Local Teens Honored for Commitment to Community

From left: Heather Abrams, Arpi Mirzayan, Rosa Raudales, Catherine Yesayan, Dr. Luis Calingo, GEM Edith M. Fuentes, Alina Scott and Sarin Mousessian.
From left: Heather Abrams, Arpi Mirzayan, Rosa Raudales, Catherine Yesayan, Dr. Luis Calingo, GEM Edith M. Fuentes, Alina Scott and Sarin Mousessian.

On March 25, Crescenta Valley High School senior Heather Abrams and Clark Magnet High School senior Sarin Mousessian were honored as the runners-up for the prestigious Soroptimist International of the Verdugos (SITV) Violet Richardson Award. The Soroptimist program is particularly interested in promoting community-based and global projects that benefit women and girls, especially those programs that will provide access to education. Through this year’s Live Your Dream Campaign, the women of SITV celebrate the unique power and accomplishments of women in the community, recognizing that when women “help themselves and one another, amazing things can happen.” In particular, the Violet Richardson Award honors young women who are “caring, compassionate, creative and committed to making the world a better place;” recipients are celebrated for both identifying a problem in their local communities and working creatively to solve it, and also for their noteworthy accomplishments as volunteers.

Abrams was selected for her dedication to founding and growing robotics programs for elementary- and middle- school students. She began mentoring robotics as a sophomore in 2012, by starting a FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology) LEGO League team at her former school, Valley View Elementary. At the same time, she co-founded an all Girl-Scout team with classmate Isabel Martos-Repath. Abrams and Martos-Repath reached out to engage teammates from CVHS Falkon Robotics FRC Team 589 in mentoring these teams and cultivating relationships that would ultimately help the program grow from two teams in 2012 to 14 teams in 2013. Abrams reflected on that first year of mentoring in her essay for the Violet Richardson Award.

“When those two teams went to their tournament, they exemplified all the qualities I had guided them towards: sportsmanship, gracious attitudes, and leadership,” she wrote. “With a passion for mentoring, I grew the program the following year. Mentoring robotics is the one thing I will continue next year in college. I just love it.”

At the award ceremony, Abrams reflected on her most recent mentoring experience, working with a team of 7-, 8-, and 9- year old Girl Scouts participating in Junior FIRST LEGO League. She added that watching these students develop confidence in handling different kinds of engineering challenges, through creative games and discussions, is what drives her to seek new mentoring opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Sarin Mousessian has long been involved in the program that fuels her passion for volunteering: Relay for Life. With this year’s Foothill Relay for Life right around the corner – slated for April 12 – Mousessian has been working tirelessly as a team leader at Clark Magnet High School, the host for this year’s event. Mousessian’s dedication to her community stems from her parents, who instilled in her a drive for giving of her time through volunteering and a commitment to see projects through. The SITV committee noted that one of her supporters told them that Mousessian volunteers for many other organizations, and that “she is just unstoppable.” Mousessian recognizes the personal benefits in her efforts.

“Volunteering has made me grow as a leader,” she said. “I have gained vital organizational and communication skills that I can use throughout my life. And I know that I have made a significant impact in the lives of others.”

Venice High School senior Alina Scott was selected as the SITV 2014 Violet Richardson Award recipient, for her work with young women in the North Venice Little League, leading her team to the championships. Alina noted that her “role as a mentor and a volunteer is uplifting and empowering young girls and women, year after year” and believes that the best way to give back is through teaching her teams about integrity, sportsmanship, teamwork, and believing in themselves.

Present at Tuesday’s ceremony were several representatives from local offices, including Congressman Adam Schiff, Congresswoman Carol Liu, and Assemblyman Mike Gatto. Both Abrams and Mousessian were awarded certificates of commendation from these offices as well as from the cities of Glendale, Burbank and Los Angeles, and the community organizations that Abrams and Mousessian support were recognized with SITV stipends.     Additional awards were presented to Debra Jean Collins and Catherine Yesayan, recipient and runner up of the SITV Ruby Award, and to Garnet Reyes and Rosa Raudales, recipient and runner up of the SITV Women’s Opportunity Awards.

Submitted by Lyn