Twelve Temecula high school seniors were honored as Students of the Year on May 21 by the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce. Each student received a scholarship in the amount of $1,437 along with other gifts contributed by local businesses sponsors. The students were selected by a panel of judges for their outstanding achievements, academic excellence and perseverance:
Great Oak High School
Hannah Youngwirth’s nominating teacher, Jerry Burdick-Rutz says, “Hannah is a self-driven, curious student who is both loving and compassionate.” Hannah is determined to make a difference. It was while watching a documentary about Jane Goodall that Hannah became inspired to “leave behind a great foundation for the future”. Hannah is active in school activities such as Active Earth, Habitat for Humanity, the Science Olympiad, Speech & Debate, choir, music and theater. Hannah is taking her passion to heart and will study Ecology at the University of California, San Diego this fall.
Ian Shaw says his passion is thinking. He says that in addition to unlocking the beauties of life, thought has led people to do great things such as develop cities and create the social structure of our country. In addition to deep thought, IB English teacher Aimee Ricken says Ian exudes deep integrity and honor. She describes him as a role model and someone who “never looks down on others.” Ian will attend the U.S. Naval Academy in the fall to study Mathematics.
Susan H. Nelson High School
Nominating teacher, Terry Berg describes Isabella Garcia as, “a lovely, graceful person, who always puts forth her best effort.” Isabella’s father, Samuel, says his daughter has always had a determined spirit and is the type of person who can overcome anything. After her grades began to slip at the start of high school, Isabella made the decision to do what she needed to do to get her grades up. She worked so hard, in fact, that she was able to graduate early in January. Isabella is currently living in Paris for the summer. In the future she hopes to earn a business degree and start her own business.
Rancho Vista High School
Corri’s English teacher, Mrs. Cerny says Corri has a great attitude and is helpful to others at school. She is involved is student government, the Temecula Police Explorer’s program and is actively involved in her church youth group. Corri’s greatest life lesson so far has been to never lose sight of your goals. She says, “If you believe in yourself, you can do whatever you want to do.” Active with the Temecula Police Explorers, Corri is already on the path to do what she wants to do- become a Riverside County Deputy Sheriff. She will attend Palomar College in the fall to earn an Administration of Justice degree.
Linfield Christian High School
Linfield teacher Amber Young says, “Kathryn Combs has sincerity of heart.” As her tennis and track coach, Ms. Young sees Kathryn as “motivated not by external factors, but from within”. She is “sincere, enthusiastic, and energetic”. Kathryn has traveled to missions in Haiti and hopes to continue pursuing service opportunities in her life. With a love of reading, writing and history, Kathryn plans to attend college in Wheaton, Illinois to study English or History.
Nominated by teacher Marlo Renno, Randy Keefe is described as “busy, loyal, committed, and a person of great excellence”. Mrs. Renno says, “Randy is the most responsible and dependable student I have ever had the pleasure of working with. He is involved in his school, church and local politics. Among Randy’s accomplishments at Linfield, he is the ASB President, Student Ambassador President, a member of the Interact Club, and writes for the student newspaper. Randy will attend Hillsdale College in the fall and hopes to one day pursue a career in politics.
Temecula Preparatory High School
Noel Adkins’s nominating teacher, Joseph Arreola describes Noel as, “loyal, respected and a leader who
follows through.” Noel says she is a true believer that one must “push yourself as hard as you can.” She is the first in her family to go to college. Noel says one of the greatest lesson’s she’s learned is that, “Something is only a failure if you don’t get up and try again.” With an ambitious spirit, Noel was instrumental in starting an Invisible Children Club at school. She hopes to start a non-profit of her own in the future to aid children in Uganda. Her future plans include studying agricultural and equine studies at UC Davis.
Rancho Christian High School
Nominated by Athletic Director Kelly Gill, Luke Amargo is described as both a “seeker of truth” and a “risk taker.” Ms. Gill says Luke has a broad, mature perspective and describes him as an articulate, critical thinker who embodies the schools mission: to be a systematic observer. Luke says he has the best family in the world and is inspired by this parent’s work ethic and marriage. Upon graduation, Luke plans to study English and Digital Arts at Grand Canyon University.
Temecula Valley High School
JROTC Instructor, Col. Jay Sweetnam describes Illiana Salazar-Dodge as an inspirational leader. Illiana has participated in charitable activities such as Race for the Cure and Soles for Souls where she, with the help of others, donated nine large boxes of shoes for the needy. Illiana is passionate about the environment and sustainable development. She is active in Varsity Swim, Interact Club, Debate Team, Varsity Water Polo, CSF, NHS, and Youth Advisory Council. Illiana plans on studying Civil/Environmental Engineering and Sustainable Development Columbia University.
JROTC Instructor, Col. Jay Sweetnam describes Christopher Brown as an “articulate student leader and valuable team player.” Chris says he was shy when he first started high school, but decided to put himself out there and try new things in order to develop his people skills. He later became Vice President of the Interact Club and Co-Captain of the Mock Trial team. In the fall, Chris plans on studying Political Science at Vassar University with the ambition of becoming a lawyer.
Chaparral High School
AP Biology teacher, Michelle Baun nominated Laurel Salinas not only for her academic achievements, but because of her work ethic and commitment to challenging herself. Not only is Laurel President of the Key Club, which did 500 hours of community service hours this year, she is also President of the Biotech Club, involved in Peer Leaders, the Interact Club, CSF and the swim team. Laurel says her passion is learning and through her volunteer work at the Boys & Girls Club, she hopes to help other kids find their passion. Laurel will attend UC Davis in the fall to earn a degree in Bioengineering. She ultimately hopes to work in the healthcare industry.
Math teacher, Anne McNulty says Brendan Kelley is one of the top students in her Differential Equations class. She says, “He approaches difficult topics with a zest and enjoyment of taking on a challenge.” Brendan’s father describes him as a young man with “quiet confidence and a passion of engineering and music.” Brendan says one experience that helped shaped him is when he was eleven and his family adopted a child from Russia. Brendan says the situation was initially challenging because, “Almost immediately I had to share nearly my entire life with a new brother.” He says the two have since forged a strong brotherly bond and are best of friends. In the fall, Brendan plans to attend University of California, Los Angeles and pursue a degree in electrical engineering.
*Contributed by Temecula Valley Unified School District