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Obstacles can often hinder a person for a lifetime. When a student overcomes them, the results can be inspiring and reason to celebrate.

Ceres Unified School District celebrated 18 students Friday morning who made a decision to move past the obstacles which individually threatened to cripple them during the "Every Student Succeeding" Awards Breakfast. The event was held at the Ceres Community Center.

"You faced a lot of challenges and I want to congratulate you for overcoming those challenges," Supt. Walt Hanline told the collective gathering of students, their family and teachers. He started the awards program be relating his own life story growing up with physical problems, learning handicaps and being the perpetual target of other students who made fun of him.

Here is a recap of each recipient and their struggles:

Claudia Ramirez-Garcia

Nominated by Principal Jose Beltran, Claudia was honored for coming to Walter White in the fourth grade from Mexico with no knowledge of English. She absorbed the language and and academic experience. She impressed her teacher, Mrs. Purdy, with a tenacious drive to not only learn English but seek help to develop her academic skills.

"She continued with a level of motivation that is only seen in a small percentage of English learners," said Beltran. "Claudia continued making steady progress by learning English at a very rapid pace. Claudia continued to show her no give up attitude and internal motivation to succeed."

She has gone from reading 30-50 words per minute in fifth grade, to know reading 90-110 words per minute and now reads essays in English in front of the class.

Jaime Trueba

Jaime Trueba was selected as the Ceres Adult School honoree. On Friday Jaime gave her first-ever public speech and told how pregnancy at age 17 disrupted her educational plans.

"Giving up or quitting is never an option," said Trueba.

She came to the Ceres program in August from another adult school to take advantage of teacher led classes rather than computer led classes. She took and passed both sections of the CAHSEE exam this past October and is on track to graduate in June. Trueba is using her success on the CAHSEE as an example for her daughter, who recently took the CAHSEE this month. Trueba is planning to attend Modesto Junior College in the fall.

Mayra Rivera

Argus Continuation High School officials chose to honor Mayra Rivera, who came from Endeavor Alternative Center in March 2008 extremely deficient in credits and pregnant. Mayra struggled during her first year of enrollment and ended up moving to another school for the tenth grade. Mayra successfully completed 70 credits, putting her back on track for graduation. She returned to Argus in August 2009 in the eleventh grade and has continued her academic progress. Mayra also enrolled in special education, as she has a learning disability which impedes her ability to learn without special support.

Her setbacks began long before high school. Her mother was involved in all her kids' education but died when Mayra was a fifth-grader. Her older sister, Rosario, then became the caretaker for her younger siblings. But last summer, Rosario unexpectedly passed away. Now, Mayra is the caretaker for her younger siblings, as well as raising her own child.

Argus officials said Mayra comes to school with a smile on her face every day and is a motivated student who does her best on every assignment no matter how challenging. She has been nominated the past two quarters for Student of the Quarter.

Israel Koenig

Blaker Kinser Junior High School Assistant Principal Eve H. Quesada said Israel Koening was a "frequent flyer" - a school term for a student who is often sent to the principal's office. His ability to be "just entertaining at times soon drifted to conflicts, argumentativeness, detentions, class suspension and even home suspension. The twinkle you used to see in his eye became angry. He never took responsibility for any of his behaviors." Quesada said that Israel made a transformation to a warm, bright, pleasant, polite student. Israel had 47 discipline referrals last year but this year none.

Academically Israel has vastly improved. He left his seventh grade year with a 0.857 GPA but just finished his second quarter earning Renaissance Awards with his 2.57 GPA.

"When you talk about positive student change and a 180 turnaround, you are describing Israel," said Quesada. "For such a young student of 13 to make such a serious commitment to better himself and his life is rarely heard of in a junior high."

"He says that he just decided to mature, grow up and stop messing around," said Quesada. "He shared that he just started listening to what he had been told by his parents and other adults at school and just started doing what they had said all along. He is excited about his future and wants to be a firefighter some day."

Paola Campos

Caswell School first-grader was nominated by Principal Carol Lubinsky for overcoming a language barrier and working hard to learn English.

"She has been working very hard in first grade to learn English, as well as to learn the California state standards for first grade," said Lubinsky. "At first, she was successful in math and struggled in reading and writing. Paola has worked diligently to build her language skills. She went from receiving below-basic scores to achieving proficient and advanced scores in reading and writing. Paola continues to work hard in class when she doesn't understand something and always makes sure to clarify with her teacher or other bilingual students."

Paola also suffered emotional stress with the sudden loss of her father earlier this year. The death has left the family with real income. Her mother is unable to speak English and struggling to support Paola and her two sisters but it's not stopped her from ensuring that her daughter gets everything she needs to succeed.

Kyle Denton

In the face of many setbacks in life and being raised mostly by his grandmother, fourth-grader Kyle Denton has demonstrated an intrinsic motivation to succeed, said Principal Bruce Clifton. "Kyle consistently has displayed kindness to other students and a readiness to help those experiencing similar difficulties. His short educational progress has not been without difficulty, but he has achieved steady and upward growth of achievement."

A number of school officials have seen Kyle's growth and noted his kind spirit and joyful enthusiasm about school. In second grade, Kyle was retained. But during his second year, he began to flourish and emerge as a leader. In third grade Kyle grew academically and that he always gave great effort, even when things were tough to learn. He would ask meaningful questions and show curiosity of the subject matter. As a result of his hard work, Kyle earned third grade CST proficiency scores in both ELA and Math. Kyle also earns a Math Masters award every trimester.

Kyle recently an for Student Council and thanked his teachers for believing in him. He stated to all of them that he would not have made it if they did not care enough to help him.

Brenda Teng

Ceres High School counselor Teresa Thorpe and Brenda Teng held onto each other as the gut-wrenching story of the Ceres High School senior was read to the audience. The girl's smile belied the personal tragedy of losing both parents in a Sept. 1, 2003 rollover accident in Southern California. Brenda, her younger sister and grandmother miraculously survived the accident but Brenda's right ankle was completely crushed, necessitating the amputation of her leg below the knee.

After months of rehabilitation at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles she came home to Ceres and Virginia Parks Elementary School. For the past six years Brenda has been fitted with various prosthetics to accommodate her growth; all the while enduring countless appointments with her prosthetist, and pain and sores, as her body adjusted to her new 'limb'.

Thorpe said that Brenda does not think of herself as handicapped, nor does she want anyone's pity. Today she takes a rigorous course of study, including Honors and AP courses, and has earned a grade point average of 3.67. Brenda looks forward to attending a four-year college and then to a masters program at CSU Dominguez Hills in Prosthetics and Orthotics. Brenda wants to become a prosthetist and believes she can offer empathy towards patients.

Eliseo Pelico

An amazing story of triumph has been lived by Central Valley High School senior Eliseo Pelico. When he was 14, Eliseo left his family in Guatemala to travel to the United States alone because of poor educational opportunities there. Eliseo secretly raised money until he had enough to find a way into the United States. He left on his own without a word to his family.

Unable to speak English and nowhere to go, a Stockton police officer found him and took him to Social Services. He was placed in foster care and allowed to remain in the United States to obtain an education. Eliseo enrolled in eighth grade and began taking English courses. He focused intensely on his academics and by his junior year, he had successfully transitioned into college preparatory courses.

Not only has Eliseo successfully transitioned from ELD to mainstream classes in a short time, he is close to fulfilling college preparatory requirements.

Eliseo has been on the Hawks' soccer team for the past four years and is involved in the Independent Skills Living Program (ILSP), a support group for foster students. He is also actively involved in his church, and volunteers his time helping the homeless at the Christian Valley Center.

Pelico plans to study at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. He plans to go into the medical field to become a doctor. When asked how he plans on accomplishing this goal, he states, "I have to study a lot and believe in myself. In this world, nothing is impossible."

Andrea Bryant

Don Pedro staff members are amazed by the trials overcome by Andrea Bryant, who grew out of an unsettled family life. She entered Ceres schools as a first-grader who suffered from missing many days of school and a maladjusted social life as a result of experiences living with a bipolar parent. She has transformed from someone who was "reactionary and confrontational." She lagged behind academically and was inconsistent in doing school work at a time when she was caught in a custody battle between parents and frequent living changes between a parent and her grandparents.

Andrea is now a determined student and has set goals for herself that include attending college. In her 4th grade CST's Andrea scored proficient in both English Language Arts and Math. She earned advanced status in English Language Arts during her fifth grade and maintained a proficient level in Math. Now an avid reader, she is regularly seen absorbed in a novel.

Denise Ward

Hidahl sixth-grader Denise Ward had a difficult early life and became a surrogate parent to her two siblings when she was just 6. She was adopted by Lee and Melvin Ward who offered love and support. Her new beginning led her to go from a poor reader to the school's top point earner in the Accelerated Reading (AR). She also earns a spot on the Honor Roll every term. She plans to join the Ceres Dolphins swim team.

Denise maturely dealt with the loss of a run for Student Body Vice President last year. She ran for Student Body President this year and was elected.

Teachers report that Denise is a great reader who was motivated to win a trip to the movies for reading a book. She smiles a lot and is always ready and willing to help her teachers and her fellow students. Her goals include pushing herself hard to do her best, having good manners and being respectful and becoming a marine biologist.

Raul Fernandez Jr.

La Rosa Elementary second-grader has always been a student who always gave 100 percent and tries his best at everything in spite of academic obstacles.

During his kindergarten year, Raul was diagnosed with an auditory processing deficit and speech and language delays. He rarely spoke or made eye contact with others and was socially awkward. He struggled with academic concepts and needed to repeat kindergarten. As he repeated kindergarten, Raul began to develop more confidence and started to "come out of his shell" in social situations.

By the time he reached first grade, Raul was still struggling academically, but was never complacent in class and he started to take control of his own learning by asking questions when he had difficulty understanding a concept. He continued to work hard and started to develop into a more active student, in spite of his academic and speech hurdles.

As a second-grader he is described as a full participant in class discussions, curious about learning, comfortable with setting goals for himself and shows no signs of social awkwardness.

Armando Arreguin

Mae Hensley Junior High School student Armando Arreguin has excelled academically and socially despite dealing with life as a type 1 insulin dependent diabetic, and a resident of a foster home for three years. School officials said he battled shyness and is today well-liked by students and teachers alike.

The 14-year-old student has a cumulative seventh and eighth grade GPA of 3.42.

Officials described him as the "epitome of perseverance" with a great attitude. He also regularly assists his brother with difficult homework assignments.

Tyree Williams

Adkison sixth-grader Tyree Williams started out with strikes, born without a right kidney, and with imperfections in his left kidney. Tyree endured many tests and procedures and still cannot participate in contact sports and needs accommodations.

His first teachers described him as as bright, talented, and artistic. But with the incarceration of his father and his mother being confined to home arrest, Tyree began making poor choices. Tyree accumulated 24 referrals, lacked focus on academics and became in the words of his mother a "selective listener." He tried to kill himself

Tyree tried to commit suicide and received intensive counseling services. He later began earning good grades, exhibiting more self confidence and found an outlet for his emotions in writing poems. His talents also include partially choreographing the sixth-grade dance portion of the Winter Concert, dancing in front of the class, and teaching the entire class moves.

Juan Sifuentes

Fifth-grader Juan Sifuentes was diagnosed with autism in the first grade and through help has grown in social skills and maintaining focus in the classroom.

A bit of a perfectionist, Juan desires doing his best and enjoys shoots for an A grade in class. He called the day he made Honor Roll "the best day ever."

At the beginning of his fourth grade year, Juan had difficulty putting his thoughts on paper, however by the end of the year he was able to complete most writing tasks with the guidance.

He's more social now, preferring to play games with others rather than play by himself on the playground. Juan also is also beginning to raise his hand in class to volunteer answers.

Joanna Lopez Gomez

Sam Vaughn's Joanna Lopez Gomez was recognized for her great outlook in life and overcoming Turner Syndrome in the face of health and mental challenges on a daily basis. Although classroom assignments and tasks are more difficult for Joanna (both physically and cognitively) than for her peers, she insists on completing the same tasks. Once an assignment or task is given the class.

"Joanna's endearing smile and positive attitude rub off on all of us who share the classroom this year," said teacher Grant Tiwater. "Her peers respond to her in a patient and supportive way as she often elicits their help as well. Her daily striving to do the best she can do at all times is a model for her classmates that is recognized and appreciated. She is a joy to teach and in her own gentle way, she is a joyful teacher."

Joshua Sanders

Second-grader Joshua Sanders came to Virginia Parks in the middle of his kindergarten year and had behavior issues. At an early age Joshua lost his mother and has been raised solely by his father. While in first grade Joshua could barely get through an hour without behavioral outbursts. He hit others and often became aggressive in the office. He was diagnosed with ADHD and treated for it and began to enjoy school, shining in academics.

Joshua's second grade teacher Mrs. Fetzer reports that his academic, social and behavioral choices have improved tremendously since August. His attendance has improved. Today Josh is described as extremely bright with a love for reading. He is within the top five students academically of his class and a proven leader to his peers. He has assumed the lead role in a Christmas play. He has earned zero citations and has not been to the principal's office once for any negative reason.

Mariah Prescott

Family troubles disrupted the life of Mariah Prescott, now a fifth-grader at Whitmore Charter School of the Arts and Technology. Last year, Mariah's father began to have severe emotional problems, creating the need for Mrs. Prescott and her children to flee to a safe place. As his health deteriorated he became a threat to their safety for two weeks. He was arrested and died in jail. Despite their grief and the trauma surrounding this tragic situation, the girls write and performed a song in their father's memory at his memorial. Mariah missed a lot of school during this ordeal and although she was dealing with her own pain, consistently arrived at school ready to learn. Mariah managed to turn in all of her missed assignments and made honor roll at the end of the year. Now, almost a year later, Mariah is turning into a young woman who is continuing to heal and can always be counted on to have a smile on her face and a song to share.

Ryan Nease

Hospitalization prevented Westport second-grader from receiving in-person kudos for his spirit of determination. A playground fall in September led to a doctor's discovery of stage four Wilm's tumor, a rare type of kidney cancer that affects children ages three to six. While undergoing surgery Ryan developed complications with his heart. He was then transferred to Stanford University Medical Center. Ryan has an enlarged heart, but is unable to be placed on the transplant list because of his cancer.

During the last four months Ryan and his family have continued to make several trips between Madera and Stanford where they have worked with many doctors, received chemotherapy, radiation and monitoring of his heart. Ryan was able to spend the week of Christmas at home with his family prior to returning to Stanford for additional treatment.

Ryan continues to be a student that succeeds by working with his home and hospital teacher, keeping good communication with his second grade teacher, and his classmates. Ryan continues to make jokes, enjoys life and talks about the day he will return to school.

The news of Ryan's illness could not have come at a worse time for the family. Ryan's dad had recently been laid off from work. Mrs. Nease requested family leave from her job. While the family works tirelessly on getting the best treatment for their son they have kept Ryan's education as a priority.