Top students named valedictorians and salutatorians of Hemet and San Jacinto high schools

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Sara Steinhoff
Sara Steinhoff is Mountain View High School’s salutatorian for 2020. Valley News/Courtesy photo 

High achieving students, popular with their classmates and excelling in academics, have been named as the valedictorians and salutatorians of the nine Hemet/San Jacinto Valley high schools.

The students will lead their classmates and graduating seniors in the upcoming commencement exercises with encouraging words for their success in the future years. The 2020-2021 graduating classes will be held virtually, or as a drive through, because of the stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Hemet Unified School District

Hemet High School recognized Jason Ng as its valedictorian. Ng has a 4.63 GPA and SAT score of 1360. He has been actively involved with the school’s mock trial program as well as Key Club, Habitat for Humanity, Friday Night Live, Math League, Art History Club and Boys State. On top of these extracurricular activities, he is also a member of the tennis team. He completed 26 Advanced Placement, dual enrollment and concurrent courses at Hemet High School. Ng will attend Cornell University to study Dyson Applied Economic and Management as well as the Wharton School of Business.

Hemet High School’s salutatorian is Marco Baeza with a GPA of 4.55 and a SAT score of 1390. Baeza completed 26 AP, dual enrollment and concurrent courses in high school. Baeza is also involved in Mock Trial, Habitat for Humanity, Key Club and Art History Club. He competes on the tennis and wrestling teams. Baeza will attend Stanford University, and he wishes to pursue a career in public policy.

Helen Hunt Jackson College Prep High School recognized, out of a senior class of 70, Heather Richards as its valedictorian with a GPA of 4.29 and an SAT score of 1280. She has attended the high school since the beginning of her sophomore year. Being actively involved in her school community, Richards participated in the Associated Student Body Government during her senior year. She played tennis for Hemet High and also privately. Richards completed 10 AP courses in her freshman year as well as 19 college units through dual and concurrent enrollment with Mt San Jacinto Community College, earning As in every course. She earned a scholarship from Concordia University and will study science to become a physical therapist.

Helen Hunt Jackson College Prep High recognized Thaes Retana as their salutatorian with a GPA of 3.96 and an SAT score of 950. She has attended Helen Hunt Jackson CPHS since the beginning of her freshman year and attended Family Tree Learning Center for eighth grade. Retana began working as a cross-age tutor for Family Tree in the fall of her junior year; she has been a huge help to the student’s in the Family Tree Program, according to her teachers. She has earned 12 college credits through dual and concurrent enrollment at Mt San Jacinto Community College. Retana will attend Mt. San Jacinto Community College in the fall to complete her degree in early childhood studies.

Tahquitz High School announced Edgar Gutierrez as its valedictorian for 2020 out of 356 seniors. He has a 4.3699 GPA and an SAT score of 1400. He will complete eight AP courses and two dual enrollment courses. He is a member of the Debate Club and the Riverside County Mock Trial, the Percussion Ensemble, Marching Band and Advanced Jazz Ensemble. His teachers said Guiterrez is a family-oriented student and is very appreciative and talented. After high school, Edgar said he hopes to attend California Baptist University and become a lawyer.

Tahquitz High recognized Katrina Isabelle Pagdayunan as the class of 2020 salutatorian. Pagdayunan earned a 4.375 GPA and a SAT score of 1200. She earned dual enrollment credit for four courses and completed seven AP courses. Pagdayunan has been a member of ASB for three years and has served as secretary as a senior. After high school, she plans to attend either the University of California Los Angeles, University of California San Diego or University of California Irvine and pursue a career in the medical field.

West Valley High School recognized William Hora as this year’s valedictorian. Hora was chosen out of 392 seniors and led the class of 2020 with an overall GPA of 4.45 combined with an SAT score of 1260. He will have completed 10 AP, five dual enrollment and three concurrent courses. Hora is involved in his school community, participating in band as a drum major, The Link Crew and the California Scholarship Federation. Aside from school, he is also active in his local community by acting as a Mustang Mentor and volunteering at Diamond Valley Middle School assisting with their music program. Hora’s top three choices for college are University of California San Diego, University of California Los Angeles and University of California Berkeley. He would like to become a professor in a science, technology, engineering or math field.

Dalton Feldhut is this year’s salutatorian for West Valley. Feldhut earned an overall GPA of 4.49 and an SAT score of 1360. He completed 15 AP, dual enrollment and concurrent courses. Feldhut joined the swim team and ASB. He was a student tutor at Harmony Elementary School. Feldhut plans to attend the University of California Los Angeles and pursue a career in business administration.

Western Center Academy’s announced Sara Oike as the graduating class valedictorian. Oike has earned a GPA of 4.71 and a SAT score of 1560. Never one to rest on her laurels, Oike has challenged herself by taking 13 AP courses and completed 17 college courses. She was the vice president of ASB, president of the Youth Advisory Council, president of the Junior State of America, vice president of the Assistance League of Temecula, president of UNICEF club, president of the Intergenerational Training Program, head coach of the Oakhill Middle School debate team and the prosecuting attorney for the Southwest Valley Youth Court. After high school, Oike plans to attend Stanford University or University of Southern California and study public health.

Crystal Chen is the salutatorian for the class of 2018 at Western Center Academy. Chen has a total weighted GPA of 4.69 and an SAT score of 1490. She has taken 15 college classes and 12 AP courses. Aside from academics, Chen is the vice president of UNICEF, a member of the National Honor Society and a competitor in Academic Decathlon and Science Olympiad. She has participated in Chemistry Club, Marine Mammoths Club and Debate Club. Chen has volunteered about 500 hours at Hemet Valley Medical Center, West Covina Pharmacy, Western Science Center and Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda. She plans to attend Stanford University to study human biology and pursue a career in the medical field, specifically neuroscience or anesthesiology.

Hamilton High School recognized Megan Necochea as the 2019-2020 valedictorian. She earned a GPA of 4.2619 and a SAT score of 1360. Nechohea has been actively involved in the Interact Club, National Honor Society, Pre Health Club, Mathletes and the California Scholarship Federation. She played soccer for four years in high school. Necochea will complete six AP and three concurrent courses. She plans to attend Seattle Pacific University and major in English, focusing on creative writing.

Hamilton High’s salutatorian is Taylor Ludwig with a GPA of 4.1395 and a SAT score of 1110. Ludwig will complete six AP and two concurrent courses in her tenure at Hamilton High. She has also been an active member of the Interact Club, National Honor Society and Pre-Health Club and the volleyball team. Ludwig plans to attend Mt. San Jacinto College and transfer to University of California Irvine or San Diego State University to study business.

San Jacinto Unified School District

Jason Millhiser
Jason Millhiser is San Jacinto High School’s valedictorian for 2020. Valley News/Courtesy photo

Jason Millhiser is San Jacinto High’s valedictorian for 2020 with a weighted GPA of 4.5714 and part of the Gold Honor Roll with GPA 4.0 or above all four years of high school. Millhiser participated in track and field as a junior and senior. He dedicated much of his non-academic time with community volunteering at Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District and in the Heroes on the Water program, an alternative therapeutic program for veterans, active-duty military, first responders and their families. He plans to attend California Polytechnic State University for business administration.

Catherine Moua
Catherine Moua is San Jacinto High School’s salutatorian for the class of 2020. Valley News/Courtesy photo

SJHS salutatorian for the class of 2020 is Catherine Moua with a weighted GPA of 4.5667 and dual enrollment in courses at Mt. San Jacinto College since the summer before starting her sophomore year. Moua participated in volleyball and tennis, Academic Decathlon, Associated Student Body and a member of the superintendent’s Student Advisory Council. She completed over 71 hours of volunteer service and has been continually active with the Banning Hmong Community. Moua plans to attend University of California Irvine and study nursing.

Mohammad Amjad
Mohammad Amjad is the San Jacinto High School historian for 2020. Valley News/Courtesy photo

Mohammad Amjad, SJHS historian for 2020, has a weighted GPA of 4.5111 and completed his senior year with more than 170 hours of documented community service. He has been the president of SJHS’s Upward Bound, a federal supported program for high school students to increase the rate participants complete secondary education and earned their Greatest Role Model Award this past year. Amjad participated in track and field and completed the year as varsity captain for cross-country. He plans to attend University of California San Diego in the fall.

Olutoyin Oyefeso
Olutoyin Oyefeso is Mountain View High School’s 2020 valedictorian. Valley News/Courtesy photo

Olutoyin “Toyin” Oyefeso, Mountain View High’s 2020 valedictorian with a GPA of 3.37, is known to her teachers as one of the most persistent, capable and honest students they have met. Oyefeso is said to approach her academics with intelligence, humility and an overwhelming desire to achieve. She plans to attend Mt. San Jacinto College.

Sara Steinhoff
Sara Steinhoff is Mountain View High School’s salutatorian for 2020. Valley News/Courtesy photo

Mountain View High’s salutatorian for 2020 is Sara Marie Steinhoff with a GPA of 3.06 and preparing for attendance at Georgia State University in the fall. Her teachers said that Steinhoff has done amazing things, despite some difficulties in life, including pushing herself to graduate an entire year early.

“She is meticulous and does not settle for anything less than her best,” one of her instructors said.

Ysabel Ibarca
Ysabel Ibarca is Mountain Heights Academy’s valedictorian for the class of 2020. Valley News/Courtesy photo

Mountain Heights Academy’s valedictorian for the class of 2020 is Ysabel Ibarca with a GPA of 4.10. She is known on the campus for her soft-spoken style as well as being a hard worker, which allowed her to excel in honors-level courses and be accepted at University of California Santa Barbara.

Jovanny Herrera
Jovanny Herrera is Mountain Heights Academy’s class of 2020 salutatorian. Valley News/Courtesy photo

Jovanny Herrera is Mountain Heights Academy’s class of 2020 salutatorian with a GPA of 3.92 and plans to attend Mt. San Jacinto College in the fall. He was a four-year member of the superintendent’s Student Advisory Council and an instructor for other students using Raspberry Pi for computer coding. Herrera has also been recognized for his accomplishments in the school’s video production team.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.