Temecula Students of the Month are honored for February 2020

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Student of the Month Program founder Sally Myers stands with school administrators and representatives to honor February honorees Nathanael Mariano of Linfield Christian High School; Indiana Rivera Gandrung of Temecula Valley High School; Angel Britton of Rancho Vista High School; Julia Steinberg of Susan H. Nelson High School; Caleb Kim of Great Oak High School and Nilson Rodriquez Cadenas of Chaparral High School.

TEMECULA – The Temecula Students of the Month were announced for February, including Nathanael “Nathan” Marino of Linfield Christian High School, Indiana Rivera Gandrung of Temecula Valley High School, Angel “AJ” Britton of Rancho Vista High School, Julia Steinberg of Susan H. Nelson High School, Caleb Kim of Great Oak High School and Nilson Rodriguez Cadenas of Chaparral High School.

The students were honored with breakfast celebration as administrators, teachers and family members shared about each student.

Principal Holly Wilson said that Marino is the voice of Linfield Christian every morning. He was named Linfield Christian’s student of the month because he is a culture maker who is all about people and stands for his beliefs. He cares more about others than himself. Marino has strength of character, authenticity and genuine love for people.

Marino said that his biggest struggle in life so far has been the feeling of being a flash in the pan or one-hit-wonder. He shared his feelings of, “Is this the best I will ever be?” His service to others has helped him transition this feeling into his greatest lesson. He said that he has come to realize that he will never be a flash in the pan when he serves the light of the world.

Marino’s father said that he hopes his son will not only move mountains, but move people with his kindness and unwavering care and love.

Principal Allen Williams of Temecula Valley High School reflected on the movie character Indiana Jones and his qualities of being academic and adventurous.

“He’s an actor. Our Indiana is the real deal,” Williams said.

Gandrung is involved in aquaponics and was part of the inception of TVHS’ Bio-Sustainability Program at TVHS. She has also been instrumental in writing the curriculum for TVHS’ elementary summer school science program. Indiana shared reflections on her own family’s life and circumstances.

She said, “There were many times where our family didn’t have enough money to cover bills or provide food.”

All these problems caused her stress, but they also strengthened her. She said she realized she needed to open up and share with her school advisers. They were instrumental in assisting her, and she turned her family circumstance into a life lesson. Her teacher shared that Gandrung consistently fosters group determination and comes from a place of how she can make things better for everyone.

She plans to attend University of California Davis and study animal science and eventually become a veterinarian and work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She said two main reasons for her desire to work for the USDA. First, meat is a primary source for many people and is a big part of cultural identity. It is shared with families and often brings people together.

She said, “There is a special bond between animals and people that should be respected.”

Secondly, she wants to work to improve the lives of animals in the organization. Lastly, she shared her desire to give back. In her future, she would like to sponsor other low-income students and help them overcome their life circumstances and succeed.

Principal Tim Dignan of Rancho Vista High School shared that in his 31 years as an educator, Britton’s story has been one of the most inspiring to him.

“She is going to do amazing things. AJ has gotten up so many times, nothing is going to keep her down,” Dignan said.

Angel reflected on her life and shared that she previously didn’t put much effort into school. She struggled in life and made some poor decisions. In September 2018, as a junior and after attending five different high schools, she ended up at Rancho Vista High.

“My teacher believed in me, inspired me, and taught me that I could be anything I wanted to be,” Britton said.

She said her mindset was that she didn’t matter but she overcame that.

Britton said, “I cannot wait to pursue my passion for helping others.”

Her teacher said, “AJ is a solid, remarkable young lady. As a teacher, you wish these kids could see in themselves what we see in them.”

Britton said she plans to attend college and pursue a career as a juvenile attorney. She also has a passion for cosmetology and beauty. Britton reflected that most of what she has learned in life has been self-taught. With this in mind, she is currently creating an organization to combine her passions with helping girls within the foster system and others to have a safe place and resources.

Principal Tim Dignan is also principal of Susan H. Nelson High School.

“Julia is independent and essentially has all her ducks in a row,” Steinberg said.

Dignan said she is a young lady that knows where she’s headed and what she wants to do. Steinberg chose to attend an alternative school because of her focus on completing her education without distractions. She wanted to be able to get a job, travel and move onto college. Steinberg shared about her family and that for the last several years, her father has had Parkinson’s disease. She reflected on her father’s perseverance and worked to transition himself to a healthy lifestyle to extend his life with his grace and passion.

She shared that he taught her, “With hard work and perseverance, anything can happen.”

Steinberg’s teacher shared that she is dependable, courteous and responsible.

“She is amazing, an exemplary student for independent study, and achieves at an unprecedented level,” she said.

Steinberg will be graduating early and plans to attend California State University San Marcos and major in psychology. She said she plans to transition to a university to study neuroscience.

Principal Aimee Ricken of Great Oak High School said that Kim is academic. He loves random facts. He is incredibly involved in science and math, but he is also philosophical, she said.

“He could probably pull a cot out and sleep at GOHS with the time he spends on campus due to his involvement in everything,” Ricken said.

Kim is involved in Science Olympiad and math. He’s a planner; he likes to lead and is a teamwork kind of student. He said it’s about teaching people how to live more prosperously. He’s also a gamer, but Kim said it’s about the strategy.

Kim said that his most significant obstacle in life so far has been himself. He is a full IB Diploma student. The program and commitment are intense. He made a decision not to take calculus one year and skip it despite his teacher’s expressed concern.

“That was a big mistake, and I paid for it with an incredible amount of stress,” Kim said.

He recognized the real problem was that he was getting in his way. He shared that he overcame the obstacle and boundaries of his mental prison that he had imposed on himself. He had some other students in his IB Program that reached out to him about his path, and they too wanted to skip calculus. As a result, this past summer, he created a curriculum and tutored students to help them be successful. And, with his help, they passed.

“The pursuit of knowledge is a right for all people. I enjoy seeing other people succeed when they don’t think they can,” he said.

Kim’s teacher shared that he has developed GOHS’ Science Honor Society, almost single-handedly. He is also working to collaborate on a student-led tutoring program for TVUSD elementary schools. Kim’s teacher summed him up.

“Caleb is golden, and he is going to make things happen. What I see from my side is pure gold,” his teacher said.

Kim would like to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall.

Assistant Principal Krystal Fielstra of Chaparral High School said that Cadenas exemplifies the American dream. He is a four-year Advancement Via Individualized Determination student, and he will be the first in his family to attend college.

Principal Tina Miller was not able to participate in the day’s event but said she wanted to share that she was Cadenas’ middle school teacher, and she had the honor when he was in eighth grade to recognize him as a student of the year at Day Middle School.

Cadenas shared his story about not being supported by his parents to attend college. He said that while he experienced issues, he always put on a happy face for everyone else. He said he has had difficulty trusting people.

“My AVID teacher changed my life,” he said.

His teachers, who also refer to themselves as his school parents, talked about his campus life. They said that he is an academic, takes 10 different Advanced Placement classes, is the leader of four various clubs on campus, is a peer leader and also works a part-time job.

“Nilson demonstrates the courage to overcome his obstacles in life despite others blocking him. He is going to do tremendous things for other people to make sure they feel welcome and supported. He is this warm light that never turns off,” his teachers said.

Cadenas has already received acceptance from Stanford University and University of California Berkeley. He said he wants to pursue a career as a teacher of mathematics and create a safe place for students so he can provide them with the same learning opportunities he has experienced.

He summed up his journey so far.

“Your path does not define you; it is what comes next,” he said.

Submitted by Temecula Student of the Month Program.