Two 9th graders awarded annual Tamkin Award

Ninth graders Sabrina Liu ‘24 and Jade Harris ‘24 were recently awarded the Tamkin Award, which recognizes students “for their commitment throughout their Middle School years to actively and voluntarily participate in the affairs of the community beyond the School, and who, in doing so, has been instrumental in encouraging others to become similarly involved.”

At a May 24 Middle School virtual assembly dedicated to community service, Head of Middle School Jon Wimbish, announced Liu and Harris as this year’s recipients of the award based on their community service work.

The Tamkin Award is annually awarded to two ninth graders who have gone above and beyond in serving their community or other communities and making a difference. Last year, the Middle School departed from tradition and awarded it to two organizations: HWGIVE, the Middle School’s community service organization, and SLIDE, the Student Leaders for Inclusion Diversity and Equity. However this year, the Middle School returned to the decades long tradition and awarded it to two students.

Harris did a lot of community service work ranging from political fundraising to volunteering at UCLA Health, however Harris said tutoring children was what made her passionate about community service.

“While I have done many community service projects, with all of them having a major impact on me, tutoring is what started it all,” Harris wrote in her Humanitas Award essay. “Tutoring was one of the first service activities I did this year, and it is something I have since dedicated a lot of my time to. Initially, I viewed community service as a graduation obligation or a moral obligation; however, tutoring completely changed my viewpoint surrounding what it meant to do something from passion versus a requirement.”

Liu has spent countless hours benefiting the lives of the Tibetan villagers, who live in poverty and struggle everyday to obtain necessities and education for their children. In recent years, she has focused on the latter aspect regarding the children’s education by founding the nonprofit Helping Tibet Foundation, an organization funding both the school campuses and learning supplies.

Harris said she was shocked when Wimbish announced her as a recipient of the Tamkin Award, and hopes students were inspired by the essay detailing the work she did that was read at the assembly.

“When I first heard my name called out at the assembly, I was shocked,” Harris said. “There wasn’t any precursor email or anything, so it was definitely a great start to my morning! Honestly, I was pretty nervous though at the same time, since I didn’t really expect my Humanitas Award essay to be read out loud, but I hope someone still found it inspirational and helpful for their community service journey. Even though I was at home at the time, it didn’t really take away anything from the experience.”

Liu said she was shocked when she found out during the assembly that she won the Tamkin Award.

“I did not expect to receive the Tamkin award at all; it came as a shock while I was attending school assembly virtually (lying in bed),” Liu said. “It really was a nice way to start off the morning!

Keith Jordan, the Middle School Director of Student Affairs, runs the Middle School’s community service program and said the Tamkin Award was created to recognize students who have gone above and beyond in service, and Liu and Harris are living examples of what the Award represents.

“The Tamkin Award is intended to recognize two ninth Graders who have really made service a meaningful part of their lives,” Jordan said. “When we look at candidates, we look at the number of hours they’ve completed, of course. More importantly though, we look for students who have shown a deep level of commitment and engagement to a specific cause and who have promoted the importance and the value of getting involved to other students as well. Jade and Sabrina are perfect examples of how finding a cause you care deeply about can really change your life, and the lives of many others, for the better. I’m very proud of both of them.”

Harris also expressed her appreciation that HW provides opportunities for students to serve their community, and hopes that what the Tamkin Award represents inspires people to serve their community.

“I’m glad that Harvard-Westlake provides opportunities for students to complete service activities in a supportive community, and I hope that it inspired others to pay it forward to their community,” Harris said.