San Jacinto Valley students honored in March

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The Hemet/San Jacinto Student of the Month program held its final recognition breakfast of the 2023-2024 school year at the Maze Stone at Soboba Springs Golf Course on March 14. Seven 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.

San Jacinto Unified School District Board of Trustees member John Norman, who is also a longtime supporter of the program, served as emcee. 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.

March’s students of the month from Hemet Unified School District are Calvin Brown, Cayman Crayton, Emilio Francisco, Kevin Gomez and Sayra Navarro. San Jacinto Unified’s honorees for March are Michael Barranco Rivas and Lea Hope Raven Edwards.

Hemet Unified School District

Calvin Brown

Hemet High School Activities Director Lindsay Brown said that although Calvin has faced many challenges, “He has chosen to remain kind, respectful and focused on his future and to take care of the people around him.” Calvin asked, “When you think of a parent, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?” He said while many think of love, trust and comfort, it is important to acknowledge that not every household is filled with those traits. “I happen to be the victim of a home filled with mental trauma,” Calvin said. From losing his mother to cancer at a young age, suffering from a life-threatening injury, dealing with an absent father figure, and being classified as a homeless student within the district, he admits to having his fair share of tribulations. Calvin has been a member of the AFJROTC program at Hemet High School since his freshman year and said he identifies it as his first real home. Through the program he has already earned 160 community service hours. “Helping others is what changed my perspective and I want to show others that through resilience and relentlessness, anything and everything is achievable,” he said.

Cayman Crayton

Western Center Academy chose to honor Cayman and English and Theatre teacher Joshua Brady shared that she has won first place in acting competitions against top Los Angeles area schools and was recognized statewide by the California Educational Theatre Association. “She’s also an amazing student,” he said. Cayman has attended the school since sixth grade. “An important lesson that I was taught about is independence but also the strength of reaching out when help is needed,” she said. Her mother immigrated to America from El Salvador and raised Cayman as a single parent. “Her independence inspired me to try to handle things on my own,” the outstanding senior said. When she found herself overwhelmed in high school her mother let her know that she didn’t have to do everything on her own and that helped Cayman learn to emotionally rely on others. “Independence allows me to take on challenges, but I also learned from my mother the ability to acknowledge my vulnerability and hardships and ask for help when needed,” she said.

Emilio Francisco

Tahquitz High School Principal Andrew Holmes introduced Emilio as a student who participates in many extracurricular activities and enjoys his digital media, AVID and English classes. English teacher Molly Otis said, “Even though Emilio has experienced tragic hardship, he has pressed on and learned skills to make his life as best as possible.” He said, “I believe my greatest contribution to everyone is being a drummer; the type of music I play is Mexican music and I love playing,” Emilio said. “Playing an instrument feels really good in my heart because I know people really enjoy it.” He plans to attend Cal Poly to major in business and eventually earn his real estate license so he can make people’s dreams of purchasing their own home come true. When he was nine, Emilio lost his father to cancer. This led to depression, but he said the rest of his family really helped him through that tough time. “You just have to learn to accept it and move forward,” he said. “The most significant life lesson I will take to college is patience; having patience is a key to all things.”

Kevin Gomez

Hamilton High School Principal Kari Sanchez said that Kevin arrived in his junior year as a newcomer English learner from Mexico and quickly became a shining star on campus. His English Language Development teacher Josh Martin said Kevin is always excited to talk about literature and even tackles Shakespeare. Kevin said, “There are obstacles everywhere in life. In my case, language was my biggest obstacle. I came to the United States speaking only Spanish but for me it was motivational.” He said he knew he wanted to go to college, so he enrolled in AP English in his first year at Hamilton to challenge himself and to prepare for college. “I think if you put your mind into it, anything is possible and I’m proof of that,” Kevin said. His aunt said she has been inspired by her nephew’s remarkable journey and as she reflects on his journey so far, she is overwhelmed with pride.

Sayra Navarro

West Valley High School Principal Gerardo Zavala introduced Sayra as a student who has been a motivational influence on her peers and her teachers. “She uses life’s challenges as her motivation to work harder and to achieve her personal and academic goals,” he said. “She tutors friends in math, she loves history and animals, and volunteers at a local animal shelter.” Sayra said, “I think my greatest contribution to my school/community and the thing I’ve been most proud of has been the club I co-founded called Student Resources.” The program created small cubbies inside the English classrooms, stocked with hygiene products, school supplies and snacks for students who need it. Sayra has already been accepted to UC, Irvine where she plans to major in psychology with a minor in American Sign Language that she can implement into her future career as a clinical social worker.

San Jacinto Unified School District

Michael Barranco Rivas

Mountain View High School Principal Ken Swanson said Michael has made a big impact at the school in the short time he has been there. His teacher Valorie Evans said he is one of her most diligent students. She said she often tells her students, “Your ‘I will’ has to be greater than your IQ.” She said Michael is very independent and forgiving. “I think my greatest contribution is always lending a helping hand to others, cleaning up the environment and assisting others on tasks that are difficult to do alone,” Michael said. He plans to attend Mt. San Jacinto College with a goal to work in construction, landscaping or plumbing. “When my sister and I were young and lived with my mom we experienced many difficult challenges that no children should experience,” Michael shared. “I think the most significant life lesson that I would take to college is that if I fail, I can always try again and keep moving forward.”

Lea Hope Raven Edwards

San Jacinto High School’s Christine Thomas teaches AP Human Geography and is the National Honor Society advisor. She said of this month’s honoree Lea Hope Raven, “We call her Hope and it’s certainly a perfect name for this young lady because hope radiates from her. Through all her obstacles, she has always had hope.” Hope said the biggest obstacle she has faced is the loss of her father to Parkinson’s Disease in February of 2020. “Before his diagnosis, my dad was the most lively person I knew but the disease quickly reduced him to an immobile state and by the time I was in 7th grade my family had become his full-time caregivers. Since his passing, I have become dedicated to applying the same loving energy I had for my dad into the betterment of my community.” She works as an Activities Assistant at a nursing home, and this has nurtured her passion to pursue pediatric nursing as a career. “I made a plan for myself, and I plan to carry it out,” Hope said.

Photo HSJ SOM Mar: Recipients of the Hemet/San Jacinto Student of the Month award for March are, from left, Kevin Gomez, Emilio Francisco, Cayman Crayton, Calvin Brown, Lea Hope Raven Edwards, Michael Barranco Rivas and Sayra Navarro. | Photo courtesy of StylePhotography by Alex Tapia

This year’s Student of the Year scholarship dinner will be held May 16 at the Soboba Casino Resort Event Center.

For more information, www.studentofthemonth.net.

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