At the Carpinteria Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Community Awards Banquet on Saturday, Jan. 25, three high school seniors will be awarded scholarships, and one will be named Jr. Carpinterian of the Year. This year’s finalists are exceptional candidates who have stood out among their peers as compassionate, hard-working leaders going above and beyond to help make their community better.
A familiar face in the sports pages of CVN, Cate School senior Ethan Ha is an excellent athlete, ranking 58 in Southern California Boys 18 and under from the United States Tennis Association (he was 13th in the Boys 10 and under). He was the three-time Tri-Valley League Singles Individual Champion on Cate’s varsity tennis team, and was senior captain for both the tennis and waterpolo varsity teams.
But athletic achievements are only part of Ha’s profile. Even as a young boy, he wanted to help others. In sixth grade, as a student at Carpinteria Middle School, everyday he’d spend his recess helping the school staff by serving hot lunch in the cafeteria. As a high schooler, he offered free tennis clinics at Sandpiper mobile home park and volunteered as a soccer coach for an FCA soccer camp for elementary school athletes from low-income families. Over Thanksgiving vacation, he heads to Kinderkirk Preschool to help set up their holiday meal, washing dishes and cleaning the playground.
“Ethan is doing compassionate work when no one is watching,” noted one of Ha’s teachers. As the Cate School Public Service Night Head, Ha has devoted dozens of hours to community service, leading student groups to volunteer and sing at Cornerstone House, a home for mentally disabled individuals. He also volunteers at Shepard Place Apartments where he helps run bingo games for seniors. Additionally, Ha is the Cate School Holiday Cheer Head, organizing fundraising efforts to fulfill the Christmas wish-lists of five low-income families in Carpinteria, and helping the Carpinteria Health Clinic obtain donations for families in need of new clothes, coats, toys and grocery gift cards–even helping to deliver donations to Carpinteria families before Christmas Day.
Ha was volunteering at Aliso Elementary School when CVN caught up with him to hear how he felt upon learning he’d been selected as a finalist: “It was a great surprise and I’m extremely grateful to receive the honor,” he said. “It’s something that will motivate me to keep volunteering. I won’t stop, I’ll just keep going and make an impact in the community.”
When Emily Calkins was 8 years old, she decided she’d have an orange Jeep one day. The summer before ninth grade, she and her father began a four-year journey to rebuild an old non-functioning Jeep—from engine to orange paint—into her dream car. Building her own car taught Calkins a lesson in persistence, one that she’s applied to her academic, athletic and community service pursuits.
If you think building her own car is impressive, consider this: Calkins already has 1,300 lifetime hours of community service under her belt. Locally, she volunteers at Carpinteria Arts Center, Carpinteria Community Church, Carpinteria Cemetery’s Memorial Day service, Girl Scouts, AAUW Association of University Women and the Alcazar Theatre.
Additionally, 17-year-old Calkins has nourished a passion for helping those less fortunate in other countries. Since 2016, she has traveled to Mexicali, Mexico each year to help recently deported people at the border, local elementary schools and orphanages, learning to lay down concrete and paint walls. At 15, she went with her Girl Scouts troop to Costa Rica to help combat soil erosion caused by deforestation by planting mangrove trees at riverbanks in Manuel Antonio National Park.
Most recently, Calkins flew to the UNESCO World Heritage site, Cinque Terre, Italy, to spend the summer helping to restore hillsides left ravaged and abandoned by a mudslide. With a local woman was her mentor, she learned the strenuous art of dry stack masonry and helped reconstruct three 12- x 12-foot terraces above Vernazza. Her project received a Gold Award from the Girl Scouts (equivalent to an Eagle Scout Award).
On learning she’d been selected as a finalist for Jr. Carpinterian of the Year, Calkins said, “I am so grateful to represent my wonderful community and serve the people that make Carpinteria the town that it is today.”
Born and raised in Carpinteria, Esteban Zapata deeply admires his family and considers his parents his biggest inspirations. His father, a local machine maintenance worker, was born in Taxco, Guerrero, Mexico, and immigrated to Santa Barbara when he was a teenager. His mother, a local social worker, was born and raised in Carpinteria. Zapata, who currently works at Delgado’s Mexican Restaurant as a busser, hopes to major in engineering and/or computer science at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo or UCLA and then return to Carpinteria to work for a local technology company, like Procore. His love and devotion to Carpinteria and its people is palpable.
“He’s a positive, hard-working member of our school and community… exactly the type of young man we wish we had more of,” noted one of Zapata’s teachers at Carpinteria High School where he is finishing his senior year. At CHS, Zapata is a leader in organized activities across the extra-curricular spectrum. He’s a member of the school’s jazz, marching and concert bands; he’s team captain of the varsity boys tennis and cross country teams; he’s on the yearbook committee, JSA debate team, Link Crew and an ambassador for the UCSB early academic outreach program. He’s also co-president of MESA on a four-time medal winning STEM project team.
As vice-president of Interact Club, he’s volunteered cleaning up and fundraising for the community, and as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, he’s helped to restore homes and maintain the organization’s restore center.
“It’s an honor to be a finalist in the city that I was born and raised in. It feels awesome to represent such a beautiful city full of amazing people,” said Zapata on being selected as a finalist for Jr. Carpinterian of the Year.