Academic All-Stars

Third grade, Jonah Dacanay, Woodland Elementary

Jonah Dacanay


Woodland Elementary (Mariposa Unified)

Age: 9

Home: Mariposa

Parents: Roger Dacanay and Lordelyn Del Rosario

Jonah Dacanay would make you think he's been playing piano and guitar for most of his life, and that's because he has.

The third-grader at Woodland Elementary School in Mariposa has been playing piano since he was 3 and guitar since the age of 5.

"I like playing music because I like moving my fingers really fast," Jonah said.

But music isn't the only thing he does well.

Now 9, Jonah is a straight-A student who enjoys reading, math and swimming, with hopes to become the next Iron Man or Michael Phelps.

"I like the dividing," Jonah said about his passion for numbers.

He plays with Legos after he's finished all of his homework. "I love building things because it's fun and you can make different creations."

That explains his love for Ironman, or Tony Stark, the self-made math-and-science genius superhero of Marvel Comics, of which he plays the video game.

But when he's not playing, Jonah is reading books by his favorite author, J.R. Tolkien. He's currently reading the final book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, "The Return of the King."

"I like the fighting and the adventures," Jonah said of Tolkien's work. His favorite book by Tolkien is "The Hobbit."

So there's no wonder why Jonah's thirst for adventure is so strong.

As an athlete, Jonah's favorite sport is swimming with soccer a close second.

"I like being active," Jonah said.

The Mariposa Marlins swimmer, knows all of the different strokes but breaststroke is his favorite. Jonah hopes one day to be as good as Phelps.

"I'm getting better," Jonah said. "I just like being in the water. It never gets too cold for me."

Jonah is also a musician, playing the piano since he was three and recently learning the guitar rather quickly.

"Jonah stands out," teacher and nominator Barbara Silva said, "because he's so well rounded and enjoys many different things in life."

Honorable mention

Katelyn Elizabeth Baker, 9, Fresno

School: River Bluff Elementary (Fresno Unified)

Parent: Ryann Shoaf and Kelly Baker (biological father), Paul Shoaf (stepfather)

Achievements: Katelyn is nothing short of a Renaissance woman, excelling in school with a 4.0 GPA and playing soccer, running, dancing, and singing. She's qualified for the USA Track and Field Cross Country Junior Olympics and has participated in three triathlons. Katelyn also spends a great deal of her time caring for others, earning the River Bluff Soaring Falcon award every quarter since the first grade for her good character. In 2011, she donated her hair to Locks of Love and just needs one more inch to donate her hair again this year. She's also volunteered for Children's Hospital Central California and the Poverello House.

Byren Chema, 8, Kerman

School: Goldenrod Elementary (Kerman Unified)

Parents: Pritpal and Sarbjit Cheema

Achievements: The son of Indian immigrants, Byren has a 4.0 grade-point average at Goldenrod Elementary, where he received the Principal's Award every quarter this year. Byren is fluent in English and Punjabi and reads at a middle school level. Teacher Laura Wilste said, "I am just amazed at his capabilities at such a young age." Byren is in the GATE club on campus and can always be seen with a book in his hand. As much as he is a reader, he is also a writer, penning a book that will be submitted to the Young Author's Faire this year. Last year, Byren scored perfectly on the math portion on the state's standardized testing. When not in school, Byren plays soccer in the Kerman Recreation League.

Anna Grayce Gauthier, 8, Fresno

School: Liddell Elementary (Fresno Unified)

Parents: Brian and Rebecca Gauthier

Achievements: Anna is a 4.0 student and author at Liddell Elementary, writing a book every year since kindergarten. Her work has been displayed at the Young Authors Faire for the school to read. The young writer is also a level six gymnast, training nine hours a week at Verduzco's Elite Gymnastics, where she competes on floor, vault, beam and bars. A leader in the classroom and in the gym, Anna attends Zoo Camp and River Camp over the summer to learn more about animals and their environment.

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