Principals and teachers from Murrieta Unified School District recently gathered to share stories about Murrieta’s Students of the Year, it was announced. Each received a $2,000 college scholarship along with numerous gift certificates from community businesses, certificates of recognition, congratulations and encouragement from local, county, state and federal dignitaries.
Vista Murrieta High School Senior James Jesperson has a passion for student leadership and he has been actively involved throughout high school, accumulating over 500 hours of community service. James was Freshman and Sophomore Class Vice president, ASB president, Vice President of the National Honor Society and editor of the school yearbook. James has also been in cross country and track and he was on the school’s Speech and Debate team. James promotes unity on campus and he is genuinely interested in other people and he always goes the extra mile to serve others. James has deferred his acceptance to Madison University in New York so he can study dance at The Joffrey School of Ballet for one year. He plans to major in political science and he hopes to one day work for the United Nations.
Vista Murrieta High School Senior Erica Reddish is an incredible athlete and one of the state’s best runners. Erica was CIF-SS Division 1 girls cross country champion this year and she won the CIF-SS Division 1 girls 1,600 meters two consecutive years making her Vista Murrieta’s first CIF champion in track. However, Erica’s athletic achievements don’t define her; she is extremely humble and modest about her accomplishments. Along with her involvement in cross country and track, Erica has maintained a 4.1 GPA and she has over 450 community service hours. Erica plays piano for her church and she is committed to her family, her teammates and her friends. She is respectful of others and she has gained the respect of her peers and her teachers. Erica has received a scholarship to run for BYU and she plans to become a physician’s assistant.
Calvary Murrieta Christian High School Senior Gabriela Lumagui will attend UCLA as a biology major. Gabriela has a passion for science and for serving others and she wants to go to medical school and serve in third world countries with Doctors Without Borders. Gabriela is at the top of her class academically and she is a member of National Honor Society and her school’s Key Club. Gabriela’s parents emigrated to the U.S. from Columbia and on family trips to Columbia and mission trips to Mexico she saw the poverty and lack of basic necessities which inspired her to serve others overseas. Gabriela is described as a person who is wise beyond her years and she is respected by her teachers and peers for her leadership, compassion and work ethic.
Tenaja Canyon Academy Senior Kelsey Mobley has overcome a number of challenges after undergoing spinal surgery and enduring a lengthy physical rehabilitation. Because of the excellent care she received, Kelsey became interested in pursuing a career as a registered nurse. In addition to pursuing her studies at Tenaja’s independent study program, Kelsey undertook an internship at Loma Linda University Medical Center and she completed a medical assistant program at Murrieta Valley High School. Kelsey is known for her character, integrity and her heart for helping other people. Kelsey maintains a 3.8 GPA and her ability to take obstacles and turn them into opportunities has inspired her friends, family and teachers. Kelsey will attend Cal Baptist University as a nursing major and she plans to go on the mission field and help other people.
Murrieta Valley High School Senior Ryan Talamantes is an Eagle Scout, captain of the Mock Trial team and a member of the National Honor Society. Ryan is a leader who is passionate about learning and the law. He will be among the first IB Diploma graduates at MVHS and he said the International Baccalaureate program has helped him look at the world with a global perspective. Ryan is always smiling and he puts others before himself and extends himself to help other students. Ryan’s teachers describe him as a leader with outstanding character and integrity. Ryan plans to attend Arizona State University where he will major in political science.
Murrieta Valley High School Senior Kathryn Clark is an exceptional student who is valedictorian of her class of 600 students. She has taken advantage of all the opportunities available to her in high school. She is Vice President of ASB and a member of California Scholarship Federation and the National Honor Society. She started the school’s Pink Ribbon Club because of her grandmother’s battle against cancer. Kathryn is also a three-sport athlete in volleyball, track and field. She was the captain of the basketball team and she coaches youth basketball for the City of Murrieta. Kathryn is compassionate, she has a heart for helping people and she has impeccable character. After suffering serious injuries playing basketball this year, Kathryn went through surgery and returned to school in a wheelchair. She faced those challenges with resilience, grace and dignity. Kathryn will attend Johns Hopkins University as a pre-med major and she plans to go into orthopedics or cancer research.
Murrieta Mesa High School Senior Cody Downs is compassionate, humble and he wants to make the world a better place. Cody has been highly involved in school as a member his school’s United Student Body, California Scholarship Federation, the Invisible Children Club and the Pink Ribbon Club. He was President of Make a Wish and he was involved in Race for the Cure. Cody excels in basketball as well as in the classroom. He has a personal sense of civic responsibility and integrity that is an inspiration to teachers and staff on campus. Cody will go to Point Loma Nazarene University where he will major in biology and chemistry. He then plans to go into the military and become a trauma surgeon and after serving in the military, Cody plans to serve with Doctors without Borders.
Murrieta Mesa High School Senior Emily Minor counts herself as fortunate to be alive following a life-threatening jet ski accident two years ago. She came back to school in a wheelchair and she said the accident has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Emily said the accident taught her how important it is to live life to the fullest and pursue your passion with pride and dignity. Emily’s passion is drama and she had a leading role in the Sound of Music, Carnival and Thoroughly Modern Millie. Emily is not only talented on stage; she is also a gifted singer and writer. Emily is also involved in National Honor Society, the Pink Ribbon Club, Student Senate and she serves in the children’s ministry at her church. Emily will attend Azusa Pacific University next year and major in theater and education. Her goal is to become a drama teacher.
The Students of the Year were chosen by a panel of anonymous, independent judges from this year’s Students of the Month. These outstanding college-bound students were chosen for their character, integrity, love of learning, ability to persevere and overcome challenging circumstances, community service and how they make a difference on their high school campus.
*Contributed by Murrieta Unified School District