HEMET – Students from Hemet Unified and San Jacinto Unified school districts were recognized Oct. 19, as Student of the Month at an awards breakfast held at the Sizzler restaurant in Hemet.
The seven seniors chosen were John Gonzalez of Hemet High School, Aaron Wu of West Valley High School, Joseph Priest of Tahquitz High School, Mikayla Ruffing Teel of Hamilton High School, Raysha Blalock of Alessandro High School, Felicity Dom of San Jacinto High School and Ramon Vasquez of Mountain View High School.
Gonzalez was chosen by his art history and computer science teacher, James Walsh. Walsh nominated Gonzalez for his positive attitude and for marching to the beat of his own drum. Walsh said Gonzalez is a skilled programmer and artist. Gonzalez found his interest in programming at a young age and hopes to attend college and major in computer science or graphic design. Despite many challenges he has been faced with, he continues to look forward with a positive attitude and work toward his goals.
Wu was chosen by his Advance Placement physics and English teacher, Sean Matthews, for his leadership skills. Wu is the only senior at West Valley that has taken the three AP science classes offered at the school. Wu hopes to attend University of California Berkeley and major in computer science. He hopes with his degree and career aspirations he will be able to provide a better quality of life for his family.
Priest was selected by his principal, Eric Dahlstrom, for being a reminder of what the support of staff can do for a student. Priest was deficient in his credits and was told he would not graduate on time. At this time, his brothers were in jail, and he didn’t have a stable home. He enrolled in Alessandro High School, and with the support of staff, he was able to get back on track, transfer to Tahquitz High School and will be graduating on time. With the support of his godmother and the staff at Tahquitz, he currently has a 3.5 GPA. He would like to attend San Diego State University and major in computer science.
Ruffing Teel was selected by her teacher, Mary Kleinvachter at Hamilton High School. Kleinvachter said she nominated Teel for helping her peers and for overcoming challenges. At a young age, Teel was told she had a learning disability. She attended many classes and put in a lot of effort to overcome this challenge. Throughout her time at Hamilton, she has taken various Honors and AP classes, has played on the school’s basketball and volleyball teams and is a member of Associated Student Body, National Honor Society and Interact Club. Teel plans on attending college to major in business and would also like to attend law school.
Blalock was nominated by Ken Messenger for being a leader on campus. Messenger said Blalock came to Alessandro High last year and was very shy. However, this year she has come out of her shell and become a true leader. Blalock is in Peer Leadership Uniting Students, ASB and has volunteered during the school’s blood drive. Blalock grew up in Texas, and when her family moved to California, she found herself giving up, because of the intense workload. She transferred to Alessandro High and had a life-changing conversation with her counselor. Now, she hopes to attend University of California Los Angeles to pursue her dream of becoming an attorney.
Dorn was nominated by English teacher Bethany Gibson. Her teachers and her principal, Luke Smith, describe Dom as an excellent student, taking International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement courses, as well as being a team member for Academic Decathlon. Dom was painfully shy and afraid to speak to her teachers and peers; if she didn’t understand something, she would wait until all students had left the class before she would talk to the teacher. After a while, she learned that it wasn’t so scary to ask questions, and she became more involved and her world became brighter. Dom’s goal is to come back to the community after college, to make it bigger and brighter for others and inspire others to dream. She is known for her dedication to her family and for her perseverance.
“You can reach your dreams and beyond,” Dom said.
Vasquez was nominated by math teacher Karen Lee. Vasquez experienced many trials in growing up, moving to different schools and getting mixed up with the wrong crowd. He became very angry and depressed when his older brother was incarcerated in 2012. On his mother’s birthday in 2015, Vasquez was arrested for petty theft and other charges, which caused him to be in jail for a few months. He began taking classes at Mountain View High as a junior.
“Never give up, and when times get hard, then you be a warrior and push even harder and I promise you will not be disappointed in yourself as I was before I started at Mountain View,” Vasquez said. Principal Ken Swanson attests to Vasquez’ dedication to getting his life back on track, and that Vasquez, set to graduate soon, will be the first in his family to graduate. He plans to attend California State University Channel Islands in Camarillo, California, and major in business. He hopes to one day own his own business and give back to the community.
Sponsors of the Student of the Month Program donated backpacks filled with gifts, gift certificates, a plaque and much more to each student. The students had an opportunity at the breakfast to thank their families and teachers who have supported them and helped them plan their future life goals.