Santa Paula Times
Jr. Achievement: SPHS students lauded by Rotary for their efforts
Published:  May 10, 2016

The Rotary Club lauded Santa Paula High School Juniors for their achievements at a recent meeting where the next generation showed they already are displaying the right stuff for success.

Rotary President Judy Phelps and Rotarians Maria Bombara and Chris Wilson — the latter the President of the Santa Paula Unified School District Board of Directors — presented the annual Jr. Achievement awards created by the late Carl Barringer.

Businessman Barringer, a Past Rotary Club President, and Santa Paula mayor, established the program in 1959.

All Jr. Achievement students honored were nominated by a teacher, counselor or school administrator and received a certificate as well as a Yokozuna Sushi gift certificate.

Students from each field of study were recognized not only for academic excellence but also for grade improvement, strength of character, influence on peers and personal achievement among other benchmarks.

Quoting Mother Teresa, Bombara noted “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.”

Those words also apply to the Rotary Club and its collaboration with Santa Paula High School.

“We share the Santa Paula community and strive to always make it better.”

Said Bombara, “Our message to you is yes we can,” and if the whenever and for whatever reason, you doubt yourself, remember these faces of your Santa Paula community told you, yes, you can.”

The Club awards about $20,000 in scholarships to high school graduates each year and Bombara urged the students to apply next year.

Bombara urged the students to always remember, “You’re extraordinary, let your parents rejoice in you,” and the fine work they have done as scholars and human beings.

Counselor Karen Giroux nominated Antonio Almarez. A member of the Human Services Academy Antonio is able to “articulate his views and relate well to others.” Involved in MESA (as VP), Key Club, football, team captain of wrestling, and a Big Brother, Antonio also helps to support his family. He plans on attending a UC university to major in biology or mechanical engineering.

“This is a big thing for me,” said Tony of his recognition, “and I wish the others here the best of luck.”

Daisy Candelas was nominated by counselor Daniella Martinez who described Daisy as a “leader and an exemplary student.” She has earned 4.50 GPA and “is challenging herself by taking three AP classes and excelling in all.” She also participates in sports, clubs and community service.

Daisy thanked the Rotarians for the Jr. Achievement Award and Martinez for “recognizing and acknowledging the effort,” she has put into her studies and extra activities.

AVID Teacher Cynthia Hernandez wrote Jesus Contreras is “a high achieving student athlete,” constantly challenging himself “to be the best in the classroom and on the field.” He has a passion for soccer, carries a 4.6 GPA, and participates in several clubs including STEM. He has varied career interests and is a first generation college student.

“I would not be here without the support of my peers and teachers,” said Jesus, who is interested in engineering as well as medical research.

Sebastian Miller was unable to attend the awards but Sofia Ajiri, his Statistics teacher, wrote he is “a very intelligent and responsible young man” with a “quiet intelligence and a critical thinking mind…his test results are always the highest score in every assessment.” 

Nayhb Oseguera won two awards, Science and Social Science. Teachers Amber McPherson and Christine Wilkinson wrote that he is an “exceptional student” that has a record of A grades starting with his freshman year, including college courses. The FFA secretary is a proficient public speaker and active in MESA and earned a second place in a national competition for his work on a prosthetic arm.

“Thank you for two awards,” said Nayhb, who also thanked “everyone since I was little who encouraged me…”

Lilia Perez’s Special Education teacher Betty Smith wrote that Lilia has been “an inspiration and hard worker,” who has “strived to overcome the many obstacles that had crossed her path” and done so. Always helpful to others she is a member of SPHS MENCHA and Folklorico and plans on becoming a nurse.

“This award means a lot to me,” said Lilia who also thanked Smith for “saying nice things about me!”

Edgar Rendon was nominated by Rocio Bravo Chavez who noted he is a “hardworking student” actively involved in the Migrant Student Program. In his native Mexico he was a scholar and remains so at SPHS where he “with ease assimilated into a new culture.” A debater, artist and swimmer, Chavez is confident Edgar will attend a four-year university. 

Edgar thanked his teacher for his nomination, thanked Rotarians for the award and thanked everyone “for letting me come here…”

English teacher Nicola Lamb nominated Mireille Vargas, a student that asked her how to improve her writing. “Mireille went from low essay grades to perfect scores, “which are rare and not hastily given.” Working hard towards her AP English Language and Composition exam Mireille will, wrote Lamb “Keep pushing herself toward greatness!”

Said Mireille, “I remember last year seeing in the newspaper,” the article about the 2015 Rotary Jr. Achievement winners. “I thought these people do great things…”

Hannah Freehauf was nominated by FFA Advisor Ag Academy director Alex Flores who wrote her grades, work experience, personal growth, leadership, and hard work “exemplifying the ideals of Rotary.” Since her freshman year Hannah continues to excel, “not just in school but in life,” including a state FFA award.

“It’s an honor to be here,” said Hannah who noted Flores “Has such a huge impact on everybody’s life…”

Danielle Diaz according to Health & Human Services Academy Director Jill Gregory is an active volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Frosh mentoring program. She has interned at SP West Clinic and now with SP Hospital Physical Therapy. With a weighted 4.29 GPA, Diaz is “extremely committed to being a good role model and citizen…”

Danielle included her parents in her thanks noting “Without them I would not be here!”

Rotary President Judy Phelps told Jr. Achievers, “Thank you for being outstanding students,” and “for being you…”

“We thank Rotary for the wonderful work you do,” said SPHS Principal Liz Garcia.