2015 Scholarship Recipients

Renee Cooper

Stamford High School

From the young to the aging, Renee Cooper has been helping, serving and leading in our community for many years. Renee was part of a selected group of high school volunteers to participate in the Young Leaders afterschool program at Davenport Ridge Elementary School , which is a growth opportunity for 4th and 5th graders to learn how to become better leaders in the community by demonstrating positive behavior. In this program Renee collaborated with students in activities ranging from role playing for decision making to brainstorming community service opportunities. As a volunteer with Build On, Stamford’s largest volunteer service club, Renee participated in the First Presbyterian Church’s afterschool program, Creative Learning, to help underserved elementary school children with their homework, tutoring and providing guidance as needed for specific situations.

As an active member of Stamford High School’s Gives Back Club, Renee has not only helped to raise money, she also was part of a group that extended volunteering to visiting Atria Stamford Senior Living residents on a weekly basis. She would engage residents in book club discussions and arts and crafts, and dance with them at holiday and social events, placing often-needed smiles on her partners’ faces. Renee also has had the opportunity to further demonstrate her leadership skills as one of the two captains of the Stamford High’s varsity field hockey team, taking on tasks that were needed on and off the field. In addition, Renee is a staff writer for the school newspaper and member of the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council, the National Honor Society, the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization and a long-time volunteer at the Stamford Food Bank.

Alexandra Kelley

St. Luke’s School

Lexi Kelley is the remarkable young woman who founded Kids Helping Kids, an organization whose mission is to develop leadership skills through youth-led service projects. KHK was created from Lexi’s personal journey recuperating from a serious car accident in early 2009 when she was 12. So touched by the many small acts of kindness she experienced from her friends and others, Lexi recognized that if she could find a way to continue to have lots of kids do just a little, they all could make a difference for those in need…and a motivating leader and master organizer was born.

Later that year Lexi and a small group of friends launched their first KHK project, and today the team of KHK volunteers has grown to more than 250 kids from 51 different schools. Every project is youth inspired, developed and led. Many of KHK’s small one-off projects have become regularly scheduled community service events. Organizations like Inspirica and the Yerwood Center have come to rely on KHK: Inspirica for events like KHK’s quarterly birthday bashes for homeless children, shoe drives and food drives, and Yerwood for the Handle with Care Boutique, which has grown to now include children and men’s wear as well as women. KHK also successfully partners with our local business community enabling KHK to have even greater impact.

In addition to KHK, Lexi is involved with NicaPhoto, a Connecticut-based group working with disadvantaged youth in Nicaragua; the Waterside School, where she has been a volunteer summer counselor for kids at risk; and many other service projects at St. Luke’s School viagra europa. She also is a player on St. Luke’s varsity basketball and softball teams and a member of the school spirit committee.

Jenna Plotzky

Westhill High School

Jenna Plotzky has demonstrated her commitment to our community in so many ways and at so many places, from the Westhill campus to her synagogueigh School a and a lot of Stamford in between.

Intuitive and able to recognize needs, Jenna created the club Hearts Take Chances in reaction to the Sandy Hook elementary school tragedy and recent suicides at Westhill. Hearts Take Chances helps fellow students remember, commemorate, engage and appreciate that each day is a gift. The club actively works with school leadership to create a more positive environment, including posting inspirational quotes in hallways. Described as “a random acts-of-kindness society,” one of its projects was hosting a National Smile Day event, while another was to make sure one day last year that every junior (about 500) received a nutritious snack before taking state exams.

Jenna was instrumental in establishing the Beth El Teens Youth Group, which provides programming for 8th to 12th graders. Her work at Temple Beth El has highlighted her gift for working with young children as a teaching assistant, gaining their respect by showing them respect. She also serves as a Board Member of Speak Up for Israel, a program of the Stamford Jewish Community Center and the United Jewish Federation, and is an active member of the Kuriansky Teen Tzedakah Corps and the Jewish Student Connection.

In addition, Jenna is president of Westhill’s Junior Achievement, of its Future Business Leaders of America chapter and of its Alliance for Cancer Education and Prevention. She is Captain of the WHS Math Team, a member of the National Honors Society, the Spanish National Honor Society, Activity and Publicity Coordinator for Environment Heroes and is an Ambassador Girl Scout.

Rebecca Rakowitz

__ High School

Allana Van Houten

__ High School

Allana Van Houten is an inspiring, driven young woman that is as passionate about her community as she is about her education. Her leadership and commitment to others are recognized both in the community and in the classroom.

A member of the Boys & Girls Club of Stamford for more than 10 years, Allana embodies what the club is all about: to enable our youth, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens. Early on while in elementary school, Allana began developing as a role model for her peers and those younger than her. Each day that she came to the club, she would immediately do her homework – without being told – and then jump in – without being asked – to tutor those younger kids needing that little extra help. Other areas where Allana has been active at the club, giving hours of service, include sports programs, the Saturday arts and crafts program, and working with children during school vacations. For the past four years, Allana has been an active member of club’s Keystone Program, its leadership group which focuses on academic success, community services and career preparation.

Allana’s other passion in community service is to her church, The Salvation Army, where she also has taken on a leadership role as a soldier. With a focus on hunger, she helps distribute food with activities ranging from working the Thanksgiving turkey giveaways to picking up food at the Food Bank. Additionally, she has volunteered at the church’s diaper drives, has organized gifts to be given to the church for the community, and every Christmas holiday you can count on Allana to ring the bell to help raise money for local charities.