BY: BRUCE BONAR, Brisbane Chamber of Commerce Board Chair,, 415-467-7283

On May 30th, Brisbane Chamber of Commerce celebrated the excellence of the Brisbane School District and our local students at the annual “Excellence in Education Scholarship Recognition Awards” event to honor the achievements of outstanding Brisbane school educated students and a Brisbane School District Panorama Teacher. Started in 1996 with three awardees and $4000 in grants, the program has made 234 grants totaling $288,000 to outstanding students seeking higher education. This year the event was held at the DoubleTree Hotel by Hilton and hosted by Golden State Lumber.
Our guest speaker, Journalist and Professor Juan Gonzales, was well received by the attendees at the Excellence in Education reception. Professor Gonzales spoke about the importance of communication, writing, and journalism. He has served as the Journalism Department Chair for San Francisco City College since 1985. In 1970 he founded the bilingual newspaper El Tecolote in San Francisco’s Mission District. In 2000 he was honored by the Society of Professional Journalists with its “Distinguished Service Award.” In 2009 he was inducted into the National Associate of Hispanic Journalists Hall of Fame and in 2011 received from the Journalism Association of Community Colleges Lifetime Achievement in Journalism Education award. Mr. Gonzales is a board member for Accion Latina, a non-profit Mission District organization that provides educational and cultural services to Latinos. He is a member of the California Collegiate Media Association, the Association of Collegiate Press, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the California News Publisher Association.
Outstanding students were recognized from each of the schools within the Brisbane School District. Superintendent Ronan Collver, Panorama Principal Sarah Neidhart, Brisbane Elementary School Principal Andrea Katotakis, Teachers Donna Hong, Janine Lee, and Traci Storer were on hand to present the following awards:
Elementary School Awardees: (Submitted by the BSD and edited for space allowances)
Brisbane Elementary School’s outstanding 5th grade student is Jayda Teofilo. Jayda is a solid performer in every academic area from math models to writing techniques. She is the embodiment of our district’s belief in the “Growth Mindset!” continually pushing herself to grow, especially when something is challenging or not even her “favorite” subject. Beyond academics are her Lifeskills. Jayda shows amazing common sense, organization, deep responsibility, caring, and friendship. Every one of her classmates has some kind of comfort with and connection to her, which is so rare in a classroom, and in life! She has a great sense of humor; it has that special hint of “mischief” that everyone around her enjoys. She is keenly aware of everything and everyone around her. She’ll sometimes be the one who reminds even the adults what’s supposed to be going on. She’s cooperative and productive when working with ANY partner or group. Jayda has a unique way of recognizing what individual people need. She is community oriented ready to help and give of herself. She works on Lunch Crews, volunteers her free time to help teachers and staff, hikes with the Mountaineer Club, worked as a Family Math Night leader, and after asking to do so, was chosen to Emcee our school’s Talent Show! Jayda leads by example and with a kind and attentive heart. And she has a bright future ahead of her!
Panorama Elementary School’s 5th grade student of the year, Rylan-Christian Pon, is a confident and intrinsic goal setter. He is an excellent mathematician, a fun person to recommend good books to, a dancer, performer, a responsible big brother and an all-around excellent young man. Rylan dances in the Spindrift Dance Company. Rylan had the courage to dismiss other’s perceptions and judgement to follow his heart. There are four levels of dancers in the company and last year Rylan decided he wanted to move up a level. So, he looked up the benchmarks for the next level and worked on his skills; his hard work paid off and he is now at that new level! Way to go, Rylan!!
Rylan is one of those people you can ask to do a job and have the utmost confidence he will take it seriously, be responsible and get the job done in the most time efficient, organized way! The characteristics he holds are invaluable and will take him wherever he wants to go in life. He has the neatest handwriting I have EVER seen by a student! His printing is so neat, his classmates ask him to make handmade signs to keep track of lunch time jobs and of who gets to sit on the rug each day! I have called it Rylan’s “printing” business like in the olden days when people actually printed with their hands! Congratulations Rylan-Christian Pon.
Lipman Middle School Awardees: Two Lipman Middle School Students were selected and recognized as the outstanding 8th grade students at the school:
Outstanding 8th grade student at Lipman Alyssa Boucher. Alyssa is an incredibly strong leader, kind, thoughtful, resourceful, and driven student. She strives to do her personal best both academically and as a contributing member to her school community. She brought down the house at the Showcase of Learning when reading aloud her memoir about losing her best friend, Roscoe, her dog…literally, everyone was in tears. She served as the Athletics Officer for Lipman’s Student Council stepping out of the box by adding new events like tennis and jump rope competitions in addition to hosting volleyball and basketball tournaments. Alyssa’s work ethics have helped to create an inclusive and warm environment at Lipman Middle School. She always does her personal best; a top seller for Lipman’s See’s Candy Fundraiser, participating in Lap-a-thons, and has joined numerous after school clubs at Club Lipman such as leadership and cooking. Alyssa performed for SFArtsED Players production of Building Broadway displaying her passion and love for performing. Next year, she will be attending Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory. We wish her the best of luck as she starts this next chapter in life. Congratulations, Alyssa!
Honored as Outstanding 8th grade award recipient Lafi Falatoese Ma’u is a motivated, hard worker, and devoted student. She perseveres in problem solving tasks, going above and beyond, and collaborates well with her classmates. She is responsible, organized, and eager to learn and succeed. As student council Vice President, Lafi multitasked with ease when doing schoolwork and tasks for student council. At school site council meetings she provides an in-depth and thoughtful voice for students. Lafi designed and led multiple pep rallies with themes of inclusiveness, diversity, and educational rallies about events such as Holi, a festival of colors. Lafi’s organizational skills and people skills truly shined this past year maintaining the Warrior Shack schedule throughout the year. Lafi has an entertainer’s personality with the ability to stop and make people listen with one sound of her voice. Whether it’s during the talent show, while singing a beautiful acapella duet with her little sister, or singing solos for SFArtsEd Players musicals, Lafi can steal the show with her powerful and soulful voice. Throughout her years at Lipman, Lafi has held lead roles in the school play. Performing comes naturally to her, and she is truly incredible to watch. In the fall, she will be attending Jefferson High School. We wish you all the best on your future endeavors. Congratulations, Lafi!
This year, the Outstanding Educator Award for the Brisbane School District was presented to Linda Long, a 3rd grade teacher at Panorama Elementary School. Linda promotes a growth mindset in her own learning and reassures her own students that they can learn anything they put their mind to. She cares deeply for the learning of her students Linda clearly uses best teaching practices to bring relevant and rigorous learning to her students. Linda thinks outside the box to support her students’ needs and truly wants to support all learners. She teaches with a “whole child” approach, often concerned about balancing the academic and social emotional needs of each of her students. With her true love of teaching mathematics to students and supporting her colleagues, when she was asked to work with the 4/5 teacher, Donna Hong, and assist with teaching 4th grade math, Linda said yes and worked the extra hours to plan for and teach 4th grade math. Linda Long is an exceptional team player and teacher who has earned the respect of the children, her colleagues, and the parent community in her years of service within the Brisbane School District.
The evening continued with the recognition of 10 outstanding students who were selected as recipients of a Brisbane Chamber of Commerce Scholarship Recognition Award. This award program, now in its’ 23rd year, is made possible through the generosity and support of our local businesses and residents.
This year, the Brisbane Chamber raised over $12,000 in donations. These grants were made available to student applicants who either live in Brisbane, or whose parents work for a company affiliated with the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce. The chamber thanks the businesses and individuals who made the contributions that make it possible to encourage these outstanding scholars to move forward with their educational goals and to help make their passions a reality. Over the 24-year history of the program, the Chamber has granted 234 awards to local scholars totaling more than $285,000.
These scholars come from diverse high schools and exhibit varied interests and plans for the future. Here is a brief snapshot of each awardee:
India Rose Carter-Bolick, a resident of Brisbane, attends Crystal Springs Uplands School in Hillsborough. She has compiled a 3.58 GPA and is the President of her school’s Diversity Committee and Zambia Club. She’s the lead singer in a rock band and loves to travel and learn about other cultures. During her travels she’s had the opportunity to teach children English which she has found to be one of the most impactful and rewarding experiences of her life. While she is still determining what she wants to professionally, she is interested in helping people with mental health struggles and is also passionate about social justice issues. We know that whatever she decides, she will excel. In the fall, India Rose will attend Bennington College in Vermont.
Our second awardee, Christine Co, is also a Brisbane resident. She attends Summit Shasta High School and has amassed an impressive 4.27 GPA. She is an accomplished artist and has submitted her watercolor paintings to a variety of competitions. She has been recognized for her submission to the Junior Duck Stamp Collection and was commissioned by SamTrans to design their holiday greeting card. Christine’s love of art can be traced back to childhood and has inspired her professional aspirations. In the fall, she will attend UC Berkeley and plans to study Architecture while double majoring in Art Practice or Animation.
Another longtime Brisbane resident, Lucie Cutler, attends Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep where she’s acquired a 4.04 GPA and is part of the I 2 (Inquiry and Innovation) program. Through this program, Lucie partook in a variety of STEM related events which furthered her interest in science. From a young age Lucie knew she wanted to focus on cancer whether that be as a researcher or an oncologist. She has interned with a lab at USF studying nuclear hormone receptors and their role in the initiation of breast and prostate cancer. She plans to attend the University of Washington in the fall and major in biology and then potentially attend medical school afterwards.
Jessica Dalmacio, a Brisbane resident, attends Terra Nova High School and has a GPA of 4.02. She described herself in her application as a “well-rounded individual” and upon meeting her we definitely know that to be true. I’m not quite sure where she finds the time but she manages to balance schoolwork with a variety of activities including: team captain of the varsity Badminton team, President of the Asian club, Tahitian dance, and a student peer helper at Terra Nova. We were incredibly impressed by the breadth of her volunteer work which is rare in someone her age. She was appointed the Jefferson Union High School District Student Advisory board, volunteers at BES, and works regularly with the North County Homeless Help Center for which she received the Ozanam Award for her work. She was named an AP scholar for receiving a score of 3 or higher on 4 or more AP exams and was recognized on the Principal’s List and with the Athletic Scholar Award. To top it off, Jessica also holds down a job as a Starbuck’s Barista on top of all her other commitments. She plans to attend the University of Hawaii and Manoa as a Pre-Med student in their Honors program, double majoring in Psychology and Ethnic Studies in the hopes of later attending Med School in Hawaii and becoming a pediatrician.
Katelyn Flanagan, a San Francisco resident, attends the Urban School and has a GPA of 3.87. She is heavily involved in Girl Scouts and is the only Ambassador Scout in her troop. She leads the Junior meetings and serves as an example and mentor for younger scouts hoping to ignite within them a passion for social activism. She connects with her Asian heritage through her volunteer work with Japantown Youth Leaders and through her participation in the Multi-Ethnic Student Hertage Club, Multi-Culti Leadership Council, Students of Color Club, and Asian Pacific Islander Club. She plans to attend Tulane University in New Orleans and study neuroscience and visual art. Eventually she hopes to receive a masters or PhD in Psychology or Psychiatry, specializing in Art or Art Therapy.
Living in Japan and working in the entertainment industry, Claire Lentz is a longtime Brisbane resident. A student of Ocean Grove Charter School, Claire has a GPA of 3.95. We were incredibly impressed by Claire’s performing history which includes a main role in a major Japanese movie and as a member of the girl group, Wif-Fi 5 which performs across Asia. Intrigued by her experiences, we asked Claire about adjusting to a new culture and discovered that this process has inspired her to speak up about injustices she has faced as a woman and foreigner in Japan. Specifically, she mentioned an intense pressure to conform to particular cultural norms that she felt were antiquated like the inability for her to befriend any male co-stars. Claire hopes to develop a strong enough voice and influence to impact change in the entertainment not only for herself but for others. We were also surprised by Claire’s motivation to pay for college entirely on her own. We remarked that she may be one of the few if not the only student, ever interviewed with the intention of repaying her parents for any money they spend on her college education. Claire plans to attend Sophia University in Tokyo and study comparative culture with the hopes of pursuing a career in investigative journalism, family therapy, or law.
Cole Sisser, a resident of South San Francisco, also has a passion or performing, specifically in musical theater. He attended San Francisco’s School of the Arts and graduated last year with a 3.4 GPA. With sights set on attending UCLA he took a gap year to perfect his acting skills in preparation to audition this year. We were blown away by his maturity and perseverance. Cole knows what he wants and never gives up despite the obstacles in his way. We came across many examples of Cole’s tenacity both in his application and interview which makes it easy to understand why he received the Rita Moreno Award for Actor of the Year. We appreciated his straightforward responses to our questions and his ability to speak with confidence. As expected all of Cole’s handwork has paid off. In the fall he will attend UCLA majoring in musical theater and hopes to pursue a career in Hollywood or on Broadway.
Rita Sorrentino, a Brisbane resident, attends Immaculate Conception Academy and has a GPA of 3.34. She plays varsity soccer, is a member of Riordan’s Color Guard, and volunteers with Brisbane Dance Workshop. Through ICA’s work-study program, Rita has gained professional experience working for the SPCA, Noe Valley Merchants Association, and the Gap. Rita was accepted into a coveted Certified Nursing Assistant program at her school which gave her the opportunity to receive training at USF to prepare her for her current position at the San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living where she assists elderly rehabilitation patients. Rita plans to continue with her nursing studies at San Francisco State University in the fall.
A Brisbane resident who attends the Bay School Anna Tingin has a GPA of 3.96. Anna has a love for soccer that runs deep. A member of a club team and her school’s team, Anna played forward until an injury prevented her from playing this year. She didn’t let this stop her from being an active member of her team and attended every practice and every game, cheering on her teammates from the sidelines. Anna also plays varsity basketball and is the leader of the Uproar Club, a people of color affinity group. In addition to her extracurricular interests, Anna has a passion for science. She worked to design and teach STEM classes for STEM you can, a science club at Lipman, and has interned with UCSF’s Neuroscape program. After a member of her family developed a neurodegenerative illness, Anna was inspired to learn more about the brain and neurodegenerative diseases. She plans to major in neuroscience at UCLA and then pursue a master’s and Ph.D., focusing on neurodegenerative disease research.
Zachary Ynzunza, is a Brisbane resident and student at Lick-Wilmerding. Zachary has a GPA of 3.38, plays Varsity Lacrosse, is a member of his school’s Jazz Band, and is the leader of his school’s Cubing Club which focuses on Rubik’s Cubes. In his essay, Zachary spoke about his experiences as a volunteer with Breakthrough San Francisco where he helps kids in summer school. Through this experience he learned how to motivate students through encouragement, compliments, and a positive attitude. Now, he uses that same approach in his classes with his peers. He goes the extra mile to acknowledge others for their hard work and plays a large role in developing a positive atmosphere in class. He plans to attend Gonzaga University and study Business.
Thank you
Madison Davis, Chamber President and CEO ended the evening saying “I would like to congratulate all of these fine students and their families for guiding them to educational excellence and thank both the Brisbane School District and the corporate and individual donors whose generosity allow these grants to be awarded each year, including our event sponsor Golden State Lumber. I would like to acknowledge and thank General Manager J.D. Smith and his staff here at the DoubleTree for their room preparation and the wonderful catering.”
Thank you to the following companies and individuals whose contributions made these awards possible: Bill Barulich, BiRite Foodservice Distributors, Richard Borghello, F.W. Spencer and Son, Inc., Golden State Lumber Co., Inc. , Palmer Heath, Integrated Resources Group, Larry and Christine Purcell, Lyon Medical Construction, Midtown Market, Teresa Montgomery, Peninsula Clean Energy, Recology, Inc., South San Francisco Scavenger Co., Inc., Tri Counties Bank, and Universal Paragon Corporation.
The Chamber wishes to say “Thank You” to the following people and organizations who helped to make this years’ event a special one for everyone involved: Golden State Lumber Company and Tamara Palmer-Heath, as the sponsor of this event and their involvement in the Brisbane Chamber and the community! Board member and General Manager J.D. Smith, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel and WhiteCaps dining for their “over and above” service for the catering and set up for the event. The “Presenters” whose involvement in the production and presentation of the student and teacher commendation certificates ensured that the 2019 Awards event was one that the recipients will always remember: Elmer Martinez– representing the Office of State Senator Jerry Hill; Kevin Fong – representing the Office of Assemblymember Kevin Mullin; President/CEO Madison Davis – representing the Chamber of Commerce; City Councilmember Clarke Conway – representing the City of Brisbane; and Juan Gonzales guest speaker for the event.
The Scholarship Recognition Award Committee for their countless hours in interviewing and selecting the recipients of the 2019 awards: Freddy Beaman – US Bank; Rich Borghello, Recology, Inc.; Teresa Montgomery – South San Francisco Scavengers; Tamara Palmer-Heath – Golden State Lumber, Inc. and Jennifer Wilder-Smith – BiRite Foodservice Distributors. Without these volunteers the interview process could not happen.