Academic All-Stars

10th grade, Maribeth Villanueva, Minarets

Maribeth Villanueva


Minarets (Chawanakee Unified)

Age: 15

Home: O'Neals

Parents: Mario and Beth Villanueva

Achievements: 3.96 GPA; budding computer expert and award-winning member of FFA.

When Maribeth Villanueva arrived at Minarets High, she didn't know much about Apple's Mac computers. But just as with the rest of her academic work, she quickly adapted and flourished.

The 10th-grader with a 3.96 grade-point average has learned to create Keynote presentations and movies.

"Going to Minarets has really improved my technology skills," she said. "Before I went to Minarets I had no idea how to work a Mac like I do now. I knew the basics like typing and everything like that but it has made me more prepared for the future."

Maribeth even was able to do a presentation at a local event hosted by Apple. There she talked about her project-based, high-technology school to at least 100 educational leaders.

"It was a neat experience to be in," Maribeth said, crediting, in part, her involvement with Future Farmers of America.

"Involvement with the FFA," she said. "has really taught me how to be confident in how I'm speaking in front of others and be comfortable with myself."

She helped the school finish second at the FFA state competition in Parliamentary Procedure and has earned numerous individual awards -- including third at the state FFA 2012 Best Informed Greenhand contest, hosted by Cal Poly. She also was the varsity soccer team's Defensive Player of the Year.

"Maribeth is a wonderful student, well-rounded, self driven and extremely successful, especially for only being a sophomore," Principal Jon Corippo said. "Besides taking all of the most rigorous classes available for her grade level, and competing nearly every weekend at FFA events throughout the state, and playing varsity sports, Maribeth is a high performance student and citizen."

Honorable mention

Eric Flores, 16, Fresno

School: San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno)

Parents: Andrew and Sonya Flores

Achievements: Eric maintains a 4.17 grade-point average while pretty much doing it all at San Joaquin Memorial. He received the Dean's List award and made the Principal's Honor Roll, and volunteered with charities such as Poverello House, Toys for Tots, Catholic Charities and the Ronald McDonald House. Said Vice Principal Patrick Geil: "Eric is an outstanding student who cares about his academic success. He is intelligent, driven and creative. Every teacher he's had at SJM raves about Eric, because he's such a pleasure to have in class."

Samantha Martinusen, 16, Fresno

School: Central High West Campus (Central Unified)

Parent: Brad and Betsy Hays

Achievements: When Samantha isn't cheering or competing, she's in the classroom maintaining a 4.05 grade-point average. Teacher Bret Wood said Samantha took his Accelerated Biology class as a freshman and received the department's science medal for her outstanding achievement -- the highest scholastic honor at Central. Samantha also is involved in the California Scholarship Federation and the Invisible Children Club on campus. Wood notes, "Her discipline and devotion is unmatched. Her desire to gain knowledge goes well beyond simply striving for a high grade or impressive GPA."

Samantha Jones, 16, Fresno

School: San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno)

Parents: Mr. and Mrs. Richard Jones

Achievements: Samantha is taking honors courses in Psychology, Geometry, English 10 and Biology and has a 4.0 grade-point average. She has been an active member and leader in the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls. At Adams Elementary, she assisted in the creation of cards for veterans and delivering them to the VA Hospital and with a citrus fruit collection drive for homeless shelters. "Samantha demonstrates a heart for excellence and a desire to serve her community," said Gayle Holman, who serves on the IORG Parent Advisory Board.

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