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DESPITE ALL OBSTACLES, LISA BECOMES TAE KWON DO WHIZ.

Byline: SIMON SCHRAMM Community columnist

Although she suffers from a degenerative bone disease, Lisa Michelle Smith of Palmdale recently took first place at the California tae kwon do championships.

That win gave her the ``Triple Crown,'' meaning she placed first in all three competition categories of weapons, sparring and forms for 7- to 8-year-old girls.

Lisa, who just turned 9, suffers from Calve Legg-Perthes disease, which causes deterioration of the long bone that extends from the hip to the knee. At age 5, she was put in a wheelchair and ordered to stop all physical activity. Doctors feared that the disease had progressed so much that one of her legs would grow larger than the other.

Then, seemingly, a miracle happened. Two years later, the deterioration stabilized and her specialist, Dr. William Oppenheim of the University of California, Los Angeles Pediatric Orthopedic Center, allowed her to perform light activities. Lisa had a slow and painful recovery, crawling at times because it hurt too much to walk. Despite all this, she excelled in school and always kept a smile on her face.

``She is just an awesome little girl all around. She's a straight-A student, and she never gives up,'' said her mother, Carmen Smith.

When the pain decreased, doctors allowed her to take up tae kwon do, a Korean martial art similar to karate.

William Robinson, Lisa's tae kwon do instructor, and his staff tailored warm-up exercises and parts of her form so her weak bone would not be affected. This was especially important since, according to Oppenheim, the top of her femur had the density of a pingpong ball and could be crushed easily.

Lisa fell in love with tae kwon do and wanted to compete in the state championship. From January to April, she competed in nine tournaments throughout California and Nevada. Despite long hours and exhaustion from traveling long distances, she never complained.

Her next goal is to earn a black belt, be a world champion in weapons and go to the Olympic Games. She is now 95 percent free of the disease.

Neil Desai, a recent graduate and valedictorian at Granada Hills High School, will participate July 16-21 in the National Student Leadership Conference on Business and Technology in Washington, D.C.

During this event, he will study, experience and develop leadership skills.

``I feel proud. I think it will be a good experience,'' said Desai, who wants to go into engineering.

More than 300 congress members and other government leaders serve on the board of the NSLC, whose mission is to recognize young leaders around the world and give them a unique learning environment.

Aside from being among the top 10 students in his class, Desai served as an intern for Rep. Howard Berman, D-Mission Hills, and Stanford University identified him as a gifted student in its research project for the Education Program for Gifted Youth.

Desai will attend the University of California, Los Angeles, majoring in electrical engineering.

The Fulfillment Fund recently honored eight local teachers and students in three categories at the 16th Annual Achievement Awards dinner.

The fund is a nonprofit organization that provides long-term mentoring, classroom-based outreach programs and college counseling. It is also the largest provider of college scholarships to students in Los Angeles.

The recipient of the Mercedes Mentor Award is: Ulises Zamora of Ulysses S. Grant High School in Van Nuys.

The recipients of the Sherak Community Service Awards are: Maria Mojarro of Chatsworth High School in Chatsworth and Z'Vaneydie Adkins of Birmingham High School in Van Nuys.

Six local students received $1,000 college scholarships after winning the 2002 American Honda/Mario J. Machado Academic Scholarship Essay Contest in June.

The students answered the essay question: ``There are many things about this country that are cause for pride. Choose and write about a positive and unique quality of the United States that makes you proud to be an American.'' Topics ranged from freedom of speech, religious and political equality and the right to pursue one's dreams.

American Honda and Machado created the scholarship because of a shared belief in the importance of education.

The winners are: Catherine Chou of Granada Hills High School, Steven Kessler of Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies, Dorothy Kwok of Grover Cleveland High School in Reseda, Monica Modi of John F. Kennedy High School in Granada Hills, Sam Pogosian of James Monroe High School in North Hills and Jesus Vaca of Ulysses S. Grant High School in Van Nuys.

The Sun Valley Rotary Club recently awarded $1,600 in scholarships to four students from Francis Polytechnic High School and Village Christian School.

The Community Service Scholarship winners and amounts received are: Kimberly Dreher, $500, of Village Christian; Tang Hoang, $750, and Mary Sol Carrillo, $250, both of Francis Polytechnic; and Noor Salim, $100, of Village Christian.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 7, 2002
Words:804
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