My name is Olivia Zahir. I am a recent graduate of Cabrillo High School where I held a 4.33 gpa and graduated with Honors a year early just three days after my 17th birthday. I was born in Hoffman Estates, Illinois and moved to Lompoc when I was 11 months old. I was raised in a non traditional, single parent home since I was an infant. After my parents divorced, my mother raised my older brother and I on her own when I was only 5 months old and my brother was 2 1/2 years old. Even though I didn’t live in the best neighborhood or have the best food, clothing, or other material things, I have always known that I have had to do my very best in school in order to have the successful life I so desired to have someday. There have been hard times in the past where my mother has struggled take care and sacrificed a lot just so my brother and I can pursue our education and excel in our studies. I admire my mother’s strength and courage because she instilled in me at a very young age that college was and is the way to success and that I could accomplish anything I could dream. I want to make sure I never give up and make my mom, and myself extremely proud. I have learned to be very driven because of my circumstances, but my circumstances will not hold me back from my dream of attending a great college & university to achieve my ultimate goal of becoming a Sports Medicine Physician.
I am so grateful to the Endowment for Youth Committee for helping me get one step closer to achieving my goals. Because of your generous scholarship contribution I was able to attend the National Academy of Future Medical Leaders and Medical Scientists in Lowell, Ma. this summer. During the three day convention I was inspired, enlightened and completely convinced that I am on the right path to obtaining that successful life of helping others and changing the world for the better that I dream of.
The Congress consisted of a three day lineup of 31 remarkable speakers with a wide variety of topics in medicine, nutrition, science, and academics just to name a few. All of the speakers were inspiring and some shared how they have fought very hard to overcome many struggles and hardships. They spoke about how they were able to overcome these obstacles through their faith, courage, hard work and hope.
I was able to observe Hip & Knee Specialist, of Anderson Orthopaedics, Kevin B. Fricka, M.D., perform a live partial knee replacement surgery and witness him answer questions during the procedure which I thought was amazing.
Some honorable mentions that I really enjoyed and was mesmerized by was the recipient of a Bionic Eye, Larry Hester. The device sends light signals to his brain, allowing him to see for the first time after 33 years! He provides researchers with information to further enhance the technology so future generations of patients will benefit from this device as well.
One of my favorites was Jack Andraka, who is in his 20’s and is an inventor, scientist and cancer researcher. He was a grand prize winner of the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair. He created a new test to diagnose pancreatic cancer that is 28 times faster, 26,000 times less expensive and over 100 times more sensitive than the current diagnostic tests. The test also works for diagnosing ovarian and lung cancer.
The surprise speaker of the Congress was my favorite moment of all. Boston, Massachusetts native & Olympic gold medalist, gymnast Aly Raisman appeared on stage to discuss her experiences as an athlete and share her ultimate triumph over abuse as well as the highs and lows of her journey. Having done competitive gymnastics for over 6 years myself, I was very honored to meet and take a photo with her.
Aly Raisman was interviewed by Ara Suppiah, M.D. a once cardiologist turned Medical Analyst for NBC Sports Golf Channel. Dr. Suppiah shared with us how he changed career paths after ten years as a cardiologist seeking something more exciting, more fulfilling. He became the sports analyst almost overnight and currently practices as an ER physician in Florida. It showed me that there are so many opportunities in this field and to not be afraid to go after what makes you happy and what you love.
During my visit I was inducted into the National Honors Society of Collegiate Scholars of Torch & Laurel. Along with all the other delegates in attendance I was led by Dr. Weighel in reciting the American Medical Association’s hippocratic oath. It was truly a special moment that I will always remember.
Overall it was a wonderful experience & I enjoyed it very much. I learned so many new things about medicine that are available to me. I learned a lot about myself and I’m ready to do the hard work it will take.
My future plans are to attend Allan Hancock College in the fall as a Biology major. My goal is to transfer to a 4 year UC college to earn my Bachelors degree. USC is where I hope to attend to receive my Masters and medical degree.
Again thank you again for this insightful and wonderful experience.
In the fall of 2018 a student at Lompoc High School approached Jacob Brown, Math Teacher, inquiring about creating a Black Student Union (BSU) for African-American students on campus. Brown worked with this student and other staff from neighboring high schools to create the charter for Lompoc High Schools own BSU. Now 20 members strong the Lompoc High School BSU, with support from the Endowment for Youth Committee, sent a delegation of representatives to the United Black Student Unions of California (UBSUC) Convention in Bakersfield, California in March 2019.
“I want to empower our African-American students,” said Brown, advisor for BSU. “It’s important to me that they have opportunities like going to UBSUC.”
With a theme of “Colors of Tomorrow” the UBSUC convention brought together BSU’s from across the state to empower the youth. “It was refreshing, I could relax and just be,” said Michael Lewis, freshman and Sergeant at Arms for Lompoc High School BSU. “Being around people like me, that share my culture and interest, made me realize I am not alone.”
The conference offered opportunities for students to have a freedom to network, learn and see themselves reflected on a large stage. The convention also had a tour of California State University: Bakersfield and free time to enjoy a pool and fitness activities.
“It was so powerful to have us all come together,” said Alena Garcia, freshman and member of BSU. “Meeting new people was inspiring and showed me that together we can change the future.”
Mr. Brown who also attended Lompoc High School, recalled that when he was a student there was more African-Americans that attended the school, thus there wasn’t a push for a BSU. Nowadays with fewer representation the students have prioritized the club and have opened membership.
“This club isn’t just for black people,” said Clifton “CJ” Yearwood, freshman and Treasurer for BSU. “This club is for anyone that identifies with our culture and wants to be in community with us. We are looking to grow our membership, have events at school to showcase our culture, and to give back to our Lompoc community.”
Article written by Jordan Killebrew
Endowment For Youth Committee invests in the dreams and future goals of all African American youths of Santa Barbara. With the financial support of this organization, I was able to focus on my studies.
I will be graduating from Mission College in Santa Clara with my Associate of Science in Fire Technology at the end of Spring 2018.
I am a nationally certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). I am currently serving as an explorer with the Livermore Pleasanton Fire Department. I am working for AMR ambulance in San Francisco as an EMT.
After graduation, I plan on continuing to apply to multiple fire departments across the state of California. Once I've completed all my medical hours requirement, I am planning to attend Paramedic School in Fall of 2019.
Thanks to the Endowment For Youth Committee, I am now chasing my dream of serving my community.
Komi Fabrice Tay
Sheona Richardson Som
In the third grade, I was selected as a recipient of the Potentiality Award by the Endowment for Youth Committee (EYC). This award included a college scholarship made possible by Richard and Marguerite Berti. Each year, as long as I worked hard and maintained good grades, the Berti’s would make a donation to the Potentiality Award college scholarship fund. At nine years old, I didn’t fully grasp what all of this meant but I did know this was an amazing opportunity that created endless possibilities for me.
Santa Barbara is a beautiful city that many people visit for the sandy beaches, thriving food scene and seemingly glamorous lifestyle. While all of those things are true of my hometown, they’re not indicative of how I grew up. I was raised by a single-mother with two kids. For many years, the three of us lived in a one-bedroom apartment. Our financial resources were very limited. My mother was (and still is) a hard-working, determined and independent woman but I’m sure it was overwhelming for her at times. She worked the night shift and struggled to stretch her paycheck to cover all of our needs. She had to make sure we had enough food to eat, clothes to wear and a safe place to live. There were many struggles but the two things I never had to be without were love and encouragement.
The Potentiality Award changed my life. I suddenly had this wonderful support network (outside of my family) that believed in me and wanted me to succeed. Not only were they committed to helping me go to college, they also encouraged me to be my best self and give back to my community. EYC offered volunteer opportunities, college tours, cultural activities and mentorship. No matter what was happening in my life, EYC was always there.
After graduating from Dos Pueblos High School, I went on to San Diego State University, receiving a B.A. in Political Science with a minor in Africana Studies. Thanks to support from EYC and the Berti’s, I was able to study abroad and attend Oxford University in England. For over 10 years, I’ve worked in the nonprofit sector providing organizational and strategic leadership in fund development, marketing and grant making. My career has centered around issues such as senior wellness, health, affordable housing and education. Currently, I’m Director of Development for The President’s Leadership Fund at San Diego State University.
As an advocate for issues impacting the lives of women and girls, particularly economic security, I dedicate my time and volunteer service to organizations that address the needs of this demographic. I’m a founding member of Women Give San Diego and hold a leadership position.
I’m so thankful for the investment that EYC made in me. I look forward to working closely with the organization and providing opportunities for boys and girls in Santa Barbara County to be their best self and excel in their education and career paths.
Doug Caines, Educator
It is difficult to put into words what the Yes I Can has done for me because of the exponential impact it has had on me. The program created a sense of brotherhood and camaraderie that I had never experienced before. The program gave me direction and probably more importantly it gave me positive male black role models. Growing up with a single mother she did more than her fair share of parenting and teaching. However, I was lacking a role model that looked like, whom the world looked at like they do me. Unfortunately my early experiences with black men were either vacant or neglectful in a family or emotional sense. The Yes I Can Men provided me the FIRST and a lasting impression of what it meant to be a successful black man. For this gift I am eternally grateful. In this day and age where so many of our "role models" come from entertainment culture I shutter to think at what is happening to our youth in OUR community without a program like this. Who will they look to as I did years ago?
I remember vividly wanting to earn the EYC Black Achievement Award, a night honoring students of color in the area. It seems silly, but the first year in the program I did not earn this honor. After I received the first one in Junior high I remembered a burning desire to achieve. I wanted to prove myself and not be left behind my peers. Also these functions were a vivid memory because I saw an entire community of people just like myself coming together to celebrate and honor the young men and women in our community. These function today as a deep-seeded reminder of the power of inclusion and still drive me to be competitive and compassionate to the students I now teach today.
One of the biggest challenges for me growing up was the simple fact that I was bi-racial. I have always identified as black, but simply put; I was too white for the black kids and not black enough for the black kids. This caused a huge amount of turmoil for me as a pre-teen. With no male role-model at home, and no sense of belonging socially I really struggled to "see the light." I was rebelling against "the system" and was lashing out academically and socially, honestly I didn't know why at the time. The Yes I Can and the men involved showed me 2 things, first that I was important to them, and second success was my choice not somebody else's. As i grew older and older I can not quantify how profound this experience was for me. The program helped me overcome my fears, concerns, and worries and allowed me to focus in on school and my individual determination.
The Program offered after-school programs and activities that really did offer me life-long friends. The honesty and sincerity of these gathering is unlike anything else I have ever done. We were kids but there was this sense of duty and purpose that came from the support. We felt both and wanted to make the program proud. I was awarded a $10,000 scholarship upon my graduation. This was obviously extremely helpful additionally provided a sense of validation from a program that I held in high esteem.
I would advise current students to do two things. First, enjoy being a kid, we often try to grow up so fast but we will never get these young years back so cherish and enjoy then, including experiences with family and friends. The second can be summed up in an acrostic APE. A= Attitude; Choose to act in a way that you and your parents would be proud of despite peer pressure. Don’t be controlled by your environment. P= Preparation; this is the hard part, make sure you set your self up to do what YOU want. Being prepared means less stress, more options and a happier life, so find a path and be prepared for it. E= Execution; This is a product of your attitude and preparation. It should happen at high level if you did the first two things, and ultimately the great execution of whatever your doing is how you achieve your goals.
I took a different approach to secondary education. I spent more than 2 years at SBCC. While this is not traditional I am thankful for the broad range of classes I experienced. I left with 3 undergraduate AA's before transferring to complete my Bachelor's degree. My story is a testament to the resolve and gumption that EYC and other youth programs contributed to my success. I am a local High School teacher and football coach and feel honored to share my knowledge and experiences with the future contributors to our society.
I would love to be a member of the Yes I Can Men, or provide mentorship, and status in any way possible should this program regain it's status. My future goals are simple. Honor my family and community by doing the right thing when nobody is watching me or rewarding me for it, this brings me joy, this will be my legacy.