Community pride isn't just a phrase for Matthew Ylarregui, it's also a way of life.
Before Matthew, along with his brother and mother, took the reins of a group of Howard 4-H students, the group that meets at Howard Elementary School west of Madera had little to show for its community pride work.
Now, they're going above and beyond what they were expected to do.
"I want to make sure our community looks good," Matthew said of the various volunteer service projects.
He's donated his time to organize a Christmas gift drive for three needy families at the Gould Educational Center in Madera, volunteered to sell copies of the Kid's Day edition of The Fresno Bee, and help beautify the Madera County Museum.
But one of his most valued projects is collecting toiletries for the Madera Rescue Mission, part of his community pride work.
"People are definitely needing help," Matthew said. "If they get help through the Rescue Mission, I'd like to know that I helped."
Matthew serves as the Howard 4-H reporter and contributes articles about the organization to the Madera Tribune.
His teacher and nominator, Karen Hansen at John Adams Elementary, noted that he's always on top of all of his responsibilities, both in and out of the classroom.
"Matt is a leader in my classroom, understanding the importance of hard work in his studies and being a model for other students," she said.
Matthew hopes to become either a banker for farmers or an engineer.
More about Matthew
School: John Adams Elementary, Madera
Parents: Tracy and David Ylarregui
Achievements: 4.0 GPA; Howard 4-H reporter; quarterback of city league football team; organized donation drives for the Madera Rescue Mission; plays Little League baseball, youth basketball, wrestles and runs cross country.
Sixth grade Honorable Mentions
ANNALISE HUNNICUTT, 12, Visalia
School: Cottonwood Creek Elementary, Visalia
Parents: Lisha and Ron Hunnicutt
Achievements: An actress in the Community Theatre in Visalia with a 4.0 GPA in the classroom, Annalise is also serving as a co-founder of the "Make A Difference" Chicks (known as MAD Chicks), which has created a recycling program at Cottonwood Creek Elementary. Annalise also organized a Penny War fundraising drive for victims of earthquakes. "Annalise produces high-quality work with much depth of understanding and curiosity," said teacher Cathy Smith.
LAUREN KIKUKO, 12, Fresno
SCHOOL: Herndon-Barstow Elementary, Central Unified
Parents: Karen Nagata and Doug Winslow
Achievements: Though born with an ill-formed, nonfunctioning ear and a rotated knee, Lauren has succeeded in the classroom and in music and sports. Lauren has had a 4.0 GPA since fourth grade and two perfect scores on her STAR testing. She's also a proficient pianist and a member of the Herndon-Barstow Elementary School volleyball and softball teams. She earned the MVP award for the softball team in 2011. "She has overcome great adversity to succeed not only in education, but in her music career as well," said her teacher and nominator, Julie Porter.
SYDNEY FOX, 11, Clovis
School: Century Elementary, Clovis
Parents: Randy and Leanne Fox
Achievements: Sydney augments her 4.16 GPA at Century Elementary with successes outside the classroom, from a superior rating in oral interpretation and receiving the Principal's medallion for Academic Excellence to serving as student body president. Sydney is a year-round athlete who runs cross country and track and plays basketball and softball while also performing with the Children's Musical Theater and in Fresno's Garden Ballet in 2011. She also started an "adopt-a-sidewalk" program in her Clovis neighborhood and co-chaired a Pennies for Patients fundraiser that raised a school record of $4,400 for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. "She stands out by her willingness to help others no matter who they are or whatever the circumstances," said teacher Allen Shelby.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6279, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tavlian