San Jacinto Valley students honored in December


The Hemet/San Jacinto Student of the Month program held its most recent recognition breakfast at the Maze Stone at Soboba Springs Golf Course on Dec. 14. Six local high school seniors were recognized and honored for their character, love of learning and commitment to academics in addition to their involvement in school and community activities and their ability to overcome difficult life circumstances. And they do this all in a setting that honors God, country, family, community and free enterprise. Students are nominated by teachers or other school personnel for making a difference in their homes, schools and communities.

Local program founder and event facilitator Karena Zermeno also represents one of the sponsors, Altura Credit Union. Backpacks filled with gifts, a Student of the Month award, certificates of recognition and much more were donated by community sponsors to the award recipients. Each student was invited to the podium to share their personal story, past challenges and future goals with a room full of supporters that included principals, teachers, peers and family members, as well as community and school district dignitaries.

December’s students of the month from Hemet Unified School District schools are Do’Jonni “DJ” Bryant, Natalie Perez Flores, Jasmine Moralez and Loren Sullivan. San Jacinto Unified’s honorees for December are Donald Downs and Trinity Jones.

Hemet Unified School District

Do’Jonni “DJ” Bryant

Tahquitz High School recognized DJ in December for standing out in many different ways – his athleticism, in the classroom, and in his acting but most notably for being positive and optimistic. He has become one of the best football players at Tahquitz l after transferring to the school at the start of his junior year. Teacher Monique Knibb said DJ, “immediately became a game changer and undoubtedly will paint this world with his passions, tenacity, humility, humor and above all, his love for others and his family.” She said when he is not carrying his team on the football field or blazing a trail on the track, DJ spends his time building up others around him. “DJ also has an innate ability to lead others in acts of kindness,” Knibb said. “He is truly a remarkable young man who excels in academics, athletics and is just a good human, pure and simple.” DJ said his greatest contribution is his ability to uplift others around him. He plans to attend college where he can continue to play football, hoping to get a full ride to a Division 1 school. “I’m excited to see what my future holds. I’ve had many blessings in my life but I have had challenges that have forced me to see life differently,” DJ said. “Most recently, my granddad (William Bryant Jr.) passed away. He was the man who taught me to have respect and good manners. He always believed in me and never let me forget who I am. He was one of the smartest people that I’ve known; his wisdom was communicated through all his life lessons and talents.”

Natalie Perez Flores

West Valley High School Principal Gerardo Zavala said Natalie was chosen to be recognized for her ability to unify peers and staff. She is the current ASB president, has a 4.3 GPA, is on the soccer and track teams and serves as Varsity Cheer captain while taking rigorous AP and IB classes. In her spare time, she loves to attend leadership conferences, learn new things, and is active with her church’s youth group and homeless outreach programs. Her teacher William Valenzuela said, “What stands out to me for Natalie isn’t this list of accomplishments; it’s the values she carries with her on a daily basis. She’s genuine, authentic, hopeful and optimistic. Every day that Natalie is on our campus, she makes it a great day to be a Mustang. Natalie said her parents taught her to give back to her community through her local church after moving to Hemet about four years ago. “Being involved with extracurricular activities has brought me great joy but it never failed to get in the way of the importance of my academics,” Natalie said. “School has always been my top priority and I have been fortunate enough to obtain awards such as the one today but also for being top five in my class for both my sophomore and junior years. My education has been the most important thing in my life and ever since I was a little girl, I have dreamt of becoming a pediatrician.” She plans to attend the University of Redlands or UC, San Diego to major in biology. “My values and morals that my parents have instilled in me is what I will take with me on my journey to college,” Natalie said.

Jasmine Moralez

Hamilton High School singled out Jasmine for being a student who has taken advantage of all the opportunities a small school offers and has stepped up as a leader. She was selected for this honor by her College/Career Counselor Amy Allen who shared that Jasmine was one of only six students from California invited to Washington DC last summer to represent the Anza Electric Cooperative at a national convention. “What I appreciate most about Jasmine is her resilience and unwavering belief in herself,” Allen said. Jasmine feels her greatest contribution to her community is her willingness to be a leader, whether it is volunteering for community events or helping out with school functions. “I plan to use this quality in my future career as a political scientist,” she said. “I’ve chosen to spend my life in the world of politics after growing up in a home that was shattered by jealousy, lies and the confusion between the words love and control.” At the age of 14 Jasmine had to choose to continue living with her father or go with her mother and sister to live in a shelter for domestic abuse victims. She said that after a year of watching her father be consumed by drugs and anger, she left. “The whole situation forced me to grow up and be the bigger person in a room full of adults,” Jasmine said. “It taught me what I would say is the most significant life lesson I have learned which is that you can’t be living for someone who won’t live for themselves. She thanked her grandmother, who she said, “gave me an out to a very bad situation.”

Loren Sullivan

Hemet High School’s top choice this month is Loren and principal Jeff Franks described her as a “Jill of all trades with a unique skillset” and a cheerleader who is involved in the school’s AG program and a leader in its automotive program. She was nominated by teacher by Joshua Thomson because she “goes out of her way to make sure all of her peers are included.” Loren was born and raised in Hemet. “Being a student-athlete and a member of the HH Cheer team, I have developed skills such as team building, leadership, hard work ethic and integrity,” she said. “Apart from cheerleading, I’m also an equestrian.” Animals have always been a big part of her life that keeps her busy but she also works part time at a hair salon. Loren plans to continue her education at Cal State San Marcos to major in psychology, a complete 180 degrees from earlier goals of a future career involving animals. “Since the COVID pandemic, I have struggled with mental health issues, falling into a deep depression and losing interest in school,” Loren said. “Bouncing back from that has been a hard struggle but through cheer and automotive I was able to regain a sense of community and passion to learn again. I would not possibly be who I am today without my family, friends and teachers who have never stopped pushing me and believing in me. I only ever wish to be that (support) for someone else.”

San Jacinto Unified School District

Donald Downs

Mountain View High School’s honoree for December is Donald who began his high school career in independent study at Mountain Heights Academy, mastering the program and responsibilities that come with that mode of learning. His favorite teacher, Ramona Ford, said Donald soared to new heights as a member of the eSports team after transitioning to Mountain View High School in the middle of his sophomore year. He became a student of the first AP computer science program offered at any alternative school in the state of California. “This year, he was awarded the first ever Mountain View letterman’s jacket for completing the first AP computer science class offered, passing the AP exam and receiving college credit,” Ford said. Donald serves as secretary of the school’s student council and is a one-time school board representative. “A life lesson that I’ve learned and that I’ll be taking with me to college is that it’s okay to be scared or have fear, but don’t let it control you,” Donald said. “What helped my confidence with my public speaking was Mountain View and its small classes with friendly and supportive teachers.” After earning a citizenship award from the Riverside County Bar Association, he was given an opportunity to attend the RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awakening) camp in the summer of 2022. “RYLA helped me with a lot by teaching me lessons to overcome my fears and challenges and how to become a leader,” Donald said. “The skills I have acquired at Mountain View will help me in college and life with facing my fears and problems. My greatest contribution to my school is that I helped jumpstart an AP computer science class. Through this class, I found my passion and plan to go onto college with a major in computer science.

Trinity Jones

San Jacinto High School chose to honor Trinity for making a significant impact on campus, especially in the science department working with the newly acquired 3D printers. Teacher Joe Torres said, “Trinity’s contributions to our school cannot be overstated. One aspect that makes Trinity’s achievements even more remarkable is the unique set of challenges she’s had to overcome as a young black woman pursuing a path in STEM. She has faced and triumphed over obstacles that many may not fully comprehend. Trinity’s presence and accomplishments serve as an inspiration to all, especially to those who may have felt discouraged or under-represented in these fields.” Torres said Trinity has not only demonstrated outstanding technical skills but has also become a source of inspiration and motivation for her peers and educators alike. “As chief editor of San Jacinto High School’s yearbook, my greatest contribution has been capturing the spirit of my school,” Trinity said. “Through this role, I’ve had the privilege of showcasing my school’s talents and diversity within our student body and creating a lasting legacy.” Trinity aspires to attend UC Berkeley to major in computer science and minor in political science with the goal of pursuing a career in technology, legal consulting or in the field of tech journalism. Her mother said Trinity has always been kind and empathetic and has been able to maintain her inner light through commitment and dedication.

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