Those close to Lanie Murrieta knew she had the fourth- grade Academic All-Star award in the bag. "She has been nominated two years in a row now, so we had high hopes," said her mother, Andrea Murrieta. Lanie's fourth-grade teacher, Ashley Ryan, said she "felt like Lanie had a really good chance because of her academics and extracurricular activities."
Indeed, Lanie's impressive résumé and varied interests brought home the gold this year.
Lanie is an exemplary student in all facets. Her favorite subject is math, but she holds different career aspirations from math-driven occupations such as computing or engineering. "I want to be a fashion designer," she said.
Ryan praised Lanie for her outstanding character in addition to her intelligence.
"She is a role model for all students and always offers to help others," Ryan said.
Her willingness to help is evident. She rang a Salvation Army bell at Christmas; volunteered at Kids Day, a benefit for Children's Hospital Central California; and donated to Locks of Love, which takes donated hair and makes wigs for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Lanie also spends every summer helping a preschool program. "I have been doing it for four years," she said. "I help with the kids and do a lot of activities with them." The hours volunteering have earned Lanie four straight Presidential Volunteer Service awards.
School: John C. Fremont Elementary Home: Fowler
Parents: Joaquin and Andrea Murrieta
Isabella Cruz, 10, Kerman
School: Sun Empire Elementary, Kerman Unified
Parents: Aydee and Jesus Cruz
Achievements: Isabella Cruz delivered a well-rounded punch for Sun Empire Elementary in Kerman. She was a straight-A student, a student counsel representative, a two-sport athlete and an active volunteer. Her teacher, Kary Garcia, praised her for tutoring a few of her struggling classmates and called her "a model citizen."
Isabella took second in her age group in the Fresno County Office of Education Martin Luther King Jr. Speech Contest. . She also donated her time to school fundraising events, sold newspapers for Kids Day, a benefit for Children's Hospital, and donated recess time to assist teachers. Garcia said Isabella has embraced her Mexican heritage by participating in folklorico dance.
Kendall Chrisman, 9, Shaver Lake
School: Pine Ridge Elementary
Parents: Josh and Julie Chrisman
Achievements: Kendall Chrisman relentlessly pursues knowledge, especially in mathematics. Her teacher, Susan Hogenson, said that she would meet with Kendall in class to give her advanced mathematics instruction and that Kendall will often make up her own difficult math equations to solve. The straight-A student also looks to share her knowledge with others. Kendall is also an athlete, actress and volunteer.
Lucas Winton, 9, Fresno
School: Copper Hills Elementary, Clovis Unified
Parents: Michael and Georgette Winton
Achievements: Lucas Winton's commitment to helping others earned him the prestigious St. George Medal, which is awarded to Cub Scouts who volunteer generously in the name of the Orthodox Christian faith. Lucas and his fellow scouts collected over 500 health kits containing towels, toothbrushes, soap and other necessities and sent them to charities in Greece, Syria and Uganda.
He put a similar effort into Chelsea Toews' fourth-grade class, where he earned a 4.0 GPA and perfect attendance. "Lucas' mother Georgette said he exercises his eagerness to learn by reading the newspaper.