San Jacinto Valley students honored in October

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The Hemet/San Jacinto Student of the Month program held its most recent recognition breakfast event at The Maze Stone restaurant at Soboba Springs Golf Course, October 28. Seven local high school seniors were honored for demonstrating character, integrity, love of learning, involvement in school activities, athletics and community service. Students were nominated by teachers or other school personnel for making a difference in their homes, schools and community.

Program founder and meeting facilitator Karena Zermeno also represented one of the sponsors, Altura Credit Union. Backpacks filled with gifts, a plaque, certificates of recognition and much more were donated by the program’s 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 filled with supporters that included principals, teachers, peers, family members and community and school district dignitaries. October’s students of the month from Hemet Unified School District schools are Mia Barcenas Hernandez, Korrina Flores, Naidelyn Franco, Alexia Granville and Ashlyn Miller. San Jacinto Unified students are Kimora Hill and Jasmine Proffitt.

Hemet High School’s Mia Barcenas Hernandez was recognized for her dedication after coming to America in 2019 as a Spanish speaker and working hard to learn the English language. She assisted her English teacher in the classroom by volunteering to translate. Although she learned the language to communicate, it was joining Jr.ROTC that helped her build her self-confidence and leadership skills. She plans to attend Mt. San Jacinto Community College for a degree in aviation science and then enlist in the United States Air Force. Her stepfather, Joe, said Mia looks at challenges as an opportunity to excel and thanked all the teachers and staff at Hemet High for acknowledging Mia for the hard work and dedication to her studies she has shown.

Korrina Flores from Alessandro High School suffered many medical issues throughout her life that put her behind on her education. Attending the HUSD alternative high school allowed her to spend the summer recouping 100 credits she needed to complete to be on track to graduate this academic year. “(Summer school) was the best decision that I made,” Korrina said. After graduation, which she is on track to do early, she plans to attend MSJC and eventually transfer to a university to major in medicine and become a physician or surgeon so she can help other people. She thanked her family for their continued encouragement, support and love.

Tahquitz High School’s Naidelyn Franco is a taking multiple Advanced Placement courses, is VP on her school’s ASB and also serves as her school’s representative at HUSD school board meetings. She enrolled at Tahquitz the second semester of her sophomore year, right before the COVID-19 quarantine. Amid many problems at home, Naidelyn went to live with her sister and brother-in-law, who helped her find an inner strength to do better in school and set her sights on becoming a lawyer.

West Valley recognized Alexia Granville for being a “phenomenal student” and “destroying the stereotype” of women doing well in math according to her mathematics teacher, Brock Blair. Alexia said during the past school year she struggled with online learning but credits her AP US History teacher, Bridget Greeley, with helping her get back on track. “It also made me appreciate how much more there is to teaching than simply teaching,” Alexia said. “This is just one example of the many role models who have inspired me to pursue a career in education.” She said “every community deserves caring educators” who are willing to get to know their students and their families, those who will gladly take the extra step to truly make an impact in the community. “Through teaching, I intend to make a difference in the life of a young person the way someone did for me,” Alexia said.

Ashlyn Miller was Hamilton High’s choice for October. She is ranked among the top five in her senior class, is captain of the cheer team, serves as Senior Class Treasurer and is a National Honor Society vice president. Nominated by her teacher Jennifer Halstead, Ashlyn was recognized for her “drive to do well but she also wants to learn. She wants to know and understand.” Ashlyn said, “I’m the daughter of two military veterans so I’ve learned discipline, perseverance and hard work from a young age. As she matured, she learned to focus on what was important to her and not to everyone else and that gave her a stronger willpower that she applied to her academics. After graduation, she plans to get a degree in pre-medical biochemistry and then enter medical school to become a physician. “I learned that after years of self-doubt, all I need to do is truly trust myself and establish that I need to focus, first and foremost, on my own happiness and the rest will follow,” Ashlyn said.

Kimora Hill from San Jacinto High School was nominated by her AVID teacher Niki Gray who said it was difficult to sum up all of Kimora’s accomplishments and the kind of person she is in a matter of 30 seconds. With a 4.88 Grade Point Average, Kimora has taken concurrent enrollment classes at MSJC and hopes to attend UCLA next fall. After losing both her mother and grandmother in 2011, she came to California to live with her aunt who helped her learn to empathize with people on a more personal level. She said her firsthand experiences with homelessness, vulnerability and trauma interfered with her education and she aspires to help others who are going through similar things. Neither of her parents finished high school so that was a goal she set for herself early on. “Growing up in low-income households has motivated me to reach success. Achieving higher education and valuable knowledge is the path I want to take to gain control of my future and to truly be successful in life,” Kimora said.

Mountain Heights Academy selected Jasmine Proffitt, who said she had a less than normal childhood, growing up in a tough neighborhood in El Monte where both parents were involved with gangs. Her father was sent to prison on a lifetime sentence when she was three years old. After her mother was sentenced to eight years in prison, Jasmine was adopted by her grandmother. “Sad to say, even with the support of my grandparents I followed in my parents’ footsteps and started to take the wrong path. I was released from Juvenile Hall in March of this year,” she said. After her release she was supposed to go back to live with her grandmother but unfortunately, she had passed away from cancer last December. Jasmine was sent to live with her aunt in San Jacinto and began working on getting her high school diploma. When she graduates in June, she wants to become a correctional officer and pay it forward by treating those who are incarcerated with respect. “One significant life lesson that I will take with me is hope. Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness,” Jasmine said.

Zermeno thanked the students for sharing their stories and let them know that “just as you touch every person in here, I’m sure with the energy and resiliency that you carry with you and with your heart to help others you touch everyone at your school, your neighbors and at home.” She said many who attend the monthly event leave it a little humbler and a little more full of strength. “You are encouraging to everyone; keep doing what you are doing and bring it back to the valley, we need people like you,” she told the young men and women.

San Jacinto Unified School District Superintendent David Pyle reminded the honored students that they are among 2,500 seniors in the San Jacinto Valley so to be singled out for the Student of the Month award is a great accomplishment.

For more information, www.studentofthemonth.net.

Diane A. Rhodes | Contributed

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