The Voice of the Wildcats

The Paw Print

The Voice of the Wildcats

The Paw Print

The Voice of the Wildcats

The Paw Print

Seven seniors win Sequoia Award Scholarships

Seven Woodside students were rewarded with Sequoia Award scholarships for volunteering in their communities.

This April, seven Woodside seniors won scholarships from the prestigious local Sequoia Awards. 

The Sequoia Awards, established in 1990, is “dedicated to honoring volunteerism in Redwood City” through the granting of scholarships to local high school seniors involved in their community. This year, seven Wooodside students received varying scholarship amounts. Seniors Kody Cochran, Danielle Fuentes Vazquez, Alya Madhani, Sophia Ortiz, Kayla Tsui and Nathalie Vazquez each won $6,000. Senior Abby Rene was one of two students awarded $12,500. 

“I was so excited,” Rene, who received the second largest prize of $12,500, said. “I had no idea I was going to win. I actually missed the call… so I was like, ‘is this good news, is this bad news, what is going on?’ And then [they] said I won and I was so excited. I won $12,500.” 

This year, the Sequoia Awards gave out $194,000 to 25 students from seven local high schools.

“My mother told me about [the award] from a young age,” Madhani, a recipient of $6,000, said. “The application process was super easy. They just had an online form where it’s just one broad question [to] write an essay about everything you’ve done [and] how that has changed your approach to volunteering.” 

The three winners the Paw Print interviewed, Rene, Madhani, and Tsui, have each volunteered for over 300 hours. 

“I worked with Octagon [Club] in leadership,” Tsui said. “As President in 11th and 12th grade, I lead meetings, create agendas [and] let members know about upcoming opportunities. Our parent organization, The Optimist, also runs a lot of opportunities like the Crab Feed in the Spring and Music in the Park in the summer.”

Service can take a variety of forms. For some students such as Tsui, service occurs mainly through community organizations, such as the aforementioned Octagon Club, a Woodside club dedicated to community service. For others such as Madhani, service involves directly working with the local government.

“A big project I’ve been working on for a while is murals dedicated to racial equity,” Madhani stated. “I spent a lot of time working on a committee with a bunch of other arts commissioners…We met probably every week and let community based forums online where we asked Redwood City residents to come join in and talk about what they wanted to see. And then we did a local paint day.” 

One thing shared in common among award recipients is variety—Rene, Madhani and Tsui all got involved in multiple service initiatives. 

“[I worked] with the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation,” Rene said. “It’s a nonprofit actually based in New York. I’ve been working with them since 2019, so for quite a while now. I just started off volunteering, sending care packages to [brain cancer] survivors. But then it grew into me creating a program called Jenna’s Friendship Circle, where we connect survivors and volunteers throughout the country, sending care packages each month.” 

According to Rene, service has always been a part of her life. 

“My family [has a] culture of volunteering and helping others and always making value,” Rene said. “For as long as I can remember, we made sandwiches for the Samaritan House.” 

As an academic scholarship, the Sequoia Awards are designed to assist students in pursuing their higher education plans: 

  • Kody Cochran: California State University, Chico
  • Danielle Fuentes Vazquez: Cañada College
  • Alya Madhani: UCLA studying Biology
  • Sophia Ortiz: University of Oregon studying Business
  • Kayla Tsui: Cal Poly Slo studying Psychology
  • Nathalie Vazquez: UC San Diego studying Human Biology
  • Abby Rene: UCLA studying Human Biology

“I was so thankful that I was going to get the scholarship to continue my education,” Tsui said.

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About the Contributor
Patrick Van Hoven
Patrick Van Hoven, Managing Editor
Patrick Van Hoven is a senior and second-year journalist. He enjoys writing about politics, books, and improvements to Woodside. He hopes to influence public opinion and clarify important issues. In his free time, he enjoys reading fantasy, sci-fi, philosophy, and political non-fiction, playing tennis and ping pong, skiing, writing, and organizing Woodside’s Math Club.

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