Manteca High School senior Poonam Kaur Dehal holds a certificate in Suicide Intervention Training.
She obtained her certification before the start of her junior year when she went to work for San Joaquin’s Behavioral Science Department. During that summer-long job stint, she learned about illicit drugs and substances as well as human behavior, plus considerable training in suicide prevention.
Those six weeks in summer prepared her for a whole year of educating students in Manteca High’s feeder elementary schools about the dangers of using drugs and other substances.
“Throughout my junior year, I encountered kids that lived in an environment where illicit activity was absolutely acceptable, and even some kids who already took part in drug use,” Dehal wrote in a personal essay, describing her experience working with 10-year-old students through her involvement with Students in Prevention, a campus program.
This is just one of the many reasons Dehal was picked by Soroptimist International of Manteca to be the recipient of the $2,000 Betty Bergthold Memorial Scholarship award which is now in its 13th year. The scholarship, which is given away every year, is in honor of the charter member and third president of the service club. A pioneer in the mortuary business and a certified mortician, Bergthold owned and operated Bergthold Mortuary in Manteca with her husband Charles in the 1980s. The mortuary, located in downtown Manteca at the corner of West Center Street and Maple Avenue, is now a day spa.
Dehal, who is a contender for either valedictorian or salutatorian of her graduating class at Manteca High, is described by her AP Chemistry Teacher Andrew M. Lee as a student who “has always been an academic standout and a role model among her peers.” He also described her as someone who is always looking “to improve her medical experience by volunteering weekly at our local hospital” where she has given 100 hours of service.
In addition to the Soroptimist scholarship award, Dehal has received recognition for her work as an SIP (Students In Prevention) Peer Educator. She was also the recipient of a Sandia National Science Award at the Sandia Women’s Connection event, and was nominated to attend the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine for demonstrating leadership potential and academic achievement.
At Manteca High, Dehal is a member of the Academic Decathlon and belongs to about a dozen clubs including AP Biology (treasurer), Art Club, California Scholastic Federation, Eastern Cultures Club, Link Crew secretary, Hiking Club president, Link Crew, and Friday Night Live Club. She has been active in sports as well. She was in track from freshman through senior year, and in cross country during her sophomore and junior years.