GIOVANNA ARETAKIS, 6, Fresno
School: Dailey Elementary Charter School, Fresno
Parents: Alex and Georgianne Aretakis
Achievements: Giovanna has a vested interest in multiple sclerosis – her aunt has MS. That's why she volunteers with the MS Society and walks in the MS Walk each year. She also participated in Holiday Give Back by making gifts for less fortunate kids and the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service at Roeding Park. She works hard in school – she has a 3.83 GPA, is on the Dailey Elementary Honor Roll, maintains perfect attendance and is a Classroom Ambassador. "Giovanna is a shining example of excellence inside and outside of the classroom," said her nominating teacher, Jill Daigle. Giovanna proudly represents her heritage by performing with a Greek dance group and is a Girl Scout.
JULES HAU, 7, Fresno
School: McKinley Elementary School, Fresno
Parents: John Hau and Gui Liu
Achievements: Reading is a special pastime for Jules. She's won five reading awards, including one for reading 133 books while in kindergarten. She has a 4.0 GPA and has been Student of the Month and Tiger of the Month at McKinley Elementary. But her interests aren't limited to academics: She participates in martial arts and is passionate about Chinese culture and recently shared her knowledge of the Chinese New Year and Chinese astrology with her classmates. Jules also earned the "Trustworthiness" award at her school. "Jules never lets me down," said classroom teacher Julie Stevens, who nominated her. "She is here every day ready to listen and learn."
MADISON ALEXIA PEREZ, 7, Fresno
School: McKinley Elementary School, Fresno
Parents: Valentino and Kimberly Perez
Achievements: Madison loves helping people and plans to become a firefighter someday. "She has a huge heart," said her nominating teacher, Lesley Avila. Madison enjoys reading to the elderly residents at Raintree Hospital and coloring pictures for them. She also loves helping her mother make dinner, and makes her parents proud by being Student of the Month and earning highest honors at her school. "Madison's loving and caring personality will take her a long way in life," Avila said.
JADON KAI BYNUM, 8, Fowler
School: James Marshall Elementary School
Parents: Lee and Roberta Bynum
Achievements: He has played soccer and basketball three years. Jadon has assisted with teaching and demonstrating water safety techniques to younger swimming students. Along with being named Student of the Month, he has picked up the gold medal award for Book It Reading in kindergarten. His teacher, Bernita Bland called Jadon, "An outstanding student and the kind of guy you want to have around."
CADEE JADE CHRISTIANSEN, 8, Fresno
School: John Steinbeck Elementary School
Parents: Gerald and Erilynne Christiansen
Achievements: Cadee has made straight A's in kindergarten, first and second grade. She's been so good in class, her teachers often have been challenged to find material that will satisfy the second-grader's education interests. Cadee reads at a fifth-grade level and finished all of the "Harry Potter" books. She also plays piano.
MEGHAN COWIN, 8, Fresno
School: River Bluff Elementary
Parent: Charlene Cowin
Achievements: Meghan has been named to the principal's honor roll because of a 4.0 GPA maintained through perfect attendance. She's a member of ECL and plays piano. Her teacher, Keri Swobe," said, "Meghan truly shines in all areas of academic achievement, as well as character and effort."
JESSICA DONDLINGER, 11, Fowler
School: John Sutter Middle School, Fowler
Parents: Dan and Denise Dondlinger
Achievements: Jessica has established herself as a high-achieving, well-involved member of the John Sutter community. Not only does she take an advanced math course and maintain straight A's, she also is involved in her school's band and color guard, volleyball, soccer and basketball teams. Jessica also finds time to play recreational soccer and baseball and helps the community through food handouts with her church youth group and World Impact. "She is a selfless individual who is always willing to help those in need, both in and out of school," wrote her teacher, Kim Calderon, who nominated her.
KATELYNN ALEXIS LOREDO, 11, Reedley
School: Thomas Law Reed Elementary, Reedley
Parents: Gabriel and Esther Loredo
Achievements: Katelynn is quick to define her goals and find the means to achieve them while performing at the highest caliber. Katelynn, who has a 3.75 grade-point average, has achieved much in the world of chess, winning local chess tournaments and taking second place in an all-girls tournament in Northern California. She plays clarinet for the Reed school band, runs for the track team and is a recipient of numerous academic excellence medals. "Katelynn is the type of student who inspires hope in today's youth," wrote teacher Marjorie McIntyre. "She sets a good example and models maturity and responsibility for her peers."
JACOB SCHROEDER, 12, Madera
School: John Adams Elementary School, Madera
Parents: Linda and Brent Schroeder
Achievements: Jacob puts himself to a higher standard and is determined to meet it. When given a choice among three science projects, Jacob completed all three. Jacob's determination to finish his work and work harder than anyone else is truly the attitude of a special student, according to his teacher, Christina Riche. Despite being a high-functioning autistic student, Jacob is extremely determined, works three times as hard, and is able to earn a 3.6 grade-point average and various academic excellence awards, she said. "Jacob has faced many obstacles very early in his life, but this does not seem to deter him from wanting to do what everyone else is doing," Riche wrote when nominating him.
NATALEE JO BACHANT, 15, Clovis
ARYSSA LEE ELLEN MEDINA, 16, Fowler
School: Fowler High
Parent: Amber Duran
Achievements: The CEO in her virtual business class, Aryssa partnered with two accounting firms and presented a college level business plan at the state virtual enterprise trade fair. She holds a 4.43 GPA and is on the varsity swim, soccer and tennis teams. She has participated in the Spanish Club, Science Olympiad and choir, in addition to being active in her church. Fowler teacher Gary Hains nominated Aryssa, calling her "brilliant" and "the hardest, most determined person" he has taught. Aryssa is an AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) member and also attended the California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science. She has received a number of awards, including the City of Fowler Commerce Award, a presidential community service award and the Redcat Character award.
CONNOR FOURCHY, 17, Fresno
School: Bullard High, Fresno
Parents: Paul and Pepper Fourchy
Achievements: Trigonometry instructor David Ainley describes Connor as a mature, self-motivated student capable of grasping complex concepts. His work ethic and "commitment to excellence" help make Connor liked and respected by his teachers and peers, who are quick to partner with him in class. A tutor who was elected as a student government officer, Connor has achieved a 4.2 weighted GPA. He is also a co-captain of the volleyball team and was a captain on last year's 16-under Fresno-area volleyball squad that competed in the junior nationals in Austin, Texas.
RIVER MESSICK SANDERS, 18, Coarsegold
School: Minarets High, O'Neals
Parents: Kimberly Couts and Darren Sanders
Achievements: This well-rounded leader found a calling in film and overcame adversity to blossom into a star at Minarets High. A 4.26 GPA is just the start for the choir singer and cross-country runner who has helped disaffected peers refocus on learning. River produced an award-winning film for the International Student Media Festival in 2010, a touching documentary for a local charity, television commercials for local businesses and nonprofits and five films that were finalists at the Slick Rock Student Film Festival. In addition to running orientation sessions for Minarets freshmen and sophomores, she helped train the student body on how to break stereotypes.
NICHOLAS A. GREENE, 18, Coarsegold
School: Yosemite High, Oakhurst
Parents: Edward and Sharon Greene
Achievements: Service and citizenship are important to Nicholas, who has been accepted to UC Davis this fall and will be contracted through the U.S. Army as an ROTC cadet. He has been president of Madera County 4-H since August 2008 and is a member of California Cadet Corps, where he currently holds the rank of brigade commander. Nicholas maintains a 4.08 grade-point average, belongs to the Rotary Interact and Key clubs, is a two-year captain of the swim team and coaches youth swimming.
ALEX HUNTER, 18, Fresno
School: Clovis West High, Fresno
Parents: Brian and Laurie Hunter
Achievements: "This young man is a leader in the classroom and on the field," said learning director/coach Matt Verhalen, who nominated Alex. The starting goalkeeper on the Golden Eagles soccer team is also an Eagle Scout, president of the school's Science Olympiad and vice president of his church's youth group. Alex has scored 4 or higher in six AP courses while maintaining a 4.35 grade-point average. His awards include a first place in biochemistry at the state science fair and 10 top-three finishes at the Science Olympiad.
MARINE VARDANYAN, 18, Fresno
School: Duncan Polytechnical High, Fresno
Parents: Karen Vardanyan and Irina Hakobyan
Achievements: Marine has come a long way since immigrating to the U.S. in 1999 and attending kindergarten as a non-English speaker. Fluent in Armenian, Russian and English, she is editor-in-chief of her school yearbook, volunteers at Community Regional Medical Center and for 21/2 years has hosted a weekly Armenian-themed radio show on KFSR. She has won numerous awards for both citizenship and academics and has a career goal of becoming a nurse practitioner. "Marine has a natural quest for knowledge," said teacher Laurie Wehner, who nominated her.