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Lodi students receive prestigious scholarships

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Posted: Thursday, March 28, 2002 10:00 pm

Lodi teen-agers Daniel Brown and Ashkon Shaahinfar became friends at Henderson School through Lodi Unified School District's gifted education program.

They went separate ways in high school with Brown heading to Tokay High and Shaahinfar attending Lodi High.

But the two teens will now share a distinction which will cement their friendship in the years to come.

The pair have been awarded full-ride scholarships to any college or university in the country from the Frank and Eve Buck Foundation.

Daniel Brown
Daniel Brown

Only two other Lodi Unified students have received the prestigious scholarship. Two Galt High School students were awarded the scholarship last year.

The Frank H. Buck Scholarship was founded in 1989 in honor of the late congressman who represented the Third Congressional District between 1932 and 1942.

Brown and Shaahinfar were among 33 finalists for the scholarship out of nearly 900 applicants.

Only 18 students were selected to receive the scholarships, said Kathy Hazen, foundation executive director.

Ashkon Shaahinfar
Ashkon Shaahinfar

To date, the foundation has awarded 176 scholarships, which pay for tuition, room and board, books, supplies and two round-trip plane tickets yearly to go home, Hazen said.

Buck scholarships are awarded to unique students who show strong interest in school or community activities, enthusiasm and ambition to succeed. Students living in Solano, Napa, Yolo, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Contra Costa counties are eligible.

Both Brown and Shaahinfar learned they were awarded the scholarship after receiving a packet of information from the foundation Tuesday.

"I was extremely nervous opening it," 17-year-old Brown said.

He was relieved to learn that his plans to attend Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., would be fully paid.

"I had no idea how I was going to pay for college before," he said. "Now I can focus on my studies."

He plans to study law and pursue a career in environmental law or become a judge.

Brown, who is the first Tokay High student to receive the scholarship, has struggled through high school, but not with grades.

During his sophomore year, family problems led to Brown becoming homeless.

He stayed with friends and relatives shortly before landing a stable home with Kenneth and Kim Wallace, who became his foster parents.

Despite the obstacles, Brown continued to excel in school. He's achieved a 3.9 grade point average and became team captain of the Science Olympiad and Science Bowl, leading the team to upcoming national and state competitions. He's also participated in a handful of other activities, including the Academic Decathlon.

The Lodi native said he feels blessed to receive the scholarship. "It's nice to know all my work hasn't been for nothing," he said.

Shaahinfar is equally ecstatic about the scholarship, saying he hasn't gotten a full night's sleep since receiving the letter. He occasionally bursts into a fit of laughter and becomes teary-eyed.

The 18-year-old teen hopes to attend Yale University in Connecticut, but has also applied to Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.

Shaahinfar said he promised himself that he wouldn't let money prevent him from attending any college in the country. He applied for more than 20 scholarships to help secure his future higher education.

Last December, he taped a fortune cookie message to his computer monitor which read, "Your hard work will soon be paid off."

"I didn't realize it would be paid off literally," Shaahinfar said. "I don't think it has set in yet."

He plans to study bioengineering and international studies. After graduation, he hopes to attend medical school to eventually become a doctor.

Shaahinfar has maintained a 4.5 grade point average while being involved in numerous campus activities, including Science Olympiad, Science Bowl, jazz band, Breakthrough Club and Nerds Club.

He also serves as a commissioner for the Greater Lodi Area Youth Commission.

"He is just an incredible young man. Sometimes I ask him, 'do you ever sleep?,' " said Becky Jauregui, Lodi High's scholarship adviser.

She said Shaahinfar is very well-liked and respected by his peers. His senior project, she said, deals with building better relations among people of different ethnic backgrounds.

"He is a very caring and sensitive person," she said.

Shaahinfar credits his parents, Mina and Sina Shaahinfar, and friends for encouraging his success.

Both Brown and Shaahinfar said they hope the foundation will also help out with graduate studies, depending upon their academic success.

The pair have almost become celebrities on both campuses, with dozens of school officials and classmates congratulating them with handshakes and hugs.

Laurie Tinkey, Tokay's scholarship adviser, said Brown is an inspiration to others.

"He's so deserving and he won't let anybody down. He's a hard-worker and so determined," she said.


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