2014 Scholarship Recipients

Sophie Handler

__ High School

Sophie Handler may look like your typical teen, but she isn’t. The combination of her life experience and amazing positive demeanor sets her apart from her peers.

Four years ago Sophie began volunteering with and fundraising for Friendship Circle International, which brings together teen volunteers with special needs children, providing friendship for the children and help to their families. Sophie began working with her special friend, Zoe, then four years old, weekly and developed a unique bond as Zoe is unable to speak, has little purposeful use of her hands and requires full attention and care. This friendship is even more unusual because when Sophie was diagnosed with bone cancer in her sophomore year, throughout her treatments when she was able, she continued to visit Zoe, turning this friendship into a source of mutual inspiration and support.

Sophie has been very involved with the B’nai Brith Youth Organization (BBYO) over the years. She has been a board member for the three years and is currently a Regional board member as well. She works to engage Jewish teens in BBYO to explore their heritage and identities. This past December Sophie organized a shoe drive called “Dunk Your Kicks,” where she collected athletic shoes to help fund pediatric cancer research. She also has organized, promoted and participated in many community events including Relay for Life, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, and making and distributing blankets and pillows for pediatric cancer patients.

Sophie has a great track record of service in our community, but perhaps her greatest contribution to us has and will be the courage she has shown over the last three years. With her contagious smile and willingness to put others before her, Sophie is an inspiration to us all.

Michael Hoherchak

__ High School

Michael Hoherchak’s commitment to community service goes beyond participation to include an inspiring leadership component.

Ten years ago, at the age of nine, Michael helped create the Stamford Explorers, a 4-H Club community service club that performs monthly outreach activities. Today he is president of the club and has led efforts ranging from beautification projects to tag sales for Kids in Crisis to visiting to senior citizens at their homes for monthly arts and crafts projects. As vice president of his senior class, Michael’s leadership as a liaison with school administration has been effective in creating a positive school climate. He is also the school’s vice president of production for its Junior Achievement Company.

Volunteering with the Stamford Mentoring Program, Michael has worked one-on-one with a middle school student in need of academic and social support, meeting weekly to help set goals, review academic and social learning barriers, and encourage extracurricular involvement. Through the National Honors Society for which he is its treasurer, he has organized and participated in Homework Center, a program where members of the Society help students with homework and projects.

Michael’s leadership has also surface in the fundraising arena. Working with St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a group that raises money to help fund childhood cancer research, Michael and his lacrosse team shaved their heads and raised nearly $14,000. He also has participated for the past three years in the lacrosse tournament called Sticks for Soldiers, whose focus is to raise money for wounded war veterans in need while showing high school students what young men and women not much older themselves have sacrificed for their country.

Rachel Katz

Westhill High School

Rachel Katz is caring, compassionate and committed to giving her time and energy to her community and those with special needs.

As an active member of B’nai Brith Youth Organization (BBYO) for the past four years, Rachel has had an impact on the chapter and her peers. Last year as Shlicha, Vice President of Jewish Heritage, Community Service and Social Action, she spearheaded her chapter’s Stand Up, where it picks a cause and runs fundraisers, education and advocacy programs, and social action initiatives. Rachel led her chapter to choose pediatric cancer research to honor a friend who had just overcome a fight with cancer. She ran an engaging educational program, led a blanket drive for the pediatric ward at Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital, and organized a group of 20 girls to participate in Relay for Life, raising $1,500 for cancer research.

Rachel’s support of those with special needs has been unwavering. In the Friendship Circle, she has met weekly for the past four years with her special friend, Maya, where the two of them do everything from playing sports and board games to talking about school. She also has been a volunteer at Stillmeadow Elementary in its Special Education classrooms and at Westhill High’s Lunch with Special Education Students program.

Other efforts have ranged from events – the J-serve day of teen service, Mitzvah day at the JCC and the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk – to bringing peers together for UJF’s Super Sunday. Additionally, for the past three years, Rachel has coached the Stamford Youngtimers Basketball League, and for the past 10 years, she has served Christmas Eve dinner at Pacific House.

Tim McMullen

__ High School

Timothy McMullen is an entrepreneurial young man, who is driven by a strong sense of dignity and service. Tim is recognized by his school mates and fellow scouts as a leader. He is attentive to the needs of those around him with awareness that he is part of something much greater than himself. This is best reflected in his involvement with the Boy Scouts and with his high school’s Hunger and Homeless program.

As member of Troop 15 in Stamford since the age of 10, Tim is now its Senior Patrol Leader, where is responsible for running the troop, planning and running its weekly meetings, monthly camping trips along with all the troop’s community service projects and events. When Tim was working to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest rank attainable in Boy Scouting, developed “Linens for the Homeless,” a program to benefit the homeless at the Stamford Shelter for the Homeless. From planning to securing volunteer scouts and adults through execution, Tim worked with local churches and synagogues to collect and clean badly needed linens and towels. Perhaps most important, Tim also developed a structure for future collection drives so that the project would be sustainable.

Tim’s leadership and commitment to the homeless is also seen in his service at his high school, Regis in New York City, where he chairs its biannual Midnight Run Hunger and Homeless Service program. In this program runs provide enable student volunteers to meet the homeless on the streets where they live in an effort to distribute food, clothing, toiletries and other needed items. Additionally Tim has served as a Peer Advisor and Eucharist Minister at Regis.