December 3, 2013
State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces California
Delegates to the 2014 U.S. Senate Youth Program
SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today announced that two academically accomplished and civically active high school students will represent California in the William Randolph Hearst Foundation's 52nd annual U.S. Senate Youth Program (USSYP).
Daniel Cameron Hamidi of Yorba Linda (Orange County), a senior at Valencia High School in the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District, and Sabrina Mia Van Zuiden of Chula Vista (San Diego County), a senior at Hilltop High School in the Sweetwater Union High School District, each will receive a $5,000 scholarship and attend a one-week, all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., in March.
Torlakson also named two alternates in the event one or both of the delegates are unable to attend. The first alternate is Justin Marc Hopkins of Los Angeles, a senior at Loyola High School, a parochial school in Los Angeles. The second alternate is William Oh of Santa Clarita (Los Angeles County), a senior at Golden Valley High School in the William S. Hart Union High School District.
"Young people like these four are a big part of the reason I'm so optimistic about California's future," Torlakson said. "They combine a natural curiosity and care for the world around them with hard work and support from their schools and communities. I'm proud that they will be representing California in Washington."
Students must be nominated by their high school principal to participate in the program. A selection committee from the California Department of Education (CDE) reviewed eligible nominees, and Torlakson selected the awardees based on the quality of the application, high academic achievement, interpersonal and communication skills, knowledge of American government and U.S. history, involvement in school and community activities, demonstrated qualities of leadership, extracurricular activities, and service to the community.
The four students are scheduled to be recognized by the State Board of Education during its January 15-16, 2014, meeting in Sacramento.
For more information on the U.S. Senate Youth Program, please visit the CDE's Web site at United States Senate Youth Program - Initiatives & Programs.
The students' biographies are as follows:
Daniel Cameron Hamidi of Yorba Linda (Orange County) is a senior at Valencia High School in the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District.
With a passion for politics and the law, Daniel is secretary of the Associated Student Body (student body government), where he has held office, including sophomore class president, since his freshman year. Beginning in 2011, he has been a student representative to the School Site Council.
He is also state speaker of the Assembly for Junior State of America (JSA), one of numerous JSA posts he has held throughout his high school career. He is captain of the school's mock trial team and director of Youth Outreach for Boy's State, among many other activities, including volunteering for more than 200 hours as an American Cancer Society Legislative Ambassador and several hundred more hours working for political campaigns or for community-based organizations.
Academically, Daniel carries a 4.4 grade point average and is a National AP Scholar and a National Merit Scholar semifinalist, scoring in the top 1 percent of juniors nationwide on the 2012 PSAT. He won first place in the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association Essay Contest when he was a junior. As a sophomore, he made the most phone calls in the state for the Yes on Proposition 29 (the California Cancer Research Act) campaign.
Daniel, his sister, and mother fled oppression in Iran and from that harrowing experience he decided to set his sights on becoming a federal judge. "My mother's attorney and the judge quickly became my heroes, and I longed to do what they did one day—help those who suffer," he wrote in his USSYP application. Daniel also would like to run for Congress and to open a nonprofit organization to provide counseling for abused women and children.
Sabrina Mia Van Zuiden of Chula Vista (San Diego County) is a senior at Hilltop High School in the Sweetwater Union High School District.
Sabrina is vice president of the Associated Student Body, a student representative to the School Site Council, and for the past two years, president of the Hilltop High United with Uganda club, which raises funds for a sister school in Kampala, Uganda. She has been a member of the Academic League team since her freshman year, serving as president in her junior year. Sabrina has also been a library volunteer, an elementary and high school tutor, and a San Diego County Registrar of Voters volunteer.
In her junior year, she was presented with the Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony Award through the University of Rochester for "demonstrated commitment to understanding and addressing difficult social issues, leadership and dedication to community action" in addition to her strong grades and rigorous courses. She was one of six students to represent America at the International Youth Forum, a leadership conference on Jeju Island, South Korea.
With a 4.34 grade point average, Sabrina is an AP Scholar with Distinction and was awarded a certificate of excellence by her high school after scoring a top score of 5 on all her AP exams.
She hopes to pursue undergraduate studies in sociology and business at the University of California, Berkeley. "From there, I'd like to go on to earn a master's degree in sociology and participate in research, specifically concerning the human trafficking issue growing in our country," she wrote in her USSYP application.
First alternate is Justin Marc Hopkins of Los Angeles (Los Angeles County), a senior at Loyola High School, a parochial school in Los Angeles. Justin is president of the Associated Student Body and was a representative in his junior year and class president in both his sophomore and freshman years.
Justin has been president for the past three years of Loyola Parliamentary—Speech and Debate and president and founder of the Loyola Bipartisan Club. He is also president of the Cedars-Sinai Hospital Teen Advisory Board and is a Music for Healing Singer, volunteering more than 450 hours. He is also a member of the Loyola Choir and lead singer in a local band. As president of the Loyola Peace and Justice Coalition, Justin traveled to Sacramento to lobby for Senate Bill 9, the fair sentencing for youth legislation signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in September.
Justin carries a 4.57 grade point average, is one for five students in his class that earned a Loyola Outstanding Student Award, is a National Merit semifinalist, an AP scholar with Honor, in addition to receiving many other academic acknowledgments.
"My goal is to help shape the United States of American into a stronger, faster and more prosperous nation," he wrote in his USSYP application. "I want to serve in Congress as a United States Senator from the great state of California where I can hopefully make meaningful policy changes."
Second alternate is William Oh of Santa Clarita (Los Angeles), a senior at Golden Valley High School in the William S. Hart Union High School District and is president of the Associated Student Body. He has been active in school politics since his freshman year, when he was class president.
Since the beginning of his high school career, he has been continually active in school events and politics, including as founder and president of the community service-oriented Octagon Club, president of the Speech and Debate Club, co-president of the Key Club, board member of the City of Santa Clarita Visions in Progress Youth Advisory Committee, and has been a summer intern for Congressman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon.
William has donated hundreds of hours in community service activities, including campaigning for McKeon, President Barack Obama, Warren Furutani for Los Angeles City Council, and John Choi for Los Angeles City Council.
William has a 4.5 grade point average and is an AP Scholar with Distinction, in addition to receiving several academic awards. As a sophomore he was a Green Your School national winner and was awarded a $5,000 environmental grant from dosomething.org for his recycling campaign.
"The vote and the American system of government and politics make me marvel," he wrote in his USSYP application. "I want to be able to continue this American tradition: the power of the vote, the opportunity to fight for a better life, and the chance to advocate for what is right."