classmates who lost their fathers in 11th grade.
"It was my chance to help them through the grieving process, because I had been there, and I am standing where they are going to be," he said. In his years in high school, he also lost three grandparents and an uncle.
But Fard didn't let his tragedy define his years in high school. He kept up his grades and joined the basketball, volleyball and cross-country team. He also managed the lacrosse team for a year and played guitar in a school band he helped form.
Fard will be attending UC Riverside next year, where he hopes to major in accounting. He was among four seniors chosen to speak at graduation.
"I often turned to you when I would have turned to my father," he told the faculty. "You have raised us, you have nurtured us and nourished us, and we have blossomed because of you."
Graduating from: YULA Girls High School
Heading to: Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim and then NYU
A few weeks ago, on her regular Sunday morning rounds as a volunteer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center's surgical rehab center, Alyson Goldenberg came across a patient who was just about her age.
It was a change from the elderly, or at least adult, patients she usually talks to and helps out, and it was a moving experience for both Goldenberg and the patient to spend time together.
"I love working with the patients and putting a smile on their faces," the YULA Girls High School senior sid. Goldenberg will spend next year in seminary in Jerusalem, and then will enter New York University's nursing school, where she will likely pursue a master's degree.
Goldenberg has always been interested in medicine and directly helping patients. Aside from her Sunday morning volunteer hours, she is now in the middle of an internship in the surgery center and will spend her summer working in the stroke and pediatrics departments at the hospital.
The Etta Israel Center and the Orthodox Union's Yachad, both programs for developmentally disabled kids and adults, have also benefited from Goldenberg's desire to help others. She's spent two summers at Etta Israel's camp, and she volunteers at a weekly Yachad activity and occasional Etta Israel Shabbatons, working one-on-one with the participants. She has formed an especially close relationship with the women who live in Etta Israel's group home in Valley Village.
As YULA's student council vice president this year, she helped organize activities like Nerd Day, Shabbatons and the Purom, an all-girls costume ball. Though her schedule is packed, Thursday nights belong to Tomchei Shabbos, where she assembles boxes of groceries to be delivered to needy families, and she carves out time to study with and mentor a sixth-grader at a local Jewish day school.
Goldenberg is looking forward to spending next year in Jerusalem, not only because Israel and Israel advocacy are a central passion for her, but because she will be studying Torah. While she is committed to becoming a nurse -- a medically oriented profession where she can also have a family -- another side of her would love to teach Torah.
Graduating from: El Camino Real High School
Heading to: Cal State Northridge
Moving from Argentina to Los Angeles at the age of 12 was rough on Damian Svidler. He could speak English pretty well, but still didn't have the confidence to make friends or find his niche. But during his junior year at El Camino Real High School, he hit on something that changed all that.
Svidler realized he loved helping people. After taking a class on the college experience, he dropped in at the guidance counselor's office to see if she needed a TA. He and another girl became the school's first peer guidance counselors, spending time counseling juniors and seniors about taking SATs, getting transcripts in order and visiting colleges. Soon people were stopping him in the hall with questions or calling him in the middle of the night while they filled out applications. He even mustered the courage to speak in front of hundreds of parents.
"Before I was kind of shy. I could never see myself as a leader," Svidler said. "That position showed me how much I love helping people, answering their questions and seeing them satisfied."