Avid volunteer heads to college: Vanessa Lieberman gives her time to animal efforts

Vanessa Lieberman volunteers at the Peninsula Humane Society/SPCA, caring for cats.

An avid volunteer, Mercy High School Burlingame’s Vanessa Lieberman has spent the past six years tending to cats at the Peninsula Humane Society/SPCA, but is ready for new experiences in college this coming year.

Lieberman, 18, grew up in Belmont. She will graduate from Mercy on Sunday, June 1. She spent about 88 hours volunteering this year. During her junior year at the Catholic school, she started the Sea Shepherd Club, a spinoff of the international marine wildlife conservation nonprofit. The group volunteers in efforts to protect the oceans and spread awareness of wildlife issues.

She also worked as a TLC (Tender Loving Care) volunteer to provide comfort, companionship and socialization for cats, which, in part, makes the cats friendlier to potential adopters. Her mom, who works at Genentech, initially brought her to the SPCA when she was in the seventh-grade to volunteer.

“We make them become adopted,” she said. “It’s really powerful for us that what I do at the SPCA makes a difference for others. … I enjoy spending time with the cats; it really takes away my stress.”

Some of Lieberman’s duties at the SPCA include exercising animals, hands-on socialization to build confidence for some animals, minor grooming, providing toys and fresh blankets for all animals and completing volunteer visit/behavior cards.

Now, Lieberman is moving on to Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida, to study interior design. She chose the school because she heard it was a top school for film and interior design. A soccer player, Lieberman plans up taking up Quidditch in college, joining the Jewish Hillel group and meeting new people.

“Because Mercy is an all-girls school there isn’t really a great chance to meet boys,” said Lieberman, who starts college in August. “I also want to meet people from the East Coast, try different things and get involved.”

In addition to those two volunteer posts, she’s helped out at Second Harvest Food Bank in San Carlos, along with volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity, helping paint homes. She says she enjoyed her time at Mercy and found the teachers to be helpful.

“They (the teachers) really want you to succeed,” she said. “They push you toward your goals and the students really help to guide you in the right direction too.”

Lieberman is daughter of Belmont Mayor Warren Lieberman, which she said is special.

“My grandpa will say, ‘we’re having dinner at the mayor’s house,’” she said.

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