Westhill High School
Read About Joshua
Josh is one of those people that understands that if you just do what is expected of you, you will never really learn what you’re capable of. And so even if his parents and his many mentors, scoutmasters, coaches and advisors, had always expected him to be a straight A student, an Eagle Scout and a two-sport varsity athlete, well, he has still surprised them. Inspired by figures like Teddy Roosevelt and Neil deGrasse Tyson, Josh has done even more than that.
Space doesn’t permit a listing of all of Joshua’s accomplishments, but we will try. As a Boy Scout, he rose from Patrol Leader to Senior Patrol Leader to Eagle Scout. As an Eagle Scout, Josh earned the respect and gratitude of the Bartlett Arboretum when he led 27 scout volunteers in “a project of historical significance” in the restoration of the “Pollarded Tree Garden,” an experimental section that had been planted in the 1920s by Francis Bartlett himself for the study of arboreal insect damage. Other scout projects have included removal of invasive species at the Bartlett, the Memorial Day planting of American flags on veterans’ graves in two Stamford cemeteries, numerous fundraisers, community cleanups, and serving on the Boy Scout’s Color Guard for parades on Veterans’ Day, Memorial Day, and for COTY and Vietnam Veterans’ ceremonies.
As a member of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, Josh has served as Project Leader, Vice President of Community Service and Vice President of Communications, and as a volunteer at Brighton Gardens, the Stamford DSSD Thanksgiving Parade. Also with BBYO, Josh has prepared and delivered food to the Pacific House Homeless Shelter, among many other endeavors. As a Westhill Agriscience student he became a member and Vice President of the Stamford Regional Chapter of the FFA (Future Farmers of America), where he has organized regular meetings, mentored younger students, and provided regular assistance with animal care and farm maintenance, including at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center where he has also volunteered at the annual Maple Sugar and Harvest Fest events. Josh has also raised funds for the Stamford Men’s Shelter and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, among other worthy organizations.
Josh made the varsity wrestling team as a freshman, and as a pole vaulter with the Westhill Track Team, he won the Connecticut Junior Olympics in 2016 and has regularly placed at or near the top in FCIAC and State High School CIAC tournaments. And since he obviously has no fear of heights (real or metaphorical), Josh has also competed in bouldering (rock climbing) with success.
Westhill High School
Read About William
“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” By living these / words by author John Andrew Holmes in the few years that have spanned his high school career, Will Gold must have developed a heart like Secretariat.
For Will, there is no substitute for the feeling he gets when he helps others, and he gets that feeling a whole lot. A dedicated member of the not-for-profit Friendship Circle since 2014, Will has participated with enthusiasm in their MVP program, the Friends at Home Program, and their Children’s Circle Program, all dedicated to assisting children with special needs through sports, music, art therapy and storytelling. But most of all, for Will, it is about the power of friendship, and his easy manner and enthusiasm has spread to the other teen volunteers. That’s why he’s been appointed to the Friendship Circle Teen Board, where he leads others, organizing events, planning programs and recruiting other volunteers, with heart.and his dedication is not just reserved for the little ones. Will has also volunteered at Brighton Gardens Senior Living Facility ever since his high school career began. There he serves meals, sings, dances and entertains the residents. He’s even been given a regular seat at the bridge table something that’s turned into a passion. Of bridge (and portending much more)
Will says “I have learned that while you may not always get the best hand, you make the best of what you have.” Lori Gunn, the Brighton Business Director said about Will “I even struggle with the word ‘volunteer’,” because he has become so much more to the residents and staff.
In seeming defiance of the time space continuum (his favorite author is Sci-Fi icon Ray Bradbury) Will is also a certified EMT who volunteers with Greenwich EMS, he is a member of the National Honor Society, and the Westhill High School Leadership and Development Crew. He credits his parents and family for showing him that while anything is possible, you have to make what is probable. He is especially inspired by his grandfather Michael Gleiberman, a holocaust survivor and to Will, a hero.
Stamford High School
Read About Kiran
It’s one thing to volunteer to help established charities provide services to those in need, and there certainly is nothing wrong with that. But it is quite another thing when it’s the organization itself that needs help. And that’s when you need someone like Kiran Jagtiani.
BuildOn is an international not-for-profit organization devoted to the causes of global education and volunteer service. Members participate in local volunteer service opportunities, raise awareness of global issues related to education and poverty and fundraise to build schools in developing countries. In the 2015-2016 school year, BuildOn had terminated its Stamford High chapter due to a lack of sponsorship. But Kiran wouldn’t have it. In the words of her adviser and varsity tennis coach, Matt Gladstone, she “immediately started brainstorming,” and privy to the tastes of her classmates, engineered a chocolate dipped pretzel sale that jumpstarted the chapter’s renewal. And from that day on, with Kiran as its president, BuildOn has been going strong at Stamford High, sponsoring fundraising and awareness raising events like Spirit Wear sales and Stamford High’s own Color Run, among others.
That achievement, coupled with a stellar academic record would be enough for many, but not for Kiran. Her enviable service record also includes two years as a volunteer counselor at Peak Performance Sports Camp, tutoring for Creative Learning at the First Presbyterian Church. Kiran also was chosen among other extraordinary students to serve as a primary care center volunteer at the Yale-New Haven Hospital, where she shared stories and arts and crafts projects with seriously ill patients in 2015 and 2016.
In school, she’s the editor-in-chief of the Stamford High School Roundtable (the school newspaper), the treasurer of the National Art Honors Society, and a varsity tennis player. She’s also on the Executive Committee of the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council, which spreads awareness concerning social issues facing Stamford’s youth.
Kiran has also participated in many volunteer projects for the Sathya Sai Center in Norwalk, which is a non-denominational service organization based upon the principle of personal responsibility for ethical transformation through selfless love and service. Her many projects (over the course of 10 years!) have included serving at the Stamford Soup Kitchen, cooking for Domus students, participating in the Domus Health Fair, the Inter-faith Walk-a-thon for hunger awareness, and teaching younger children the lessons of inter-faith unity and community harmony.
Westhill High School
Read About Mishel
If you get, give. If you learn, teach.” So reads Mishel’s favorite inspirational quote by Maya Angelou. If she mere directly speaking about Mishel, however Ms. Angelou would have probably had to pick up her pen again and add: “And if you did all that, do more.”
It is a wonder Mishel has even had the time to go to school given her incredible roster of extracurricular and charitable projects. For starters, she is the creator and founder of Beds for Pets, a now growing organization of high school students dedicated to helping local animal shelters purchase needed supplies and to help enhance their adoption rate, through fundraising, social media, merchandising, and sponsoring and attending events like the CT Pet Expo.
Mishel is also highly regarded as an intern with the Stamford Police Department Crime Scene Unit, where she has spent many nights and weekends studying and assisting with forensics like collecting and processing evidence at actual crime scenes. She’s also a member of the Norwalk Public Safety Cadets which is a law enforcement and firefighting training youth organization that provides a variety of volunteer services for the community.
At Westhill, in addition to being a senior in the Agri- science Program, she is Vice President of ALTA (Aspiring Leadership Through Action), which provides after school and Saturday programs for students to help prepare them in academic, college readiness, and social, emotional and family support. She is also the Head Manager of the Westhill Boys’ Basketball Team, a member of the Stamford Regional Agri-science and Technology Program, and a volunteer coordinator for the Girls Group which engages incoming students and helps guide them on the right path.
Outside of school, Mishel is also a volunteer with the Stamford Museum (Si Nature Center, where she helps teach animal husbandry to the public as well as helps care for the animals themselves. She is also a youth support volunteer with the Domus Leadership Program, assisting incoming freshmen to prepare for the high school challenges that await them. Mishel’s energy, spirit and enthusiasm for helping others seems boundless. But just as Maya Angelou would have hoped, when Mishel gets credit, she is quick to give it, and mostly it’s to her Mom. About her she says “has sacrificed a lot of herself to see me succeed and to be someone in life” and that “she never complains about helping me… picking me up morning, noon, and night… even after .. a long shift at work” and “she has taught me to have a caring heart towards everyone.”
Stamford High School
Read About Ayna
The good folks at Domus who run the multifaceted Chester Addison Community Center count themselves as lucky that Ayna’s (in their words) “calm demeanor,” “poise,” “academic brilliance,” “perseverance,” “cheerfulness,” “humility,” “passion” and “heartfelt dedication” are in no small part invested with them, enhancing their many and diverse youth programs. You would have to pull out a thesaurus to find more effusive superlatives than Makeda Green and Michael Hyman used to describe Ayna in their scholarship recommendations. And during this “extraordinary young woman’s” high school career Ayna has been a volunteer in so many of their varied programs and elsewhere, one would have to add “versatile” too.
For starters, as a two-sport high school varsity scholar-athlete, Ayna has coached basketball (the “Mighty Mights”), fitness, softball and soccer at CACC for the past three years where she inspires all those around her as a coach, counselor and peer leader and she leads by example. She volunteers in the Girls Leadership Group, a mentoring partnership with the Stamford Police Department that also fundraises, serves the less fortunate and removes graffiti from public places. She also leads the Reptile Club, a STEM based club teaching reptile anatomy, genetics and animal care. She even presents to the community at an annual Reptile Immersion Day in an “impressive” fashion, say those who have witnessed it.
And speaking of STEM, Ayna mentors computer coding for the kids at CACC. After a study abroad trip to Spain to experience the emergence of technology in urban culture, she returned to mentor a group of kids in creating a meaningful app for nonprofits at the Random Hacks of Kindness Hackathon. She also brought her experience studying engineering in a STEM program at Fordham University to help her teach her Domus kids.
She has made other contributions as well. Ayna has traveled to Costa Rica to perform landscaping and construction work for families in need, and she is a member of Reach Prep, an educational organization that assists underserved, high-achieving Black and Latino students to graduate from top colleges, where she has volunteered as a student ambassador and represented her school in a panel for younger students and their families.
Nikhil Anil Rao
Stamford High School
Read About Nikhil
With a 4.0 GPA Nikhil may enjoy a #1 ranking at Stamford High, but that is just one in a long list of accomplishments for this good-hearted senior. Having shown extraordinary leadership as a Senior Patrol Leader for a troop of 45 scouts for Boy Scout Troop 9, Nikhil achieved the rank of Eagle Scout after spearheading a project rebuilding Stamford’s kayak racks at Cove Beach. Other projects (and there were many) included community and church clean-ups, fundraisers and mentoring other Eagle Scout candidates to complete their projects, all of which have benefited the Stamford community.
At Stamford High, Nikhil founded and leads SHS Gives Back, a club whose motto “For Students, By Students” is fulfilled everyday by his empathy and dedication, and by other students he has recruited with his enthusiasm. He created an in-house food pantry that feeds over 45 fellow Stamford High families on a weekly basis. Nikhil developed and manages the restocking and distribution processes, and the many other students he’s recruited ensures that SHS Gives Back doesn’t end when he graduates.
After a tragic accident involving a fellow student, Nikhil sponsored a Go-Fund Me page that raised over $60,000 toward the expenses that had befallen the family. When another student’s family was in danger of eviction after a parent was diagnosed with cancer and couldn’t work, Nikhil raised rent money and helped the other parent find a part time job to lessen their financial hardships and still allow therapeutic time at home together. He also created an annual SHS coat drive, which gathered over 220 winter coats for the needy this past December, and because of his organizational skills, it too will survive past Nikhil’s graduation.
Under Nikhil’s leadership, SHS Gives Back also tutors other students in Math and Science and helps middle schoolers build a proper foundation for their high school careers. As a member of the National Honor Society and the All Student Congress, he has participated in numerous projects designed to beautify Stamford High and to instill in its students a sense of community pride. In the words of the Dean of Students, Michelle Malave, Nikhil “has enacted each program without breaking the confidentiality of the students in need while still ensuring that every student’s basic needs of clothes, food, and shelter are provided to them, so they can focus on obtaining a strong education.”
Stamford High School
Read About Marissa
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, that’s the only thing that ever has.” One could improve this Margaret Mead quote (Marissa’s favorite) by adding, “especially if Marissa Young is there with them.”
“With a 4.0 GPA, Marissa is not merely a highly ranked student in Stamford High’s senior class-although that’s certainly not a bad start. She is, in the words of guidance counselor Bobby Augustyn (one who is well known to the COTY Committee for his words) “totally immersed in all aspects of life in our school and community” with “authenticity and compassion,” and “embraces life with a determination to have a positive impact on the lives of others.”
A dedicated volunteer in the JumpStart Preschool at the Jewish Community Center (since she was just 12!), Marissa has spent literally hundreds of hours helping small children with special needs navigate their way to preschool and beyond. In her effusive recommendation to the COTY Scholarship Committee, Nancy Herz, JumpStart’s head teacher, said Marissa brought “an amazing smile and energy” that built “confidence and trust with both parents and children.”
Marissa is an active and generous member of her synagogue. At Temple Beth El, she has tutored students in Hebrew and cultural Judaism, taught pre-K students, and even prepared seventh graders for Bar and Bat Mitzvah. She’s also a B’nai B’rith Youth Organization leader, raising money and awareness for suicide prevention, veterans’ causes, and hunger and childhood illness prevention.
At Stamford High, she is Vice President of the Friendly Faces Club, which welcomes special needs students into the school community and coordinates events and activities to optimize their high school experience. And, she is a Student Mentor for the Leadership Academy which helps guide the social and academic growth of underclassmen.
Marissa has also volunteered for the Maccabi Games as a Teen Leadership Council member, and a Color Run Committee member. If that’s not enough (though it certainly is), she’s been a Friends at Home volunteer for the Friendship Circle, visiting the homes of special needs children and bringing them experiential learning in arts and crafts, music and storytelling. Marissa says she owes her sense of commitment to those who need her to her parents, who inspire her every day.