Del Mar-Solana Beach Optimist Club honors local students with Children’s Challenge Awards
By Karen Billing
The Del Mar-Solana Beach Optimist Club held its 30th annual Vic Kops Children’s Challenge Awards on May 23, honoring 11 youngsters in a “league all their own.”
The awards honor elementary school students in the areas of community service, science, art, fellowship, humanities and courage, and each child wins $100 for their accomplishments.
“It’s a larger number than usual but we have such an exceptional group of young people this year,” said co-chair Susan Pfleeger. “These young people give me the courage and faith to know our world is going to be in good hands.”
Solana Highlands second grade student Nikki Sadeghi received an award for community service. Her teacher Shaina White said that Nikki selflessly helped in a class service project.
“She sets a really good example of how to treat other people at school daily,” said White. “She’s very inspiring.”
Sixth grade student Tamar Ervin from Carmel Del Mar School was honored in the area of science. Teacher Cinda Peck said that Tamar excels in every project she touches. She participated in science field day and even coached teams, doing cross-peer tutoring. She is also part of the Green Team at the school. In science, she’s worked with robotics and has become the camera person and editor for the school’s broadcast.
“She’s the complete package, an amazing athlete, a talented musician and genuinely kind and compassionate,” said teacher Janet Wolfertz. “I even saw her eating broccoli instead of potato chips at a birthday party.”
Andrew Onozuka, a third grade student at Ocean Air, was honored for his achievements in fine art; his paintings have won several awards.
“We believe in his talents,” said father Gene, who noted Andrew also spends a lot of time learning the language and culture of his family’s origins, Japan.
Father John Mountzouris also nominated his daughter Eva Yang, a fourth grader student at Ocean Air, in the writing division.
“She’s really blossomed in the fourth grade in terms of writing,” said Mountzouris.
He said Eva always has a lot going on in her head and one way to get it out is writing. She has researched and written about local topics such as vernal pools.
Ashley Falls third grade student Susan Lee, honored for music, “plays like an angel,” Pfleeger said.
Susan, 9, plays both piano and violin, starting piano when she was 5 years old. Susan has been playing the violin for three years,
“I think the most important thing is that she practices every day,” said her dad Dong Hwan Lee. “I hope she keeps that up.”
Teacher Athanasia Solowczuk said that Sycamore Ridge sixth grade student Matthew Rosenfield, honored for fellowship, is “one of those kids that you hope your own children will be like.”
Every morning Matthew comes to school with a smile on his face. A “teacher’s dream” he works well with his fellow students, is not reluctant to speak up, is a great team player in sports and excels academically.
“He’s not conceited or tries to steal the show even though he could,” Solowczuk said.
Carmel Del Mar also had two honorees in fellowship, second grade students Romy Abed and Ella Holmes. Teacher Lorrie Lewis said that the two young girls stand out for their willingness to help out the students in the special needs class. She described Ella as a gentle spirit and Romy as happy and bubbly. She also described both girls as compassionate and accepting of others.
Lewis joked they are so good at what they do, she’d love to have them on staff.
In humanities, Sycamore Ridge fifth grade student Anjali Haripriyan was honored for a project she took on all her own. Recognizing the diversity among her friends, she interviewed all her friends and researched and wrote about each family’s heritage — a total of 10 different countries.
“Watching her do that was an experience for us all,” said mother Jay Haripriyan.
In the area of courage, two very special children were honored.
Hannah Motola, a second grade student at Del Mar Heights, received a tearful tribute from her teacher Paige Rollins. Hannah was diagnosed with an incurable, chronic Irritable Bowel Syndrome and the painful illness makes it difficult for her to both eat and sleep.
“She is an outstanding optimist and a fighter stronger than any one of us here,” Rollins said.
Rollins said Hannah works harder than any student she’s ever seen and is a top writer and artist.
Nick Wallace, a sixth grade student at Del Mar Hills, has been such an inspiration that he was nominated by his teacher Stephanie Ilkhanipour, his aide Kylie Bridgford and a fellow student, Geneva Schlepp.
Nick was born with biliary atresia, a rare disease of the liver. Ilkhanipour said even though the disease affects everything Nick does and he is constantly light-headed and nauseous, Nick is happy, funny and incredibly brave and strong.
She told a story about how he was in the hospital for a week and was back at school the day after he got out, with all his homework done.
Even though he has been told he cannot play contact sports, he loves lacrosse and was named an honorary captain for the San Diego State University team.
This year, Nick received a call from UCLA that he was on the wait list for a liver transplant. He went in for an interview but another boy was selected for the transplant.
“Nick’s response was that he was thankful that the other boy would be getting the liver because he was sicker and ‘needed it more than me’,” Ilkhanipour said. “His love of life reminds us to live.”
For more information, visit www.optimistdelmarsolanabeach.org.
- Del Mar-Solana Beach Optimist Club honors local students with Children’s Challenge Awards
- Students meet the Optimist Club’s Children’s Challenge
- Carmel Valley, Del Mar and Solana Beach students earn 29th annual Vic Kops Children’s Challenge Awards
- Water Authority honors winning students in contests
- Vic Kops awards ceremony a favorite
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