When I last spoke to Chelsea Garbell in early 2012, she had been named one of New York University’s most influential students. Now she’s garnered another honor: She was student commencement speaker at the all-school graduation ceremony at Yankee Stadium on May 22.
The Northwest Yeshiva High School alumna will graduate summa cum laude from NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development with a B.S. in media, culture, and communication, and minors in public health and policy, and Hebrew and Judaic studies
The dean of each of NYU’s five schools nominated commencement speakers, submitting the students’ CVs and transcripts with letters of recommendation. A review committee narrowed it down to five finalists who each submitted a draft speech and were interviewed.
It’s “a little overwhelming,” said Chelsea, who has been hard at work on her speech, and “such a huge honor. My Facebook kind of exploded,” with the news, she adds.
Last year, Chelsea was part of an American Jewish Committee delegation that attended the “Women as Global Leaders” conference in Abu Dhabi. I asked what that was like.
“Excellent,” Chelsea responded, who wasn’t sure what to expect of travel to a Muslim country, but “nobody batted an eyelid,” at her passport with its Israeli stamp.
“Whenever I mentioned I was Jewish, especially to Emirati women [at the conference], they were surprised, but not negative,” she said.
She was probably the first Jew many delegates had met, and she managed to keep Shabbat there by staying with a friend on NYU’s campus there.
Chelsea also enjoyed a summer internship in Patty Murray’s office in the “other” Washington and, given her interest in reproductive rights policy and advocacy, “everything I learned about the Hill and politics [made it] the perfect summer.”
With plans for the next year still evolving, Chelsea couldn’t give me specifics, but she’s hoping for opportunities to travel and volunteer before returning to graduate school. While she has no specific plans to return to Seattle, “I’ll always be a Seattle girl at heart,” she says. “The only time I care about sports is when Seattle is playing.”
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I told Sam Fein that he ought to be called Mr. Basketball.
“I agree with that,” the University of Southern California senior replied.
This past year, Sam has been busy integrating his love of basketball into his life and he’ll be bringing that love to the Seattle area next month with Hebrew Hoops, a weeklong basketball camp for 5th through 9th graders to be held at the Jewish Day School in Bellevue. It will be a place, he says, “for Jewish kids to meet other Jewish kids…and interact with Jewish role models who happen to be athletes as well.”
Sam grew up in Seattle’s Laurelhurst neighborhood. He attended the Seattle Jewish Community School and then Lakeside Academy, where he played basketball. He has been a camp counselor and head of basketball instruction at Camp Solomon Schechter and last summer interned at A PLUS, an after-school education program that uses sports for education and “character development necessary for student-athletes to succeed in life,” according to its website, www.aplusyouthprogram.org.
Last year, Sam, a political science major minoring in business and entrepreneurship, reached out to the Boys and Girls Club closest to the USC’s L.A. campus, and started coaching there.
“I tried to implement some of the things A PLUS does,” he says, like requiring a minimum GPA and instituting a mandatory study hall after school for team
members. He’s seen results already in at least one student, and remarked to me that many of these inner-city students do not own the calculators they need for high school math.
Sam brought in friends to be assistant coaches and tutors and also joined the local chapter of Coaching Corps, an organization that supports young people volunteering as coaches in underserved communities. He was recently elected president of the USC chapter and says that “learning to lead meetings [and] take other people’s advice” has been invaluable.
“I’m really excited” about Hebrew Hoops, says Sam. If you haven’t seen the posters at Wedgwood’s Grateful Bread, at Island Crust Café on Mercer Island, or your synagogue, you can get information at www.hebrewhoops.com.