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Friday, October 24, 2014
Class of 2013
Community service pays off for trio of graduates
Andrew Hackmack/Herald
Kiwanis Club scholarship recipients Jessica Vespoli, Aimée Kaplan and Kayla Neske are joined by Kiwanis Vice President Karin Hayat, left, and President Bob Coppola, right.

The Valley Stream Kiwanis Club does a lot to help children in the community. High school seniors might not be kids anymore, but they are still young enough to benefit from the service organization’s generosity.

On June 12, the Kiwanis Club presented scholarships to three graduating seniors during a dinner at Café Marcello. The students were chosen because of their own commitment to helping others.

South High School seniors Aimée Kaplan and Kayla Neske, along with North High graduate Jessica Vespoli, were each presented with checks for $500 at the June 12 dinner. They were chosen from a pool of 15 applicants from five different high schools.

“I’m really honored,” Neske said. “It’s going to take off some of that financial burden. Any little bit helps.”

All three students found out about the scholarship opportunity from their respective guidance counselors. They had to write about their community service and submit letters of recommendation. Karin Hayat, the vice president of Kiwanis and coordinator of the scholarship program, said a committee reviewed every candidate. The three girls who were chosen stood out, she explained.

“They were diligent. They were well-rounded,” she said. “All their references had nothing but good things to say about them.”

Hayat said that the winners were chosen on a basis of academics, community service and financial need. She said committee members wanted to select students with long histories of volunteer service, not just those who have done activities to pad their college applications.

“Community service is a huge part of my life,” said Kaplan, who will be attending Adelphi University in the fall. She plans to study education to become a high school English teacher.

Kaplan started the Stories in Español program at the Henry Waldinger Memorial Library, where she and other volunteers read and sing to students in Spanish. She said there was a need to provide greater support to families that do not speak English as a primary language.

She also helps out with a friend’s Blanket for Babies program, which provided items for hospitalized infants.

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