When she was in eighth grade, Natalia Hakimzadeh organized a walk on the Long Beach boardwalk to raise funds for Cohen Children’s Medical Center. She called city officials to obtain the proper permits, led her fellow National Junior Honor Society members on the walk and raised about $1,400 for the hospital.
Now a junior at Long Beach High School, Hakimzadeh, 17, has taken on another challenge amid the pandemic. After being nominated by Assistant Principal Dr. Francine Newman to take part in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s 2021 Long Island Student of the Year program, Hakimzadeh recruited a group of about 20 volunteers, who call themselves the Long Beach Cancer Crew, to collect donations and raise $30,000 for the society.
“I selected Natalia because she is a highly motivated girl with a philanthropic spirit, positive attitude, collaborative nature, and she has the fortitude to be able to take on a leadership role during the pandemic,” Newman said.
Hakimzadeh began recruiting her friends to help in the effort last November, and then hung fliers around the school and used social media to recruit other students. She also emailed parents and other classmates, asking for their support.
“I’m the type of person that if I have an opportunity, I’ll take it,” she said. “I was a little bit shaky at first, but once Dr. Newman told me about the organization and what the campaign was about . . . I had to do it.”
The students created social media campaigns, and have partnered with Chipotle Mexican Grill, in Oceanside, and Panera Bread, in Island Park, to help gather donations for the fundraiser. Part of the proceeds collected by the restaurants will go to the students’ fundraiser.
They have also designed a line of apparel that includes T-shirts, crewnecks and hoodies. Students Jasmine Soriano and Robin Xiao collaborated to design a logo for the apparel, which is being sold through Long Island Athletic. They currently have about 50 orders, and are hoping for more.
The team has until March 16 to meet its $30,000 goal.
This is the first time that a Long Beach student will take part in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Long Island Student of the Year program, and Hakimzadeh said she was happy to start the tradition at the school. Since there can be as many as three candidates per school, she plans to work with other candidates to lead next year’s campaign.
She praised her team members for their commitment and hard work. “My team is filled with just remarkable and amazing students that are so driven and committed,” she said. “I really want to give credit to my team. I’m just really excited to see where we end up, and I hope for them all to join next year and continue the legacy.”
Hakimzadeh has many dreams, but for now she is focused on preparing for the SAT and ACT exams. She serves as secretary of the Student Organization and is a member of the soccer team, the Key Club and the National Honor Society. She is also an International Baccalaureate diploma candidate, and hopes to be a pre-med major in college, with a focus on pediatrics.
“As a team, I am beyond impressed and inspired by what they have done,” Newman said. “The team was creative and innovative in developing new fundraising activities to reach people during this challenging year, and they have done it with joy and a big heart.”
For more information, visit the crew’s Instagram page, at longbeach_cancercrew, and the link to donate is https://events.lls.org/li/lisoy21/nataliahakimzadeh.