Sophomore Brian Chow gives blood in the gym during the March 13 drive. (Photo by Shimin Zhang)

Seniors pass leadership legacies on to passionate underclassmen

From starting clubs to heading volunteer projects, the senior class has certainly left its mark on Country Day. However, as their time at the school comes to an end, various senior leaders are preparing to pass their projects on to underclassmen.

Leonardo Eisner, organizer of the school’s blood drives, Brandy Riziki, creator of the Youth Back to Jesus club (UBTJ), and Luca Procida, captain of Country Day’s Run to Feed the Hungry team, are handing over their roles. 

So far, Eisner and Riziki have been successful in their searches. Procida, however, is still in the process. 

Eisner, who decided to bring a blood drive to the school during his junior year and has since hosted three drives, chose sophomore Pragathi Vivaik to take over his role.

Before Eisner’s first blood drive in May 2018, the school hadn’t hosted one in 10 years.

“I came in as a new student (my sophomore year), and I wasn’t used to a high school not having a regular blood donation schedule,” Eisner said. “At my old school (in Houston), we had a blood drive once a year, which was a big hit because it is relatively easy for saving so many lives.”

However, bringing a blood drive to the school was a process, according to Eisner. 

“First you have to fill out an application and send it to the American Red Cross,” Eisner said. “Then they connect you to one of their representatives, who helps you select a date.”

Besides this initial process, Eisner said various tasks must be carried out before each drive can occur, including advertising in the Octagon and the school’s Friday email, creating posters and sending reminders to the student body. He must also ensure that the gym is available and properly set up for the drive.

Finding a replacement, Eisner said, was not something he had initially considered.

“(In January) my adviser (with the Red Cross) told me to give her the email of the person who would be taking over next year,” Eisner said. “And I was like, ‘Who is going to do that?’

“But I had heard some interest from a few people, so I decided to send out a mass email to current juniors and sophomores.”

Eisner said only sophomores responded to his email but called them the perfect group to take on the task because they can continue for two years before passing on the role. 

He then sent a Google survey application to the five students interested in the opportunity, the results of which he used to choose Vivaik because she had the strongest application.

Because he selected Vivaik just three days before his final blood drive on March 13, Eisner said she was able to shadow him.

“What she wasn’t able to see was everything leading up to it,” Eisner said. “But at this point, I have done so many blood drives that everything with the Red Cross is already set up and organized.”

He added that physical education chair Michelle Myers, his faculty adviser for the program, can help Vivaik.

According to Eisner, Myers took on the role because she donates blood regularly and is interested in the field. Her role in the P.E. department also serves as a helpful tool to the blood drives.

“One of the biggest issues with the blood drive is that we need the gym for the entire day,” Eisner said. “(Our) gym is constantly being used, which makes trying to pick a date an issue.”

Vivaik, who applied for the position because of her interest in medicine, said she is excited about taking over the program.

“I thought this would be a good opportunity not only to have some hands-on experience but also to improve my leadership skills and responsibility,” Vivaik said. 

She said she has learned the basics from Eisner and that shadowing him during his most recent drive was beneficial. 

Although the process didn’t seem too difficult, she said, she is still learning how to run everything smoothly, which will take time and help. 

“I will definitely be contacting (Eisner) to continually ask how he ran things,” Vivaik said.

Vivaik hopes to host two drives next year and said she will decide a future blood drive schedule after seeing how her first year goes. 

Riziki, founder of the school’s only religious club, has also found an underclassman to take over her role: freshman Hailey Fesai.

Riziki said she started the club this winter because “it was time to bring Jesus back.” 

The club has two members in addition to Riziki: Fesai and senior Michaela Chen. Other students visit the club occasionally, which Riziki said doesn’t bother her.

“(Fesai) is a consistent member of the club and is willing to commit to keep it going,” Riziki said.  

The job should not be difficult for Fesai, according to Riziki, who does not plan to teach Fesai any particular information or skills. 

“She is already mature,” Riziki said. “And even with me off to college next year, I’ll still be there for her if she needs advice or ideas.

“I think it will be very important to have consistency and make that weekly sacrifice, especially with everything else going on at school. Stress can be so elevated that we lose sight of what’s important — trusting God. 

“Gathering, praying and reading the word (of God) together restores hope and faith to keep us going.”

Fesai said she joined the club because she was “curious to see what it was all about.”

“Being a Christian my whole life and seeing that (Riziki) was in charge of the club drew me to it immediately,” Fesai said.

Fesai said her interest in the club stems from how it can help students conflicted about their faith.

“It’s a place where people of the Christian faith or not can decide for themselves what they think of the religion,” Fesai said.

When Riziki asked Fesai to take over as the club’s leader, Fesai said she was more than willing. 

“I would do almost anything for her,” Fesai said. “So when she asked me, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. What Brandy is doing is amazing, and I would love to contribute to her goodness in anyway I can.”

Despite her enthusiasm, Fesai said she is nervous about taking over the club. 

“I honestly haven’t really thought about what I’m going to do with the club when Brandy leaves,” Fesai said. “So I’ll make things up as I go. The only thing I’ve really planned is to give Brandy lots of calls and ask her to help me spread the word of God in the ways she so graciously has done for us this year.”

Procida, meanwhile, has yet to find a new captain for the school’s Run to Feed the Hungry team.

Procida has been on the school’s team for the past five years and became captain his sophomore year.

He said the team’s previous captains, Manson Tung, ’16, and Akilan Murugesan, ’16, trained him during his freshman year to take over their position, as they were both graduating that year. 

According to Procida, the job involves organizing with the food bank and ensuring that the team is in order. Procida has yet to find anyone who wants to fill his position.

“A lot of people have other commitments,” Procida said. “But I’m hopeful that we’ll find someone who wants to get involved.”-

Procida added that if the team is unable to find someone to fill the position for next year, sixth grader Andrew Burr, an active member of the Run to Feed the Hungry team, may replace Procida when he reaches high school. 

Although Procida said it’s important to have a student head the team, various members of the faculty and administration, such as assistant head of school Tucker Foehl, the team’s faculty adviser, will keep the team running. 

“Luca has been instrumental in leading the team and an incredible presence in providing service and dedication to the Sacramento Food Bank,” Foehl said. 

Procida was successful, Foehl said,  because he “genuinely cares about the community.”

“The challenge will be identifying someone who cares in that way,” Foehl added. 

He said losing Christy Procida, Luca Procida’s mother, will also present a challenge.

“Luca and Christy do so many things behind the scenes,” Foehl said. “Myself and others will have to step up and take on those roles.”

The change will also provide an opportunity for students to carry on the tradition, Foehl said. He said students have already reached out about taking on bigger roles on the team.

“I don’t think one person can do everything (Luca and Christy Procida) did,” Foehl said. “But groups of students who want to get involved will be able to work toward filling their place.” 

Most important going forward, Foehl said, is the community coming together as a team. 

“I know the heart of this community,” Foehl said. “People step up.”

—By Anna Frankel

Originally published in the April 23 edition of the Octagon.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email