Who knew the vagaries of compiling the schedules of more than 2,000 students would have such an impact at Adolfo Camarillo High School.
When Sheyda Mesgarzadeh and Karina Wang were juniors, the school needed to change some schedules to balance the number of students in certain classes. The two wound up with the exact same schedule, sitting next to each other in math.
The girls struck up a friendship, each starting a volunteer group on campus and teaming up to make the school’s California Scholastic Federation club a true service organization with about 350 members for the fall 2013 semester.
CSF members must earn 12 points as determined by grades in five subject categories each semester. At Camarillo, students also have to perform 10 community service hours.
Both girls were recognized by the CSF in March when they were named among 10 finalists for the Seymour Memorial Award for the South Central Region, which includes Ventura, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Inyo and Kern counties.
Every school that has a CSF chapter can nominate two students. To have one finalist is an achievement; having two finalists is rare. Camarillo CSF adviser Terrie Romines can attest to that. In 25 years of teaching and overseeing CSF clubs, she’s had 18 students become finalists and has never had two in the same year.
Romines and Camarillo also had another first—a Seymour Award regional winner who becomes a state finalist, along with four other region winners, for a $10,000 scholarship. The state judges will consider each of the finalists’ applications and transcripts from the regional interviews to determine the state winner.
But for as much as Sheyda and Karina, both 17, have done as a team, including both being accepted to UCLA, there could only be one state finalist from the region.
After a four-hour group interview at Montebello High
School east of Los Angeles, where CSF officials peppered the finalists with questions, Sheyda was named the winner, earning a $3,000 scholarship on top of the
$2,000 award to each of the 10 finalists.
“They wanted to see how quick you think on your feet,” Karina said. “How much passion you had.”
“What came out of the questions is what do you stand for,” said Sheyda, who advocates for women’s rights in foreign countries and for students with mental disabilities. “We all wanted the $3,000, but everyone was nice. I think we thought whoever wins we’d be happy. You didn’t have any people who were just in it to win it.”
No one was more pleased than Romines.
“Sheyda was a dream come true for me,” she said. “And the first-ever from Camarillo.”
When Romines moved to Adolfo Camarillo from Pacifica High School three years ago, she found the campus had a less-than-robust CSF club. Basically, students applied for membership, were accepted and that was it.
But Romines saw that Sheyda and Karina had the potential to make CSF a major force on campus.
“They had strong leadership skills,” Romines said. “They took it on and helped make it successful.”
Sheyda, this year ’s CSF school president, is also quick to give credit to Romines.
“In all honesty, we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Mrs. Romines,” she said. “Mrs. Romines has literally been here every step of the way.”
One of the first acts the CSF student board performed was requiring 10 hours of community service each semester. Sheyda and Karina are also spearheading fundraising for what they call Scholarships for Service.
Sheyda said the goal is to offer four or five $1,000 awards to seniors.
“It’s really important that students realize that they need to be active in the community,” Sheyda said. “Some kids have 50 (hours in a semester); some of the kids put the effort in.
“I think we’ve instilled that in them,” she said. “We changed the face of the club by promoting community service.”
As important as the community service aspect of the program is, Sheyda takes special pride in raising money for scholarships for her fellow students, which she started when she became CSF president.
“It has been a challenge,” she said. “We’re just beginning, and it was a lot of work. It became my baby.”
When Sheyda and Karina graduate in June, they know they will have made an impact at Adolfo Camarillo. Karina cofounded Operation Awesome, which teaches students how to make art out of everyday objects. Sheyda started Project R, which helped students with intellectual issues to integrate into the school’s social life.
The CSF that Sheyda and Karina helped build will also continue. The club has received more than 30 applications from students who want to serve on the board.
“We want to have students that get overlooked in other areas to have a chance to take on leadership,” Sheyda said. “To spread their wings.”