Clovis Veterans Memorial Hall was buzzing with positive energy this past Wednesday during the 2015 Students of Promise ceremony, as 14 Clovis Unified students were honored for having overcome extreme hardship.
Janet Young, superintendent of the Clovis Unified School District, expressed the deepest of gratitude to these students for having triumphed over their obstacles.
“Because of their heart and their will to overcome, they did not allow those challenges to become barriers to what they want to do, but used those challenges as opportunities,” said Young. “These students really are absolutely remarkable.”
As a sign of good faith, 2004 Student of Promise Connor Cox was there to reassure the awardees that they are on the right path. Cox worked hard after being recognized and became a sixth grade teacher at Pinedale Elementary School.
“I think what this award does is gives you that inspiration,” said Cox. “Just moments ago one of the students came up and shook my hand…him seeing me becoming something respected, he knows what he’s doing is paying off. People believe in him and he can become something.”
At the ceremony, student introductory videos were presented on a large screen for all to see.
Buchanan High School presented Margarita Botello and Jonathan Hernandez.
Botello suffered from profound hearing loss as a child. She grew into a confident young lady who wants to work with children because they are in most need of help.
Hernandez lived with his grandmother. At the age of 5, he was forced into foster care after his grandmother passed away.
Hernandez currently does countless hours of community service, working with his church to assist other struggling youths.
Clovis West High School presented Cameron Kemp, Kolby Joyce, and Rojina Nekoonam.
Kemp endured the passing of his father, brother, and mother. As his grandmother’s caregiver, Kemp has remained positive and determined, being described as a respectful and diligent student.
Joyce’s father became ill, lost his job, and passed away while Joyce was in high school. Joyce kept a good attitude in the face of misfortune and continues trying to succeed in school.
Nekoonam, a Persian Christian, escaped with her father to a refugee camp in Turkey for two years, when she was a child.
Nekoonam eventually came to America, bright and excited to learn. In an effort to make a difference in the world, she has considered becoming a doctor.
From Clovis High School there was Caitlin Tokash and Danielle James.
Tokash dealt with an alcoholic father, deaths in the family, unemployment and homelessness. She still managed to take college prep courses and even overcame challenges that come with a learning disability.
James was born to a drug and alcohol addicted mother, and was immediately placed into the care of her grandmother.
Her grandmother became ill with cancer and passed away. James eventually formed new familial bonds with the other girls at a Clovis group home. She wants to become a pediatrician.
Gateway High School presented Seselie McNight and Rosalinada Torres-Criado.
McNight was in and out of foster care as a toddler. By age 14 she was pregnant and expelled from school.
In a group home, McNight found the support she needed to go back to school and excel. She wants to go to college to become a labor delivery nurse.
Torres-Criado and her mother were kicked out of their home when she was very young. The two moved around constantly and Torres-Criado’s life was painful and wrought with abuse. After seeking out help, she began life anew.
Torres-Criado is looking into an education in criminal justice and criminal investigation to help those, like her, in need.
From Clovis North High School there was Bree Terronez, Malique Goedig, and Connor McNight.
Terronez was left to take care of her mentally ill father at the age of 11. Authorities got involved after her grades plunged and she stopped coming to school. She and her sister were briefly sent to live with an abusive relative.
Terronez’s new foster family encouraged education and academic success. She overcame the odds and is on the road to a better life.
Goedig moved constantly while growing up. By junior high he was associating with his mother’s criminal boyfriend.
Goedig was sent away to live with his grandparents in the central valley. He re-enrolled in school, played high school football, improved his GPA, and got involved with CenCal Mentoring Academy.
This allowed Goedig to share his story with other at-risk youths, showing them life can get better.
McNight’s life was difficult after having been treated for a brain tumor. He still managed to keep on track, even after relearning how to speak, and eat, and take care of himself again.
McNight did not let his situation dictate his abilities. He wants to practice law and is even involved in school mock trials.
And lastly presented from Clovis East High School was Carissa Wight and Joseph Moreno.
Wight was raised by her father and grandmother, but they struggled financially and were homeless by the time she reached the fourth grade.
She was taken in by a Clovis foster family during her secondary education, giving her the stability she needed to succeed. Wight is working to become the first in her family to go to college after high school.
Moreno’s father passed away when he was nine. He moved around a lot, causing behavioral problems and ended up living with friends. Moreno plays sports and is making an effort to do better in school to become a sports journalist.
Even though each school presented separately, all 14 students were given the same uproarious applause.
Foundation for Clovis Schools Chairperson Hugh Awtrey said that the organization receives countless amounts of nominees from school counselors and teachers, but the most remarkable are the ones standing there on award night.
“We wish we could give out three or four of these because we get that many nominees,” Awtrey said. “There are lots of kids out there with obstacles, these ones just happen to rise to the top.”