Abby CorgiatSchool: Clovis West (Clovis Unified)
Parents: Reese and Jill Corgiat
Achievements: 4.0 GPA in accelerated classes; member of award-winning Peer Counseling Program.
Abby Corgiat has a gift for connecting with people.
She also has a strong desire to help her peers.
That combination led Abby to becoming one of a handful of freshmen ever selected to be a member of Clovis West High's award-winning Peer Counseling Program.
The program trains students such as Abby to confidentially counsel peers on family, school and social problems.
"Typically freshmen aren't in peer counseling. That tells you a lot about her character and morals," Clovis West counselor Janet Duke said. "She doesn't put kids off and she is always approachable. She makes kids feel welcome."
Abby arrived on Clovis West's campus wanting to make her mark academically -- where she sports a 4.0 grade-point average in accelerated classes such as Honor's English 9, Chemistry and Honor's Algebra 2 (a class typically for juniors) -- while also being more than just a face in the crowd.
"I like interacting with my peers. Not just hanging out, but on an emotional level," Abby said. "Even if you don't know the person very well, you feel close to them because they've been able to open up to you. It's kind of inspiring when someone you don't know very well is able to talk to you in that way. "
And it's not only her peers that Abby tries to help. She's volunteered her time at the Poverello House, Nazareth House, Valley Animal Center, Nancy Hinds Hospice and the Marjaree Mason Center.
"I put others before me because I think it's important to care for people in that way," said Abby, who plans to attend the University of the Pacific and pursue a career as an oral surgeon, following in the footsteps of her grandfather Frank Benneyan, a 78-year-old retired dentist who still volunteers at the Poverello House.
Honorable mentionZach Prins, 15, Madera
School: San Joaquin Memorial, Fresno
Parents: Gregg and Kelley Prins
Achievements: With a commitment to academics, service and athletics, Zach has a become a role model at San Joaquin Memorial. He is a member of the Dean's List with a 4.0 grade-point average, following an eighth-grade year in which he earned a 4.23 GPA and was the English Student of the Year. Zach was the Religion Student of the Year as a seventh-grader and has been on the honor roll every year since the fourth grade. He's been a volunteer with the Special Olympics for three years, the Catholic Charities Food Drive and Distribution for two years and a Lil Panthers camp coach. Zach also played freshman football and junior varsity basketball. "Zach is revered by his teachers," Vice Principal Patrick Geil said. "They describe him as 'intelligent, motivated, honest, responsible and selfless.' "
Alexander Soloniuk, 15, Fresno
School: Clovis West High (Clovis Unified)
Parents: Ronald and Loanne Soloniuk
Achievements: Alexander maintains a 4.0 grade-point average while taking some of the toughest academic courses at Clovis West such as Honor's Algebra 2 and Honor's English 9. He also scored "off the charts," according to counselor Janet Duke, on his California Standards Test, including a perfect 600 in Life Science. He is a member of Clovis West's marching band, studies Chinese and loves drama. Alexander is a black belt in tae kwon do and enjoys dirt biking in the mountains and desert. "Alexander is a very sweet gentleman, extremely bright and yet down to earth," Duke said.