Chris Zider scholarship winners named

Click on photo to enlarge and see caption.

By Marjorie Mader

Almanac Correspondent

Two student-athletes -- Jenna Swartz of Menlo Park and Derek Hunter of Portola Valley -- are winners of the 2011 Chris Zider Scholarships.

Each receives a $15,000 scholarship that can be used for college, private high school tuition, or for educated-related expenses, such as taking a summer course on a college campus, during the next six years.

The winners and finalists represent six high schools: Menlo-Atherton, Menlo School, Sacred Heart Prep, and Palo Alto, St. Francis and Woodside.

Since 1993, when the Zider scholarship program was established, 27 students have received scholarships.

The annual scholarships are given in memory of Chris Zider, who grew up in Menlo Park and Portola Valley and was the oldest child of Bob and Cheryl Zider of Portola Valley. Chris died in a snowboarding accident at Lake Tahoe in 1992, when he was 15 and a sophomore at Woodside High School. He attended Menlo School his freshman year after graduating from the Portola Valley School District.

Besides their many accomplishments in the classroom, on the playing fields, and in the community, the students' "love for their family comes across," said his mother, Cheryl Zider.

The winners

Jenna Swartz combines her interest in sports with community service projects. She was team captain of Menlo-Atherton's junior varsity water polo team and received the "most inspirational player award" as a freshman and "most valuable player" as a sophomore.

A member of M-A's Outreach Club, she tutors students at Willow Oaks Middle School and volunteers for Project Backpack and the Holiday Family Gift Drive. She also serves on the Teen Advocacy Council that specializes in "My Red Shoes" a nonprofit organization that promotes awareness of homelessness.

Derek Hunter of Portola Valley plays basketball and football at Sacred Heart Prep and received the "Hustle" award for basketball as a freshman and the "Offensive Player of the Year" for football as a sophomore.

He works at the Riekes Center in Menlo Park helping others find their own talents. Derek loves music and plays the guitar and piano. He also has started his own T-shirt design business.

The finalists

Ryan Blocker of Portola Valley plays varsity basketball at Woodside High, club basketball, and competes in track. He delivers sports equipment and supplies to children at the Ecumenical Hunger Program in East Palo Alto during the holiday season.

Austin Marcus of Hillsborough goes to Menlo School, where he plays varsity baseball and water polo. He enjoys robotics and came in second in the FTC robotics world championship.

Domenic Andrighetto lives in Portola Valley and attends Saint Francis High School. He plays football and competes in track and field. He also volunteers for 2nd Mile and has been a camp counselor at Panthers Camp.

Michael Strong lives in Palo Alto and attends Palo Alto High School. He plays basketball, baseball, and cross country. He enjoys volunteering for "Stretch to Kindergarten" and has started working as an assistant coach of a Little League team.

Samantha Bergeson lives in Portola Valley and attends Menlo School. She plays lacrosse, softball, and volleyball. She is a member of the National Charity League and enjoys writing and photography. Samantha has been a camp counselor at the Ronald McDonald house and at the Palo Alto Art Center.

Michaela Michael lives in Hillsborough and attends Menlo School. She plays varsity soccer and varsity lacrosse. She has volunteered at the Haven House and Fair Oaks, and teaches students at East Palo Alto Charter School to play lacrosse.

Emma Thygesen of Menlo Park attends Menlo School. She plays varsity volleyball, varsity basketball, and is on a club volleyball team. Emma is on the student council and has led and planned community service trips to Taft Elementary School in Redwood City and to InnVision in Palo Alto.

How to apply

Tenth-graders now attending a public or private high school and living in Atherton, East Palo Alto, Los Altos Hills, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Portola Valley, Stanford or Woodside may apply for the two $15,000 Chris Zider Scholarships. Any sophomore who attends Menlo School or Woodside High also is eligible. Preliminary applications are available now at the schools' couseling offices or by contacting the Beta Group at (650) 233-8700 and must be postmarked by March 26. Go to for more information.


Like this comment
Posted by kd94025
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 8, 2012 at 12:37 pm

My congratulations to these kids. My son was a semi-finalist and I can tell you that these kids had to work to earn the scholarship - not just as good scholars, athletes and citizens, but they had to write effective essays and conduct interviews. Not bad for high school sophomores!

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