Unique, dedicated and mature are just some of the ways that fourth-grade teacher Jessica Mercuri describes Leo.
His teacher says Leo analyzes the world he lives in and cultivates the communities he immerses himself in with his empathy and kind spirit.
This 10-year-old is a boy of many talents. In the arts, Leo performs in the Fresno State Youth Orchestra, Mexican Folkloric dancing and is a junior photojournalist. In academics, Leo has maintained a 4.0 GPA and has a passion for the medical field.
“He is planning on making a change in the community by finding organizations in which people can donate to his cause of finding cures to genetic mutations,” Mercuri says.
His mother, Mariana Anagnostopoulos, says Leo has a mild form of osteogenesis imperfecta, a fragile bone disease. But, it doesn’t hold him back. In fact, it drives him to push further. “It’s moving to see him enjoying all the ways he can experience his life fully,” Mariana says.
His father, Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, says Leo is a ray of sunshine. “He pierces through life’s challenges with optimism and artistry.”
School: Dailey Elementary Charter School
Parents: Mariana Anagnostopoulos and Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval
Achievements: 4.0 GPA; student council class representative and ambassador; Champion of the Earth: developed an action project to solve homelessness in Fresno; performs Mexican Folkloric dancing for Fresno State; fluent in Spanish and is learning Greek; violinist and pianist, traveled to Germany, Italy, England, Spain, France, Greece and Mexico and performs with the Fresno State Youth Orchestra
Jaycie Graham, 10, Fresno
School: Sun Empire Elementary, Kerman
Parents: Marnie Couto and Jason Graham
Achievements: “Jaycie is a scholar, an athlete, a poet and an active member of our school,” said one of her teachers, Kary Garcia. She said Jaycie has a “big heart” and loves to help others. She’s competed for two years at the Peach Blossom Festival, an annual poetry festival held at Fresno State in spring. Some of her outstanding achievements include being a student council representative, volunteering as a student teacher to second-grade students to help improve writing skills, a sixth-year swim team member and is a member of the Super Readers after-school book club.
Riley Marie Shanen, 9, Clovis
School: Copper Hills Elementary School
Parents: Kristin and Justin Shanen
Achievements: Riley is a dancer, aspiring teacher and an honor roll student with a creative mind. She was nominated as a writer and artist two different semesters by her teachers. Her grandmother, Sharon Shanen, said Riley is a sincere and humble young woman who cares for her family, friends and animals. She was asked to represent her grade level at the Principal’s Advisory for Student Affairs committee. When Riley isn’t achieving high academic goals, she practices taekwondo and helps rescue Labrador retrievers.