Community service, high GPAs, lifestyle turnarounds and great attitudes are cause for celebration
■ Chronicle News Service
The Sizzler Restaurant was again the place to celebrate the students of the month from high schools in Hemet and San Jacinto. The awards breakfast was held on Oct. 19 and honored students from the following high schools: Hemet High, West Valley, Tahquitz, Hamilton, Alessandro, San Jacinto High, and Mountain View High School/Mountain Heights Academy.
John Gonzalez was chosen as Hemet High’s student of the month by his art history and computer science teacher, Mr. Walsh, who nominated John for his positive attitude and marching to the beat of his own drum. Walsh said John is a skilled programmer and artist, a combination he rarely sees. John found his interest in programming at a young age and hopes to attend college and major in computer science or graphic design. Despite many challenges he has been faced with, including his mom being deported when he was a child, he continues to work toward his goals with a positive attitude.
Aaron Wu was nominated as West Valley High School’s student of the month by his Advanced Placement (AP) physics and English teacher, Mr. Sean Matthews, for his leadership. Aaron is the only senior at West Valley who has taken all three AP science classes offered at the school. He completed AP biology and AP physics and successfully passed both exams. This year he is enrolled in the final AP science course, AP chemistry. Aaron hopes to attend University of California, Berkeley to major in computer science. His goal is to provide a better quality of life for his family.
Joseph Priest was selected as Tahquitz High School’s student of the month by Principal Eric Dahlstrom for being a reminder of how staff support can help a student. Joseph was deficient in his credits and was told he would not graduate on time. During this time, his brothers were in jail, he didn’t have a stable home, and found himself wanting to give up. He then enrolled in Alessandro High School and with the support of staff he was able to get back on track, transfer to Tahquitz High School, and will graduate on time. With the support of his godmother and the Tahquitz staff, he currently has a 3.5 GPA and would like to attend San Diego State University and major in computer science.
Makayla Ruffing Teel was selected by teacher Mary Kleinvachter at Hamilton High School for helping her peers and overcoming challenges. At a young age, Makayla was told she had a learning disability, and she attended many classes and put in a lot of effort to overcome this challenge. Throughout her time at Hamilton, she has taken various Honors and AP classes, has played on the school’s basketball and volleyball teams, and is a member of ASB, National Honor Society, and Interact. Makayla plans to attend college and major in business. She would also like to attend law school.
Raysha Blalock was nominated by Mr. Ken Messenger as Alessandro High School’s student of the month for being a campus leader. Messenger said Raysha came to Alessandro last year and was very shy. However, this year she has come out of her shell and become a true leader. Raysha is in PLUS (Peer Leadership Uniting Students), ASB, and has volunteered during the school’s blood drive. Raysha grew up in Texas and when her family moved to California, she found herself giving up because of the difficult workload. She transferred to Alessandro, had a conversation with her counselor and decided that this was her opportunity for redemption. She hopes to attend University of California, Los Angeles to pursue her dream of becoming an attorney.
English teacher Bethany Gibson nominated Felicity Dorn as San Jacinto High School’s student of the month. Felicity is described by teachers and Principal Luke Smith as an excellent student, taking International Baccalaureate and AP courses, and is a team member of Academic Decathlon. At first Felicity was painfully shy and afraid to speak to her teachers and peers; if she didn’t understand something, she would wait until all students had left the class before she would talk to the teacher. After a while, she learned it wasn’t so scary to ask questions, she became more involved and her world became brighter. Felicity’s goal is to come back to the community after college, to make it bigger and brighter for others and inspire others to dream. She is known for her dedication to her family and for her perseverance. “You can reach your dreams and beyond,” said Felicity.
Ramon Vasquez was nominated by math teacher Karen Lee as Mtn. View High School’s student of the month. He shared his trials in growing up, moving to different schools and getting mixed up with the wrong crowd. He became very angry and depressed when his older brother was incarcerated in 2012, and on his mother’s birthday in 2015, Ramon was arrested for petty theft and other charges, which caused him to be incarcerated for a few months. He started up again with school and began taking classes at Mountain View as a junior.
“Never give up and when times get hard, then you be a warrior and push even harder and I promise you will not be disappointed in yourself as I was before I started at Mountain View,” said Ramon. Principal Ken Swanson attests to Ramon’s dedication to getting his life back on track and that Ramon, who graduated Nov. 7, was the first in his family to finish high school. He plans to attend Cal State Channel Islands in Camarillo and major in business, so that one day he can own his own business and give back to the community like those businesses who sponsor the Student of the Month program.
Each student received a backpack containing gifts, gift certificates, a plaque, among other items.