TEMECULA – Families, students, staff, sponsors and dignitaries with representatives of Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce and Temecula Valley Unified School District honored the April Students of the Month via a Zoom videoconference Thursday, April 16.
Honorees included Raymond Lee of Great Oak High School, Jennifer Chaidez of Chaparral High School, Nick Arzola-Vizzera of Rancho Vista High School, Maichel Astafanous of Susan H. Nelson High School, Haley Manning of Linfield Christian High School and Logan Whetstone of Temecula Valley High School.
Great Oak principal Aimee Ricken announced that Lee is the school’s 2020 salutatorian. He will attend Yale University, where he plans to major in mathematics and economics. Lee shared that his most important life lesson is that things have happened by design, though not his design.
“The lows as much as the highs keep me motivated to make myself better and the best version I can be. I need to accept and forgive myself,” he said. “I can’t wait for what’s ahead in my next four years.”
His teacher and family shared that Lee is empathetic, optimistic, charismatic, athletic and dedicated to his service organizations.
Chaparral principal Tina Miller shared that Chaidez was nominated as an Emerald Puma.
“She shows pride in everything she does, and she understands the importance of respecting and embracing everyone’s heritage and cultures,” Miller said.
Chaidez shared that she has not yet chosen her college. She would like to attend University of California Berkeley or University of California Irvine and major in chemical engineering. She shared her experience as a first-generation American in her family and the challenge she had in overcoming a language barrier. Today, she has achieved two biliteracy seals and is an Advancement Via Individual Determination student.
Her teacher described Chaidez as helpful to other students, humble, empathetic, not an attention-seeking and said, “Her greatest attribute is what she does with her intelligence. She would be a role model I would want my children to follow after.”
Rancho Vista principal Tim Dignan shared that Arzola-Vizzera is a positive influence on campus and that the teachers all appreciate him. He is tenacious for someone for whom school hasn’t always come easy, but he still shows up.
Arzola-Vizzera plans to attend Palomar College and study psychology. He shared that he has had experiences with different behaviors in people.
“I’ve always been interested in what makes people respond in the way they do,” he said. “I haven’t been the best with school work, but I have never given up. This award is a great achievement for me.”
His teacher said, “No matter what situation Nick is faced with, he always chooses kindness. I admire him.”
His family said that educationally, Arzola-Vizzera has overcome his challenges. He is charismatic and joyful; he contributes to his home and is a great cook.
Dignan, who is also principal of Susan H. Nelson High School, shared that Astafanous was born in Egypt. He is a model student for the independent study program and has been successful. Astafanous plans to attend University of California Merced and study environmental engineering. He said that one of the biggest life lessons he has learned is time management.
“The key is to create a schedule and always set goals to monitor your progress and development,” he said.
His teacher said that Astafanous works and contributes financially to his family, all while managing his schoolwork with no intervention from teachers.
“He’s figured out time management and his goals. He will be successful in pursuing his dreams, and I am excited about his future. He’s accomplished so much as an immigrant student, as well as many other challenges,” his teacher said.
Astafanous is described as a person who goes above and beyond and always strives to do his best. He has integrity, responsibility, and a contagious passion for learning.
Linfield Christian principal Holly Wilson shared that Manning has had a significant impact on the campus as a behind the scenes person.
“She is always pushing the truck. Students have ideas, and she always makes sure that things happen and does it with great influence,” Wilson said.
Manning plans to attend Point Loma Nazarene University to become an educator. She said she was supposed to go to Haiti for a mission trip that was canceled, and instead, she went to a learning center in Los Angeles. She met a young girl with a negative attitude who initially didn’t want her help. As the week went on, Manning said she watched the student’s heart, attitude and love for learning grow.
“The young girl was excited about learning, and I was happy at seeing how God used me to love on a girl who didn’t have a great home life, and I was able to impact her to learn,” she said. “The sight of that exuberant, inspired young girl showed me that I want to carry that impact forward the same way teachers have had an effect on me.” Manning’s teacher echoed the principal’s comments.
“Haley is strong, courageous and not afraid to do the work in front of her to make the people around her better,” her teacher said.
Temecula Valley principal Allen Williams said that Whetstone is an incredible young man. He transitioned from a student who initially needed some additional supports and to one taking Advanced Placement government. Whetstone has been challenged, and he’s risen to the occasion and overcome it.
He is a member of the CIF championship football team as an offensive lineman. Williams described the position as the hardhat people on the team and that, “We set up other people’s success, and that’s Logan.”
Whetstone said he wants to be a father, husband and a great family man. He plans to attend Palomar College and study fire technology and become a firefighter. He described being faced with a lot of adversity and how he developed an obsession with improving himself.
“I always try to find a way to be better and gain more knowledge to make better decisions,” Whetstone said.
His teacher described him as “the ultimate turn-around story,” always doing everything asked of him and more. His teacher explained Whetstone was severely injured, and after his surgery, he missed several weeks of school. Instead of sitting back and not completing his missed work, he met the challenge and went the extra mile by completing everything and more.
Sally A. Meyers of Sizzler/BMW Management founded the Student of the Month program that is now in its 28th year. Its mission is to bring the community together to honor and praise local high school seniors for demonstrating character, integrity, love of learning, involvement in school activities, athletics and community service or the ability to overcome challenging life circumstances without compromising their education. The “heartbeat” of the Student of the Month is the student who makes a difference in their home, school and community with sincerity and passion. They must be college or trade school-bound.
Submitted by Temecula Valley Unified School District.