March students of the month announced

Photo by Lakshman Koka
San Jacinto Valley students were honored with backpacks stuffed full of goodies at the March Student of the Month awards breakfast at the Hemet Sizzler.

■ Staff Reports / The Valley Chronicle

Another outstanding group of students from Hemet and San Jacinto unified school districts was recognized as March’s students of the month at an awards breakfast held at the Sizzler Restaurant in Hemet. Honorees received backpacks filled with gifts, gift certificates, a plaque, and more.
The recognition program honored students from Hemet High School, West Valley High School, Tahquitz High School, Hamilton High School, ASPIRE Community Day School, San Jacinto High School and Mountain View High School/Mountain Heights Academy.
Valery Carrillo, West Valley High School’s recipient, was nominated by her PE coach, Rose Aiken. Carrillo has been in the school’s band all four years of high school, and she approached Aiken in an effort to strengthen herself to improve her band performance. She plans to attend Riverside City College and transfer to the University of California, Riverside or California Baptist University to pursue a career in an orchestra or symphonic band.
Anthony Finney was nominated as ASPIRE Community Day School’s student of the month. Counselor LaVerne Williams said he was natural pick for his perseverance and integrity and his ability to face challenges with conviction and determination. Finney said he was kicked out of ASPIRE, and upon realizing that he was on a bad path, he reached out to Principal Christian Miley and asked to return, promising he would be a better student and person. This semester he earned a 4.0 GPA and plans to attend Mt. San Jacinto Community College to become certified in its automotive program and will then explore a career as a deep sea welder.
James (Jimmy) Gillam was selected by Craig Miller, his ASB and leadership teacher at Hamilton High School. Miller said he nominated Gillam for being a campus leader…both on the field and off. Gillam has been a part of the school’s Cross Country, Track, and Wrestling teams all four years. He was league champion in his weight class for wrestling, and qualified for CIF individual finals his entire high school career. He is ASB secretary and chairperson for the school’s “Every 15 Minutes” program. He plans to attend Sam Houston State University, majoring in criminal justice. He hopes to pursue a career as a police officer.
Anusha Koka was nominated by James Walsh, Hemet High School teacher and mock trial coach, for being a diversely talented student. Koka currently holds a 4.69 GPA, is in choir, is president of the Habitat for Humanity club and has been a mock trial lawyer for three years. In the fall she will attend the Pennsylvania State-Thomas Jefferson University’s Accelerated Premedical-Medical program to pursue her career plans as a general family practitioner. Walsh said, “In any one area Anusha is remarkable, but the breadth of her talents is what makes her nearly unbelievable.”
Math teacher Lisa Sprenkle nominated Anneka Manzano as San Jacinto High School’s student of the month. Sprenkle shared that Manzano is “unassuming but amazing” and noted that anyone becomes a better person by knowing her. She was a founding member and current secretary of the school’s Patriot Tigers club, formed to honor military veterans. “Anneka pushes others to do their best and ranks second in her graduating class,” said Principal Luke Smith. She is still deciding between attending UCLA or USC. Manzano shared that having a positive attitude is very important when encountering difficult circumstances and that resiliency is a very important character trait. She noted her small stature and being from the Philippines were things she had to overcome. “I tell all my friends, ‘we’ll figure it out’ when we get stuck on something,” she said, noting that a positive attitude makes all the difference.
Matt Onufryk was nominated by science teacher Harry Ebeling as Mountain View High School’s student of the month. “Matt is a great kid with a big smile,” said Ebeling. “He plays the ukulele and even taught me some chords.” Principal Ken Swanson explained that Onufryk is Mountain View’s first student member with the district’s board of trustees, and he is very proud of Matt in having this first-time honor. “Attending Mtn. View High and music helped get me back on track,” shared Matt, who also attends San Jacinto High for first period band class. Onufryk is no stranger to hardship; he and his mother were homeless until he was four years old, and moved from hotels and grandparents’ homes until they landed in a San Jacinto apartment complex, where he has lived ever since. Continued home-life hardships began a decline in his school work, but that has turned around and he will attend Chaffey College in the fall and then plans to attend Whittier College, two schools noted for literary studies, which he says will help him write great lyrics and put “Hemet and San Jacinto on the map!”
Jasmine Randolph was selected as Tahquitz High School’s student of the month. Randolph was selected by Government Teacher Chris Fowlkes for always being on-task and on-time. Randolph will be the first person in her family going straight from high school to college, attending San Francisco State University to major in international relations. She is currently enrolled in a number of advanced placement classes and extracurricular activities. This is her first year at Tahquitz and said the transition was hard, but thanked Fowlkes for recognizing her and said “It means a lot to know that someone has taken notice of my effort.”

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