Hardeep Ahdi immigrated from India as a child. He’s a devout member of the Sikh Gurdwara temple in Ventura; president of his high school’s Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) club; and vice president of the Junior Statesmen of America and Future Scientists & Engineers of America clubs. He recently started a popular Indian culture club on campus.

He’s been a tireless volunteer at the Goleta Branch Library and works in the sterile processing department at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. He wants to go to USC and become a doctor.

That’s his past, and possibly his future. At present, the Dos Pueblos High senior with an electrifying smile is the 2009 Goleta Teen of the Year.

Ahdi was selected from among seven finalists for the community service award bestowed annually by the Rotary Club of Goleta Noontime. His name — and that of runner-up Julia Johnson, a senior at Bishop Diego High — was announced during a ceremony Thursday night at the UCSB Faculty Club.

With the honor, Ahdi received a $2,000 cash scholarship from the Rotary Club and a $1,000 bond from the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The 17-year-old son of Gagan and Darshan Ahdi of Goleta was ecstatic.

“I just thought that all my hard work would pay off in the end,” he said. “I’m going to USC to be a bio-med major, so this money will help me get through medical school!”

Ahdi completed 500 hours of community service en route to the title. The Goleta Teen of the Year program requires nominees to contribute to community, school, youth groups, faith organizations, service clubs and nonprofit groups, all while maintaining a minimum 2.75 grade-point average and selling a lot of raffle tickets. The teens also undergo interview and presentation training that will help the eventual winner carry out his or her public duties as Goleta Teen of the Year. The competition is open to juniors and seniors attending Bishop, Dos Pueblos, Laguna Blanca and San Marcos high schools and who live in the Goleta Valley.

Ahdi’s mom escorted her son to the stage during the ceremony. Afterward, when asked how she felt about her son’s accomplishment, she beamed, “Excited … very excited.”

Sandra Iraheta, the 2008 Goleta Teen of the Year, returned from UC San Diego to congratulate the finalists on their accomplishments.

Sandra Iraheta, the 2008 Goleta Teen of the Year, returned from UC San Diego to congratulate the finalists on their accomplishments. (Tara Yeto photo)

The ceremony opened with a return appearance by 2008 Goleta Teen of the Year Sandra Iraheta, who summed up the emotions that go along with the honor.

“I’m grateful I don’t have to be in your shoes waiting for those rejection letters,” joked the San Marcos grad and UC San Diego freshman. “But just know we are very proud of you. I want to wish you the best of luck and remind you to do what makes you happy.”

Max White, business manager of the Goleta Valley chamber, echoed that theme during the awards portion of the evening.

“We were all born to sing a song,” she said. “I want you all to sing your song for all to hear.”

Johnson, also 17, was named runner-up and was awarded a $1,500 cash scholarship. She is the daughter of Alison and Michael Schaumburg of Goleta.

The other finalists, all seniors, were Paige Crane, Suvini Jayasekera, Nina Marchiando and Matthew McClenathen of Dos Pueblos, and Scott Messier of San Marcos. They each received a $1,000 cash scholarship. In the past nine years, the Rotary Club of Goleta Noontime has awarded $71,700 in scholarship money.

The teens also made $100 donations to six nonprofit groups: Boy Scouts of America, Los Padres Council; Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy; the Endowment for Youth Committee; Foodbank of Santa Barbara County; Goleta Valley Historical Society; and Kids Helping Kids.

Thursday’s ceremony was emceed by Larry Crandell, who has delighted in introducing the candidates — and cracking his trademark one-liners — almost every year for nearly 20 years. Cami Helmuth was chairwoman of this year’s Goleta Teen of the Year program.

Joining Rotary Club of Goleta Noontime as sponsors were the American Red Cross-Santa Barbara County Chapter, Cindy Clark of Shear Pleasure, Deckers Outdoors Corp., Goleta Jewelers, the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce, Landshark, Luxury Limousines, Red Baron Aviation, Santa Barbara Bank & Trust and Windhaven Glider Rides.

This year’s judges were Helmuth, Goleta City Councilmen Roger Aceves and Michael Bennett; Rotary Club of Goleta Noontime president Connie Burns; and Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen.

Helmuth and Burns were joined on the program committee by Rotarians Cheryl Forssell, Michael Gartzke, David Gore, Steve Jones, Barbara Klein, Karin Napel, Tricia Taylor, Barbara Tzur, David Vo and Tara Yeto.

Proclamations were presented by Goleta Mayor Eric Onnen and Santa Barbara County Supervisors Doreen Farr and Janet Wolf, and on behalf of Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, and Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.

— Kevin McFadden is a Noozhawk contributor.