San Diego County Public Defender honors ‘remarkable’ students
Despite the pandemic’s interruption to schools this spring, the San Diego County Public Defender’s Office sought to recognize 25 students who excelled in a broad field of endeavors, including community, public safety and active citizenship.
“It was difficult choosing only 25 from all the amazing kids we interviewed, but it was also inspiring to hear their stories,” Public Defender Randy Mize said. “Gen Z teens are involved, informed and globally connected. These kids are ready to fight fiercely for change in a world that is desperate for change. I can’t wait to see what they do.”
The Most Remarkable Teen program recognizes San Diego youth ages 13-19 for their contributions and efforts in 25 non-traditional categories including arts and culture, technology, civic involvement, leadership, courage to overcome adversity and other outstanding accomplishments, successes, and efforts.
The San Diego County Public Defender Youth Council, made up of high school students, and Mize interviewed nominees using videoconferencing and selected the 25 teens from 150 students nominated. The public defender said last year’s inaugural program was a success and they were thrilled to receive so many nominations since schools closed shortly after the nomination period opened.
Due to COVID-19, the Public Defender Attorney Advisors delivered Remarkable Teen award packets, including a crystal glass trophy, personalized yard sign and special commendations, to each recipient’s home recently.
The teens received a Certificate of Recognition from the Public Defender for the honor of being nominated. Teens honored from this newspaper’s areas of coverage included:
Riya Agarwal at Torrey Pines High School is the queen for the House of India within the House of Pacific Relations Queens Organization at Balboa Park where her mission is to foster the spirit of understanding, tolerance and goodwill between all ethnicities and cultures. She spreads cultural awareness to her local community and Balboa Park visitors by helping showcase India’s culture through dance performances, ethnic food and fashion. Riya wrote a children’s book on Indian customs to spark children’s interest and creativity. She is also involved in various community service events and served as a commissioner at her school’s Associated Student Body.
Christopher Caliguiri at Canyon Crest Academy leads fellow students in STEM instruction at this school and offers science and engineering outreach classes in the community. He is the Robotics president at this school and has achieved the rank of Eagle Scout through the Boy Scouts of America. He works alongside a graduate student in computational neuroscience and cognitive science and his mentor, the Director of the Stem Cell Research program at UCSD, to develop a novel robotics platform controlled by brain organoids, artificially grown mass of cells or tissue that resembles an organ. The robot platform Christopher developed has been featured in a variety of publications, including the New York Times, and won a variety of science fair awards. Christopher has also worked alongside NASA researchers, developing capillary action technology for potential use on the International Space Station.
David Scuba at Torrey Pines High School is active with the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) team in robotics competitions. FIRST is an international youth organization that develops ways to inspire students in engineering and technology fields. David started building and coding Lego robots in elementary school and has expanded his abilities. He is now honing his skills in designing, building, machining and CAD. David and his teams have won multiple league robotics championships. For the past month, David’s robotics team has worked in collaboration with Forecast 3D to start a GoFundMe and raise money to 3D print custom-designed reusable face shields for healthcare professionals working with COVID-19 patients. The team has already raised $4,000 and has begun shipping the shields to hospitals around the country. David plans to major in mechanical engineering in college.
Public Defender’s Award of Excellence:
Olivia Yang at Canyon Crest Academy is a professional figure skater. She skated for Team Del Sol synchronized skating team and is a gold medalist in the U.S. Figure Skating Moves-In-the-Field. She is the founding president of an inspirational club called Sports for Exceptional Athletes which serves students with developmental disabilities in a variety of capacities. Olivia helped thousands of exceptional athletes and their family members by providing and organizing coaching, tournaments, sports camps, and fundraising. Olivia also devotes herself to scientific research and was selected to study Parkinson’s disease at California State Summer School for Math and Science at the University of Irving and presented the clinical trial to professors and medical doctors. She is a member of a specialized team working with San Diego State University’s Ecological Modeling and Integration Lab to do research on ecosystems that impact human health. Olivia will present her research at the 2020 Ecological Society of America conference in Salt Lake City. This summer, Olivia participated in the Bank of America Student Leader internship program to work with local nonprofit organizations, and was also selected by the Salk Institute to further her research experience.
Natasha Threat at Pacific Ridge School founded a nonprofit organization, Beegether, that beautifies the community through planting. She raises funds on a project-by-project basis. Natasha is also the head of WE, an international development charity and youth empowerment movement at her school, which collected food for a local food bank and raised money to sponsor four people with clean water for life in areas where clean water is hard to come by. She is also a member of A Million Knots, a service-learning group that hosts a school in India to provide education to 12 girls under the age of 13.
The San Diego County Public Defender Youth Council was formed in 2017. Youth Council members include students from eight San Diego high schools. Public Defender Attorney advisors work with Youth Council members to help them achieve their goals as they focus on projects that promote civic engagement and social justice.
For a complete list of honorees, visit bit.ly/2QGmzL3
— County of San Diego news release by Yvette Urrea Moe.
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