October Students of the Month
By Don Ray
Sponsored by the Perris and Menifee Valley Chambers of Commerce, public officials from all levels of government as well as representatives from service organizations and corporations assembled in the Perris Towne Square to honor the October Students of the Month, from the Perris Union High School District.
Aside from a morning free of class and breakfast at Sizzler, the students received tote bags full of small offerings and gift certificates from sponsors as well as certificates of achievement.
“The recognition program acknowledges and honors the seniors for their character, love of learning, commitment, academics, participation, athletics, school activities, community service, or the ability to persevere and overcome difficult circumstances,” said Superintendent Grant Bennett.
Introduced by the students’ principals, teachers, counselors, or coaches each recipient then shared his or her personal story including their hopes, dreams, and plans.
Olivia Macy Hicks – Perris Lake High School
Despite Olivia falling behind in her education during the COVID-19 outbreak, she became an advocate for every other student on campus. Her teachers describe her as someone who will pull her sleeves up and get her hands dirty if she sees somebody down.
She’ll reach out and make sure they’re OK.
Introduced by Perris Lake Principal Lee Alfred, Olivia admitted that not only had she fallen behind, her self-esteem and confidence had slowly deteriorated as well. But through the help of her counselor and others, she now feels like herself again.
“What I’m able to take away from this all, is to never give up on who you are, that you are not shaped by your shortcomings. There will always be a comeback.
Olivia says her dream is to eventually graduate from U.C. Riverside and become a criminal psychologist.
Yadira Hurtado – Perris High School
Perris High Principal Juan Santos introduced Yadira as the youngest of five sisters that attended the school, describing how he watched her grow as a leader in its ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) program for four years.
Yadira spoke proudly about the program that is teaching her how to talk with others and to be the best version of herself.
“I can be a true leader,” she said. “You cannot be letting other people tell you what to do or even what you have to do. At the end of the day, you’re the one putting in the work to reach whatever goal you have — you have to apply yourself.
“I plan to use what I have learned to help give back to my community.”
Yadira said her career path is to become a criminal analyst.
“I plan to major in criminology or behavioral sciences. As a criminal analyst I can help many families get justice.”
Cassandra Madrigal – Paloma Valley High School
In her introduction, Paloma Valley Interim Principal Julie Blied observed that Cassandra is, “involved in everything on campus. You’ll see her signing at the football games,” she said. “She’s the mascot on certain days. She’s the epitome of what we want our students to be.”
Cassandra is also part of the Junior Reserve Officer Corps — in fact, her advisor says he’d put her in the top one percent of all the cadets with whom he’s worked with over the past 12 years.
Cassandra responded by acknowledging what he had told her many, many times.
“Even though he thinks it goes in one ear and out the other, leadership is all about relationships,” she said. “You must have solid relationships with your teachers, your peers, and your staff.
“That’s something that I’m greatly going to take into the world as I go off into the career that I choose,” she said, “which is becoming a commercial pilot.”
Jaleahney Grace Marcelin – Liberty High School
Liberty High School Principal Dr. Erika Tejada introduced Jaleahney, or “Jolly” as everyone calls her, as a young woman who lives up to her nickname and is “a gift to everyone who encounters her.”
Jolly is in the Business and Entrepreneurship Pathway at Liberty and is the co-president of the school’s chapter of the Distributive Education Club of America and also volunteers at her church.
“It’s because of not only the Lord, but then my family, my friends, and this community that I’m standing here today,” Jaleahney related to the audience. “Their courage, their support has shown me an example of how I should pay it forward to not only this village, that we all live in, but in daily living — picking up my trash, saying ‘Hi’ to a friendly face, or just volunteering.”
She said she wants to ensure that no child or adult goes hungry — and gets the support that they need.
Josiah William Smith – Heritage High School
Heritage High Principal Lindsay Chavez introduced Josiah as the embodiment of paying it forward.
“He is the student who always looks at me in the eyes and says, ‘good morning,’ and genuinely asks how I’m doing. Josiah gives me not only the hope, but the conviction that our future will be brighter.”
And beyond that, his football coach regaled those present by revealing Josiah had rushed for more than 200 yards in a recent football game, and just a week later, rushed for another 250 yards.
When Josiah spoke, he praised his grandmother for teaching him to always help everyone and always have a good heart.
“I hope to pay it forward by coming back after graduation and trying to help kids,” he said.
Josiah says he intends to continue his football career in college, and academically, is debating whether to tap the left or right brain. While considering the pursuit of an engineering degree, he also has a passion for the arts.
“I really love art and clothing and fashion,” he said.
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