GIOVANNA ARETAKIS, 6, Fresno
School: Dailey Elementary Charter School, Fresno
Parents: Alex and Georgianne Aretakis
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Fresno Bee
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."
LAUREN KELLY SANNAR, 8, Fresno
School: River Bluff Elementary, Fresno
Parents: Jared and Beth Sannar
Achievements: The oldest of three children, Lauren is a natural leader. The straight-A student is class president, a peer tutor, and as dedicated to helping her classmates and community as she is her family. She spends her afternoons and weekends volunteering at food drives, cleaning at Storyland Playland and collecting gifts for families in need. "Lauren gives me hope for our future, and in these crazy times, that is remarkable," said Kelly Magill, Lauren's teacher. A voracious reader, Lauren leads her class with most books read and will graduate the third grade with a number of reading awards and a spot on the principal's honor role.
ISABELLA SOPHIA PALAZUELOS, 9, Fresno
School: Dailey Elementary Charter School, Fresno
Parents: Julie and Adrian Palazuelos
Achievements: Isabella wants to be a journalist, but she's only in the third grade – so she started her own newspaper. Isabella writes stories at home, and with help from siblings and friends, puts together a newspaper she brings to school to share with her class. "She's so bright, she keeps me on my toes," said Annette Arvizu, Isabella's teacher. The 2010-11 school year was Isabella's first in Fresno – her family just moved here from Los Angeles – but with her affable and generous nature, she made friends quickly, Arvizu said. "She always wants to guide the students who are struggling," Arvizu said. Isabella earned the Principal's Award for a 4.0 GPA and served as class ambassador.
ISABEL AVANI AGUILERA, 9, Fresno
School: River Bluff Elementary, Fresno
Parents: George and Anita Aguilera
Achievements: Isabel's stoicism helps keep her classmates and her teacher calm in what could be a hectic classroom. "It's almost like she's 30," said her teacher, Kelly Magill. "She just has a very mature sense of knowing when someone needs help. It's grace in action." Isabel's grace has spread outside the classroom to Children's Hospital Central California, where she volunteers to help patients, and all the way to India, where she and her family founded a primary school. Isabel is not only a straight-A student, but she also excels at soccer, karate, dance and piano. She stays busy as class president, peer tutor, reading buddy and world traveler.
VICTORIA RENE AGUILAR, 9, Parlier
School: Mathew J. Brletic School, Parlier
Parents: Jose and Norma Aguilar
Achievements: Victoria is a powerhouse of energy. Academically she is at the top of her class, has been student of the month, and has received other honor and merit awards. Her biggest achievement, so far, is being recognized at a recent Parlier Unified School Board meeting for her academic achievement. Her scores in math, reading and language arts place her at an advanced level of performance. Victoria also likes to play softball and soccer. And she is part of Girl Scouts. When not at school, Victoria enjoys reading, video games and walking her dog. She hopes to one day be an artists and plans to travel the world for inspiration.
TREVOR AMARANTE, 10, Fowler
School: Fremont Elementary School, Fowler
Parents: Jason and Lynde Amarante
Achievements: Trevor is an exceptional student who has earned a 4.0 grade-point average. He has achieved honor roll all trimesters at Fremont Elementary and is advanced in language arts and math. He's able to maintain his good grades while also being active in sports, community service and extracurricular activities. Trevor has a strong desire to help others, and recently he and his fellow Cub Scouts raised money for the local food bank. He also has participated in a Fowler beautification day by helping to clean the local Grange Hall. Trevor has been selected for the last two years for the school's Science Olympiad team.
BROOKE ROWLAND, 10, Fresno
School: Dailey Elementary Charter School
Parents: Cynthia and Jamie Rowland
Achievements: Brooke is a top student who comes to school every day ready to learn. She earned a 4.0 grade-point average in her first and second quarters of school this year. Brooke is a critical thinker and is inspired to be a writer. She has entered one writing competition and is writing her next story for the Fresno County Young Authors Fair. Brooke is also a budding artist. She received the Principal's Award and is a class ambassador for the after-school musical program.
SYDNEY FOX, 10, Clovis
School: Century Elementary, Clovis
Parents: Leanne and Randy Fox
Achievements: Sydney constantly strives to improve her community and help people around her, said her teacher Kim Fox-Kristensen, who nominated her. "She's just extremely well-rounded," Fox-Kristensen said. Sydney is involved in basketball, softball, dance, choir and drama. She has participated in Science Olympiad, G.A.T.E. and Challenge Track, an optional academic program. Sydney volunteers in preschool and third grade classrooms, is a Salvation Army bell ringer and picks up trash in her community. She has a 4.0 grade-point average and is on the Principal's Honor Roll. Sydney was a Fresno County History Day winner and Music Teachers' Association of California Certificate of Merit recipient.
DANIELLE HALLIMAN, 11, Fresno
School: Baird Middle, Fresno
Parents: Marsha and W.C. Halliman
Achievements: Danielle is attentive in class and is always willing to help other students, said her teacher Hiromi Y. Somawang, who nominated her. "She's a very good role model," Somawang said. Danielle participated in Accelerated Math and Accelerated Reader, programs that offer more challenging material to students. She has a 4.0 grade-point average and perfect attendance, and is on the Honor Roll and Merit List. Danielle has won awards for basketball, softball, baseball and volleyball. She is involved in her church, serving in the nursery and with the youth program.
NATE JARAMILLO, 11, Sanger
School: Reagan Elementary, Sanger
Parents: Belin and Mario Jaramillo
Achievements: Nate's compassion for his peers and hunger to learn make him stand out, said his teacher Denise Feil, who nominated him. "He loves to be challenged and asks those questions that no other kid asks." Nate is the student body president and a peer mediator at the school. He is also involved in soccer, basketball and football. Nate participated in the Peach Blossom Festival of literature and competed in the Sanger Unified School District spelling bee. He has a 4.0 grade-point average and got a perfect score on the California Standards Tests math section last year.
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.
AMANDA CLAIRE HAMILTON, 12 Clovis
School: Alta Sierra Middle School, Clovis
Parents: Nikki and Andy Hamilton
Achievements: After hearing that middle school would be harder than elementary school, Amanda focused on keeping her grades up. It paid off; her first semester grades in seventh grade were the best she'd ever gotten. Amanda, who has a 4.0 grade-point average, participates in Alta Sierra's GATE and drama programs, works ahead on homework, helps friends with homework and serves on the principal's committee and the school safety committee. "Amanda's energy and zest for life is contagious amongst her peers. In drama, her positive attitude and willingness to take a risk allows her to participate and succeed in a variety of performances and assignments," said Alta Sierra principal Steve Pagani.
GOBIND PUNIANI, 12, Clovis
School: Granite Ridge Intermediate School, Clovis
Parents: Navjit and Trilok Puniani
Achievements: With the mastery of a variety of subjects, Gobind is able to apply theoretical topics from the classroom to the practical world. He excelled in the county and state spelling bee, school and county science fair, and History Day. Gobind maintains a 4.0 grade-point average, even while taking advanced science and math courses and balancing his schoolwork with his other activities. Gobind's work in the classroom fuels his greatest characteristics as a student: academic curiosity. "Gobind is an extremely diligent and competitive student. He has never missed an assignment due date, and consistently presents work that shows his unique approach and advanced abilities," wrote his teacher, LisaMarie Slater.
TAYLOR WAYNE YATES, 13 , Kerman
School: Kerman Middle School, Kerman
Parents: Dennis and Dena Yates
Achievements: Atop his entire class, Taylor is the definition of a high achiever at Kerman Middle School. With a 4.66 grade-point average, Taylor has been able to master four honors courses at Kerman but also is involved in 4-H, student council, chess club and band. His achievements include being top tennis player at Kerman and a member of the California Junior Scholarship Federation. "He's a highly motivated, outstanding student with an upbeat personality and a positive attitude," wrote teacher Brandy Chappell, who nominated him.
MADISON ALEXANDRA DIETRICH, 13, Sanger
School: Quail Lake Charter School, Sanger
Parents: Dan and Teresa Dietrich
Achievements: Madison, who goes by "Maddy," has a 4.0 grade-point average and a full schedule of activities: She's the student body president, a peer mediator, a member of the school choir, drama and journalism programs, and has earned several academic distinctions, including the Academic Achievement award, Principal's Character Award and a place on the Principal's Honor Roll. She raised funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, helped with Read Across America and volunteered for the Community Food Bank and Kid's Day. "Maddy shines brighter year after year," said her nominating teacher, Amy Jones. "Her ambition, tenacity and a strong work ethic drive her to achieve her high goals."
CHRISTOPHER GROSSMAN, 13, Fresno
School: Fresno Christian School, Fresno
Parents: Bob and Lori Grossman
Achievements: With a 4.20 grade-point average, starting positions on Fresno Christian Junior High's basketball and baseball teams, and as president of the junior high student body and the California Junior Scholarship Federation, Christopher could be a model for the All-American student. But his focus isn't limited to sports and academics. He's the school's football home game and morning address announcer, a guest columnist for the Fresno Christian online newspaper and volunteers for Pinedale Elementary's reading program for students. He started a family recycling program and organized a food drive for a women's shelter. "Chris has the God-given talent, as well as the drive, to do whatever he wants to do in life," Fresno Christian district principal Todd Bennett said. "I'm really confident in Chris – the world's open to him."
TRISTAN KITTINGER, 14, Exeter
School: Wilson Middle School, Exeter
Parents: Todd and Kimberly Kittinger
Achievements: Tristan may be a "quiet leader," according to his history teacher, Loretta Hicks, but his accomplishments speak volumes. He's a straight-A student, on the Principal's List, captain of the varsity baseball team and recipient of the American Legion Certificate of School Award. Sports are a serious commitment for Tristan; he plays for a traveling baseball team, helps coach younger baseball teams, plays football and volunteers for a sports training program at Exeter Union High School. During the holiday season, Tristan and his sister collected toy, cookie and hot chocolate donations for the Visalia Rescue Mission and more than $500 worth of toys and treats to help children in need. "He sets a good example by making hard but 'right' choices and encourages friends to do the same when dealing with the many difficult social issues that plague this age group," Hicks said.
TRISTAN JOSEPH CHESTER, 14, Clovis
School: University High, Fresno
Parents: Raquel and Garon Chester
Achievements: Tristan is always looking for ways to help the community and humbly serves those around him, said 4-H coordinator Melanie Curtis, who nominated him. "He's done really great things," she said. Tristan has organized a Toys for Tots collection and a 4-H Fresno countywide event to collect items for rescued horses at Silverwings Horse Rescue. He has collected more than 400 pounds of candy for military care packages and blankets for the Poverello House. Tristan has a 4.0 grade-point average and has won several awards and competitions, including a 4-H Gold Star, the California State Science Fair Special Award, and two Fresno Fair Junior Exhibits Best in Show awards. He is part of his school's chess, volleyball and snowboard teams, and is a percussionist in the concert band. Tristan is a leader for the school's chess team, a religious youth group and the 4-H Club.
EMILY JENKINS-MOSES, 15, Fresno
School: Fresno High, Fresno
Parents: Ruth Jenkins and John Moses
Achievements: Emily's positive attitude and desire to learn make her a dream student, said her English teacher, Stephanie Champion, who nominated her. "No matter what we're learning, she's very excited about it," Champion said. Emily is a member of Fresno High's book club, science academic team, tennis team and academic senate. She serves as the ninth grade student body treasurer and is a teacher's aide for the Special Olympics class. She is a member of the California Scholarship Federation and Californians for Justice, and has a 4.0 grade-point average. Emily spends her free time volunteering at Mella's House, a program to help mothers who are recovering addicts, and organizes birthday parties for children who live there.
SIERRA McGINN SMITH, 15, Fresno
School: Edison High, Fresno
Parents: Laura Magill and Tom Smith
Achievements: Sierra is a well-rounded individual and consistently works hard, said her GATE English teacher, Cathy Haynes. "She's a model student," Haynes said. Sierra, who has a 3.8 grade-point average, is on the school's mock trial team. She was a solo baton twirler for the marching band and has won several awards, including first place for beginning marching solo at the 2010 United States Twirling Association California State Championships and second place for solo twirler in the 2010 Visalia Marching Band Parade Competition. She is a member of the Dazzling Diamondettes baton team, which has won team awards at several local and regional field show and parade competitions. Sierra won the Best Film award for a 30-second advertisement at the Slick Rock Student Film Festival competition in Visalia.
NATALEE JO BACHANT, 15, Clovis
School: Clovis North High School, Fresno
Parents: Carole Massiello Lewis and David Bachant
Achievements: Natalee has a 3.88 grade-point average and has been team captain on Clovis North's mock trial team, which was rated one of the state's best this year. She will serve an internship this summer at a local law firm. She volunteered 100 hours to help build the mock trial courtroom at Clovis North last year. Natalee serves as a Clovis North peer tutor and volunteer counselor for sixth-graders at an outdoor educational camp, and volunteers at the Woodward Park County Library branch and the Fresno County Food Bank. She was selected to serve on the student leadership council at her church. "She is hungry for knowledge and learning," said her English teacher, Lisa Bennett. "Natalee is a student who makes me a better teacher and a better human being."
JACOB SINGLETERRY, 15, Selma
School: Selma High School, Selma
Parents: Merari Bernal and Abraham Singleterry
Achievements: Jacob has a 3.95 grade-point average and is a leader in his school's Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. He will be the third-ranked member of the ROTC program next year. Selma's ROTC color guard – commanded by Jacob – took first place among 40 schools at a competition in Phoenix and finished first among 69 schools at a Torrance competition. Jacob served as captain of the Selma High School junior varsity basketball team. He has been nominated three times as student of the month. "As a freshman, he stood out in the class as far as being a leader and having other students follow him," said teacher Mike Romero, who nominated Jacob and is his ROTC instructor.
MICHAEL JOSEPH WELLS, 16, Fresno
School: Clovis North High School, Fresno
Parents: Kathy and Samuel Wells
Achievements: Michael has a 4.1 grade-point average and has been student of the month twice. As an Eagle Scout, he built and landscaped a greenhouse at Garfield Elementary School in Clovis. Michael's science project was third in his division at the Clovis North science fair. He volunteers in the community by helping senior citizens, the disabled and at his church. He has been active at Clovis North in its chamber singers program, as well as the Fresno-Madera Counties Music Educators' Association Honor Choir. Michael also has had roles in drama productions such as "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Law and Order: Fairy Tale Unit." Michael "is self-motivated, energetic and dedicated to his work and the needs of others ... the kind of student teachers dream to have," said his math teacher, Nick Pappanduros.
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.