Academic All-Stars

Second grade, Claire Freeman, Manchester GATE

Claire Freeman


Manchester GATE Elementary (Fresno Unified)

Age: 8

Home: Fresno

Parents: Jordan and Stephanie Freeman

Achievements: 4.0 GPA; Academic Excellence Award in math, science, writing, reading and health; pianist, High Honor Roll, volunteers.

While most second-graders are cheerfully playing during recess, 8-year-old Claire Freeman can be found in her classroom helping students who struggle with their class work.

"She'd rather help someone else if someone needs it because that's who she is," Claire's teacher Jill Nakamura said.

The desire to learn and make a difference started at a young age for Claire, a second-grader at Manchester GATE Elementary School in Fresno, who carries a 4.0 GPA. This year, she won academic excellence awards in math, reading, writing, health and science.

When Claire, the second oldest of five girls, finds time away from her church youth group or playing the piano, she treats herself to reading action books -- including her all-time favorite, the Harry Potter series.

"I like Hermione, she's cool," Claire said. "She likes to read and I like to read, too."

But reading is not her only passion. She has been riding horses since she was 5 years old and is looking forward to attending for the first time a riding camp this summer by herself.

"I'm not scared; I don't know anyone there, but I will make new friends," Claire said.

Despite her hectic schedule, Claire said she loves school because it will get her one step closer to reaching her dreams.

"I want to be an inventor so I can help people," she said.

Even at her young age, Claire makes her presence known on campus.

"She is such a good role model and always tries to do her best," Nakamura said. "The other kids look up to her."

Honorable mention

Ella Wheeler, 8, Fresno

School: Nelson Elementary (Clovis Unified)

Parents: Allen and Gretchan Wheeler

Achievements: Ella augments her 4.0 GPA at Nelson Elementary with successes beyond the classroom, from showing her leadership skills in Girl Scouts and tutoring other students who need help. Pamela Sittre, her teacher, said that Ella "is selfless and kind to others." Even at her young age, Ella is not scared to challenge herself. She recently cut her long, red hair for Locks of Love and was proud that she was able to help those in need. She has a long list of achievements, including student of the month, being the recipient of a reading medallion and receiving a computer lab award. Ella visits the elderly, but for her they are all her "grandmas and grandpas."

Catrina Sue Armstrong, 7, Fowler

School: Marshall Elementary (Fowler Unified)

Parents: Cassandra and Chris Armstrong

Achievements: Catrina has learned from her personal experience and made it her goal to help others fight cancer. For two years, she watched as her older sister battled leukemia and survived. Since then Catrina has spent many hours volunteering with different cancer organizations including the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, the Leukemia Lymphoma Walk the Night events, and donates stickers to children with cancer at the Children's Hospital oncology department. Catrina collects pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House and gathers pennies for the Pennies for Patients drive. She has earned excellent rankings in all subjects and has not missed one day of school. Teresa Phrachanhsay, her teacher, said that Catrina "is an energetic student with a deep dedication to her learning."

Nicole Crow, 8, Fowler

School: Marshall Elementary (Fowler Unified)

Parents: Robert and Kim Crow

Achievements: Nicole excels in and out of the classroom. While maintaining a 4.0 GPA, she is an author for several books for the school's library and helps at an animal shelter supporting her plans to be a veterinarian. She serves the city of Fowler by picking up trash in neighborhoods and collecting food for the Fowler Food Pantry. Her community service helped earn her an Exceptional Character Award. In the classroom, Nicole has perfect attendance and doesn't mind assisting other students who need the extra help. "She is a natural leader in every sense of the word," teacher Deborah Hearne said.

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