From left to right: Burlingame High School’s Sabrina, Diana and Jessica Cherny, along with Julianna Benfica, will visit Washington, D.C. to accept their Jefferson Award.
After years of vying for the title, Burlingame High School has finally landed as the Jefferson Awards regional role model school for the 2013-14 school year.
The Burlingame High Students in Action group placed second and third in the competition that selects schools based on the quality of their volunteer and community service work.
“We’ve been trying for many years,” said Sue Glick, advisor to the group and youth service coordinator at the school. “We’re finally the bride and not the bridesmaid. One of the reasons we won was membership grew leaps and bounds this year. A lot of underclassman got involved.”
Students from the school will travel to Washington, D.C. in June to represent the Bay Area at Jefferson Awards National Ceremonies during a three-day trip. Burlingame was selected from a pool of high schools across San Jose, the East Bay, San Francisco, Marin County, the Peninsula and Contra Costa County.
“We worked really hard, so we knew we were going to place something,” said junior Sabrina Cherny, one of the four co-presidents of the club. “We had a passion for the events.”
One such event was “Smiles for Jorge,” a fundraiser to collect gift cards during the holiday season for a student with leukemia. Notably, the school raised $55,000 of which $54,000 was donated to various nonprofits including Soles without Holes and Bread Tags to purchase wheelchairs in South Africa. The group also created plastic water bottles, which raised money and heightened awareness for the group on campus. Seven students and three parents were recognized and honored for their dedication to service.
Cherney attributes the award to their passion for the events. The group definitely improved from last school year, said co-president and senior Juliana Benfica. Membership expanded at all grade levels, increased fundraising and created a more fully engaged student body and increased staff participation, the award states.
“Events are a lot more personal for us,” said Benfica, who plans on majoring in international business at San Diego State University this fall.
Doing work for the club, which first began in 2006, has had a positive impact on its members.
“It’s changed me as a person,” Cherny said. “It helped me realize little things are so insignificant.”
Cherny’s sister Jessica Cherny, one of three triplets also in the club, said the group has motivated her to help others and make a difference in the community. Diana Cherny, the other triplet, is the one who brought the girls to the club back when they were freshmen.
Also notably, San Mateo High School tied for third place in the annual competition. Its achievements include raising $52,000 and collecting 12,000 pounds of food. Nine students and five adults from the school received Jefferson Awards.
The Jefferson Awards for Public Service was founded in 1972 to create a Nobel prize for public and community service.
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