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April 21, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, April 21, 2004

High school students honored by Family Service Agency for beating the odds High school students honored by Family Service Agency for beating the odds (April 21, 2004)

By Jonas Raab
Special to the Almanac

Two local high school seniors -- Julie Stamm of Menlo-Atherton and Jennifer Aguilar of Woodside -- were honored recently for overcoming medical and social odds and making significant achievements in academics, sports, art and community service.

The Family Service Agency of San Mateo County gave Jennifer the Jeanne S. Dickey Award, named in memory of a longtime Woodside community volunteer; and Julie the Valley Auxiliary to Family Service Agency Award. Each received $500.

Family Service Agency provided the following information about the students.

Jenny Aguilar

Born to a teenage mother whose marriage broke up when Jenny was very young, Jenny moved with her mother into a two-bedroom apartment, which they shared with five others. They often depended on church donations for necessities.

Despite the circumstances, Jenny's mother helped her develop positive values. Her mother remarried and their situation improved.

As a middle school student, Jenny attended North Star Academy, an academically rigorous institution in Redwood City, even though it meant she would be away from her family except on weekends.

Jenny moved back with her family when she began attending Woodside High. She is active in sports and other extra-curricular activities. She is enrolled in advanced placement and honors courses and is part of the Berkeley UC Incentive Candidates program.

Julie Stamm

Julie Stamm was born three months premature at 1 pound 15 ounces, and underwent surgery for complications related to her eyesight. Though she is legally blind, she is an art lover.

"Despite my legal blindness and to some people's confusion I still possess the ability to pursue my favorite pastime: drawing," Julie says.

Julie navigates the M-A hallways with her white cane and has learned Braille in order to communicate with the blind community, serving as a teacher's aide in summer school classes for the visually impaired.

She participated in a program at M-A called the Best Buddies Club, which aims to integrate special-needs students with their mainstream peers.

Julie is enrolled in honors-level and advanced placement courses and has spent summers as a volunteer at a camp in Napa for the blind and visually impaired.

"I can without any reservations recommend Julie as the best this community has to offer," said one of Julie's teachers. "It has been truly inspiring and enlightening to watch her grow socially, emotionally and academically."

Julie is considering a career in psychology, biology or education.

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