A small group of civic leaders led by Pete and Paula Uccelli established The Sequoia Awards in 1990 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring volunteerism in Redwood City.
The first Sequoia Awards scholarship was for $500. Since then, The Sequoia Awards has grown significantly thanks to support from local businesses, other nonprofits, and individuals in our community who understand the importance of an active and engaged citizenry. To date, we have distributed more than $2.4 million in scholarships.
Our scholarships are based solely on the volunteerism of our honorees. Academics or participation in school-sponsored activities and athletics are not part of the criteria.
In 2022, The Sequoia Awards distributed $210,000 to 21 students representing 6 local high schools and the middle college program. We named two Outstanding Students: Kenzy Mashraki from Woodside High School and Daniel Torres Aguilar from Everest Public High School. Each received a $30,000 scholarship. Additional honorees received scholarships ranging from $7,500 to $10,000.
We also recognized one outstanding adult volunteer from our community. This year’s Outstanding Individual Award winner is Gloria Kennett. Gloria literally has given a lifetime to helping others. She celebrated her 100th birthday this year and she is still an active community volunteer. She started volunteering for the Peninsula Volunteers in 1951. She and her late husband Dr. William Kennett, a legendary Sequoia Hospital ob/gyn, helped establish the Sequoia Hospital Foundation in 1982, and she co-chaired the New Sequoia Hospital Campaign that inspired the community to raise over $20 million to support the construction of the patient pavilion that opened its doors in 2014. After Bill’s passing in 2005, she started the William Kennett Memorial Nursing Scholarship program in conjunction with Sequoia Hospital/San Francisco State University Bachelor of Science Nursing program at the College of San Mateo. To date, the program has raised $2,250,000 and awarded $1,350,000 in scholarships supporting 122 deserving nurses and is now endowed to ensure funding of four scholarships in perpetuity. Additionally, Gloria served on the Foundation Board for many years and was board chair from 2012 to 2014.
Our Outstanding Business of the Year is Costco Wholesale, which opened as the Price Club in Redwood City in 1983. That same year, Max Torres, operations manager for St. Anthony Padua Dining Room, got his first membership card and developed a relationship with the management team. Since then, this big box warehouse has been donating to the St. Anthony Padua’s community food program three times a week. On Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, a St. Anthony Padua truck pulls up outside the loading dock at Costco, and the employees help the dining room’s staff load surplus food, ranging from baked goods to same-day fresh food. At Thanksgiving and Christmas they donate a pallet of turkeys, and at Christmas they also add toys. Torres says Costco never seeks publicity or tries to draw attention to this decades-long practice. They just contribute what they have.
Our mission is to inspire and recognize volunteerism in Redwood City.
“Growing up in Cairo, Egypt, I have seen firsthand what neglected environmental crises like waste management, or even air pollution, can do to a community. I don’t want anyone to experience such health issues and sickness as I have seen and been through… I want to continue the legacy of the Trash Patrol and hopefully inspire others in my community to join our journey towards a better, cleaner world.”
“An important lesson to take away from volunteering is that it’s a great way to start your college life and even grow into adulthood. Volunteering is the concept of giving back to the community in need. I have always learned that if you have the time and skills that others do not have the privilege to acquire, it is important that you share them with your community.”
The Sequoia Awards provides scholarships to high school seniors who are outstanding community volunteers. For many, we make the dream of a college education possible. We gratefully acknowledge the many organizations and individuals who make our program possible through their sponsorships, contributions of cash, and donations of in-kind goods and services.
Maybe you’d like to apply for a scholarship or nominate an outstanding local resident?