For Bellevue Community College student Elisa Jacobs, being named to the 2006 All-Washington Academic Team was just the validation she needed to confirm that she was headed in the right direction.
The 51-year-old mother of two, who returned to school after recovering from a serious car accident four years ago, will complete her AA degree in June, after which she plans to take pre-med classes at a four-year college before going to medical school to study pediatric neurology.
Jacobs was nominated by her oceanography professor, whose class says is one of the most challenging she's ever taken.
'I was stunned when he gave me the [application] packet,' she states.
At first she was 'intimidated by all the essays and rigmarole, but I'm really glad I did it.' She's won other awards, she's on the national dean's list and in the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, but says this is the most significant.
Jacobs joined other team members in Olympia March 2, where they were honored by the governor.
'Governor Gregoire made us feel like we were amazing people, that we had accomplished something that made the state of Washington a special place,' reports Elisa, who adds that even though 'my political views differ,' the governor is 'an inspiration to me.'
In addition to becoming a pediatric neurologist, Jacobs also plans to make aliyah at some point.
'I would like to end up at Hadassah Medical Center. I think it is a phenomenal place to work. That would be the greatest honor,' she explains, saying that she first planned to make aliyah right before 9/11, 'but everything was stopped, so I was able to stay here and get my degree.'
In addition to attending school, Jacobs has a home-based jewelry business, teaches Hebrew at her synagogue, Temple B'nai Torah, and tutors at her son, Sam's, elementary school (Lake Hills). (Daughter, Tiffany, is 18.) Because of the assistance she received from Jewish Family Service after her accident, she has also been an active fundraiser for the organization. 'I was the poster child for JFS in 2003,' she says.
'I have a lot of catching up to do,' says Jacobs, who has lived in Washington for most of the past 30 years, but never finished the pre-law degree she began at Washington State University. 'I've been given a second chance to try something different.'
Won't she miss us? 'I love Washington, I love my synagogue, but I just feel it's time and I'm waiting for my son to finish 5th grade and then I'm moving on.
'I never had a super deep passion for rain,' she adds with a laugh.
Debbi and Kevin Halela of Newcastle will receive this year's 'Breath of Hope' award from the Puget Sound Friends of LAM Foundation at the organization's annual dinner and auction May 13 at the Seattle Convention Center.
Award recipients have not only raised funds for LAM research, but worked to support Gina Dichter, a local LAM patient, emotionally and physically.
LAM, short for Lymphangioleiomyomatosis, is a rare and fatal degenerative lung disease that strikes women of childbearing age. It is often misdiagnosed as asthma, emphysema or bronchitis.
Kevin and Debbi have worked on the annual auction since it began eight years ago, on everything from procurement and set-up to delivering large items to winning bidders. Debbi has held jewelry and crafts sales and has conducted a letter writing campaign to benefit the foundation.
The Halela's children pitch in, too. Samantha, a seventh grader at Maywood Middle School, and Jake, a fourth grader at Newcastle Elementary, have joined efforts with their friends Marisa and Lauren Dichter and David and Adrienne Benveniste to operate several successful 'Lam-n-Aid' stands in their neighborhoods. Samantha and Marisa designed and sold a LAM awareness bracelet that raised more than $3,000. Other LAM organizations have followed suit, selling more than 8,000 bracelets around the country.
Kevin is co-owner of Barney's Jewelry and Loan in Seattle's Pioneer Square, and Debbi is director of general counseling services at Youth Eastside Services in Bellevue. They are Seattle natives and members of Temple De Hirsch Sinai.
The Halelas are committed to working for this cause until the day a cure for LAM has been found. They say their efforts, and those of the 'incredible local community,' are proof that one person's small contribution can multiply, making a difference for Gina and the other young women and mothers afflicted with LAM.
Dana Rubenstein of Silverdale was thinking locally when she chose her Bat Mitzvah project. She decided to help improve the tiny library at Temple Beth Hatikvah, the small Kitsap Peninsula synagogue her family attends and where she will become Bat Mitzvah in May.
'Through my studies in my Hebrew school I've come to appreciate and understand the importance of studying Judaism,' Dana explained in an e-mail. She and her dad, Robert, solicited donations with a small letter writing campaign.
'They sent letters up and down the coast thinking they would get a book or two and instead we got boxes of books,' explains mom, Marcia. 'Everyone who is coming to the Bat Mitzvah will be picking up books,' she adds.
If you would like to donate some books, you can e-mail Robert at email@example.com, or call the family at 360-698-9483.