Hemet Education Foundation Honors Six Local Graduates


Hemet seniors receive $5000 and $500 scholarships

After a tumultuous year and a half of virtual and hybrid learning and an unavoidable hiatus in traditional school programs and activities in the Hemet Unified School District, this year’s graduating seniors finally felt some sense of normality as they participated senior awards ceremonies, the first since spring of 2019.

Five lucky seniors from the district’s comprehensive high schools – Hemet High, West Valley, Tahquitz, Hamilton High and Western Center Academy — received the Hemet Education Foundation’s (HEF) generous $5000 scholarship, while a sixth student from the Academy of Innovation, one of the district’s alternative schools, walked away with a $500 HEF scholarship. The $5000 HEF Scholarship recipients were Alize Acevedo, Hamilton; Malia Arrocena, Tahquitz; Cambria Beard, Hemet High; Elijahua Contreras, Western Center; and Lailah Dodd, West Valley. Judith Almaraz of the Academy of Innovation was the $500 scholarship winner.

Lailah Dodd West Valley Courtesy Photo of Sue Breyer

Hamilton High School graduate, Alize Acevedo, has already been accepted to the Pre-Nursing program at Cal Baptist University in Riverside, with the goal of becoming a Registered Nurse or midwife. Acevedo says she is a “very determined and hardworking person and going to college and receiving this scholarship will mean so much to me and my parents.” Hamilton English teacher, Rebekah Mortensen Young, says Alize “is conscientious with her work and applies her strong work ethic to her studies.”

An avid cheerleader and one of a set of triplets, Malia Arrocena from Tahquitz High School knew early on that it would be a challenge for her parents to support her and her two sisters through four years of college. With her desire to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, Malia knew she needed to maintain her grades, focus on math and science, and contribute financially however she could. She hopes to attend either Ottawa University in Arizona or Cal State Fullerton in the fall. Sarah Peterson, Tahquitz High School Varsity Cheer coach, says, “Malia is a self-starter and is very motivated and exhibits tremendous compassion for others.”

Elijahua Contreras, Western Center Academy Courtesy Photo of Sue Breyer

Hemet High School’s Cambria Beard is described by her cheer coach as “outgoing and full of life, and always willing to give her all to every activity.” She is “dedicated, hardworking, compassionate, kind and never misses the opportunity to help others,” according to Michelle Mazza, Cambria’s employer, traits that are critical to the nursing profession, Cambria’s career choice. “This year has solidified my decision to pursue a career in the medical field, as doctors, nurses, and paramedics are the heroes of 2020,” Cambria explains. She hopes to attend Cal State San Marcos or Cal Baptist University and major in nursing, with a goal of eventually working in the neonatal or trauma units or in anesthesiology.

Alize Acevedo, Hamilton HS Courtesy Photo of Sue Breyer

Western Center Academy graduate Elijahua Contreras is focused on the future and the many ways he can help the general public. He has spent the past four years of high school leading and encouraging others while participating in the many activities, both in-person and virtually, that the Western Center Academy has to offer. Contreras says that “compassion, care and kindness have always been traits that I honor. I aspire to be there for those in need.” Hoping to attend UCLA or UC Irvine, Contreras’s projected career path is the medical field, with a focus on public health, biology, or clinical science.

Judith Almaraz, Academy of Innovation Courtesy Photo of Sue Breyer

West Valley High School senior Lailah Dodd loves to write her own short fiction stories and runs her own YouTube channel and has her mind set on becoming a journalist. Cynthia Arambula, West Valley site coordinator for the nationally recognized after school program, Think Together, says that “Lailah presents perseverance, ambition, and creativity which is exactly what the journalism field needs.” Lailah plans to attend either UC Riverside or Cal State San Bernardino with a major in English.

Judith Almaraz, a graduating senior from Hemet’s Academy of Innovation, is passionate about Neuropsychology, a branch of psychology that focuses on how a person’s cognition and behavior are related to the brain and nervous system. Almaraz says that to “be able to teach others how the mind works when it is affected by accidents or diseases” would be her life’s main goal. Her plans are to attend Mt. San Jacinto Community College and pursue a major in psychology.

Malia Arrocena,Tahquitz HS Courtesy Photo of Sue Breyer

The Hemet Education Foundation has been supporting the students and schools in the Hemet Unified School District for over forty years through yearly student scholarships and numerous financial donations to the district’s many programs. Scholarship funds are generated by its only fundraising project, the “Bucks-a-Month Club,” a district-wide payroll deduction program with district employees making monthly donations to the foundation. To contribute to the Hemet Education Foundation, go to https://www.iegives.org/give/ and choose Hemet Education Foundation Endowment.

Sue Breyer, Co-President, Hemet Education Foundation

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