Hemet San Jacinto Valley honors high school seniors

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The students honored in September’s Hemet San Jacinto Student of the Month program give their acceptance speeches via Zoom, Thursday, Sept. 10. Creative Industries Media Group/John P. Hess photo

HEMET – The Hemet San Jacinto Student of the Month program began its eighth year of recognizing local seniors for demonstrating character, integrity, love of learning, involvement in school activities, athletics and community service. Students are nominated by teachers or other school personnel for making a difference in their home, school and community.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s limitations regarding public gatherings, the event was held virtually Thursday, Sept. 10. More than 50 participants logged in to the Zoom meeting where students shared their stories and sponsors and administrators offered their support. Program founder and meeting host Karena Zermeno also represented Altura Credit Union, one of the sponsors.

Seven students were introduced after the Pledge of Allegiance was led by San Jacinto Unified School District’s Vincent Record and an opening prayer was given by Jeff Johnson, pastor of San Jacinto Assembly of God church. Johnson said circumstances were forcing people to become more creative and develop things they wouldn’t normally have, and the honored students were no exception.

Hemet Unified School District schools honored Aurora Thomson, Alyssa Hamlett, Krishna Koka, Drake Colice and Vanessa Hinojosa Contreras. San Jacinto Unified recognized Kayla Walton and Priscella Ahumada.

Thomson from the Academy of Innovation was cited for her positive attitude, hard work on her studies and her dedication to others as Associated Student Body president.

Hamilton High School principal Jeff Franks said his school’s honoree, Hamlett, doesn’t let anything stand in her way. She feels her biggest contribution at home is assisting her U.S. Marine Corps veteran father with his daily living needs due to injuries he suffered in an overseas tour of duty and also tutoring her younger brother in math.

“A significant life lesson I’ve learned is to adapt and overcome,” Hamlett said.

Hemet High School’s Koka was singled out for the honor by his teacher and coach, James Walsh. After the death of his grandmother in his junior year, Koka said it reaffirmed his desire to become a doctor and to return to the community to serve after he completes medical school.

Mountain View High School honoree Walton was nominated by her English teacher, Tia Gaither.

“I love caring for the earth,” Walton said. “Although I’m only one person I know I can contribute. Just because something is tough, it doesn’t mean you can’t get through it.”

Ahumada was this month’s honoree from San Jacinto High School. She said that growing up surrounded by her father’s passion for art and seeing the beauty of his work attracted her to it. She hopes to inspire others like her father did for her as she pursues an entrepreneurial career in the entertainment industry.

Tahquitz High School recognized Colice who was described as “a natural conversationalist and wise beyond his years” according to assistant principal Matthew Centofranchi. Formerly in foster care, Colice said that experience helped him become resilient.

“I want to prove to myself that I can be whatever I want, despite my past,” he said.

Contreras plans to attend the University of California Riverside after she graduates from West Valley High School in Hemet. She is an active member of National FFA Organization, Advancement Via Individual Determination and is on her school’s volleyball team. She also serves as Associated Student Body president. She plans to return to the district as a teacher once she completes her higher education.

After all the students finished their acceptance speeches, Heather Perry, field representative for Sen. Mike Morrell, added some words of encouragement for them. She chose a quote from Helen Keller:

“The struggle of life is one of our greatest blessings…It teaches us that although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it,” she said.

Christi Barrett, superintendent of HUSD, expressed her feelings to the students by telling them that “our interactions with you always fill our cup and remind us of why we became educators.”

For more information, visit http://www.studentofthemonth.net.

Submitted by Hemet San Jacinto Student of the Month.