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Ceres staff tell of students’ inspiration in video
Alexander Kowalski
Carroll Fowler Elementary’s administrative assistant Rachelle Garrett with student Alexander Kowalski.

Ceres Unified School District teachers and staff were asked to choose students who inspired them and tell them why.

CUSD posted a video of the interactions on its YouTube channel on May 14.

Ceres High’s Shania Evans and Ivan Arita, Blaker-Kinser Jr. High’s Xavier Valencia, and Carroll Fowler Elementary’s Manuel Ortega and Alexander Kowalski were singled out through the district’s “I Chose You” Inspiration Project.

Evans, a senior, garnered praised from Assistant Principal Amy Dunn.

 “I recently had an opportunity to read your life story through a scholarship you applied for,” Dunn said. “Prior to ever reading your story, I was inspired by your smile, your positive attitude and your sparky personality. After reading your story, I’m even more inspired by your perseverance, your intelligence, your desire to give back to others. And that above all else, you have allowed your unique circumstances and family challenges to teach you love, compassion for others and selflessness. Thank you for being a person who inspires me to get up every day and to give my best to this life.”

Arita, a senior, was recognized by history teacher Derrick Saenz-Payne.

“I’ve had you for three years and you’ve matured into a very responsible young man,” Saenz-Payne said. “You’re extremely hard-working. You come from very humble backgrounds. And I can honestly say that I would love if my son were to become a person like you. It’s been an honor having you as a student, and I just want you to know that as a teacher, you inspire me.”

“Thank you,” Arita replied. “I really appreciate it. It means a lot.”

Valencia, an eighth-grader, was recognized by science teacher Justine Taylor.

“You come to school every day with such a positive attitude, and eager to learn and participate in any and everything on campus,” Taylor said. “You’re one of the students I look forward to seeing the most each day. I’m grateful to have you as my student this year.” 

Ortega, a sixth-grader, was lauded by teacher Anthony Preciado.

“I chose you because I noticed that with other students, no matter their age level, you make them feel comfortable around you,” Preciado said. “You include everybody outside in the yard. To me, that shows you’re a role model. And your grades, top notch. And you never have missing assignments. And you’re always obedient. You always follow directions and you always follow rules. That’s what really inspires me about you.”

Kowalski, a fourth-grader, was honored by administrative assistant Rachelle Garrett.

“You have some struggles you deal with in life,” Garrett said. “I watch you overcome and survive through those hard times. And make honor roll every semester. I’m so proud of you. You just inspire me. You’re such a good boy and sweet character.”

Ivan Arita Derrick Saenz-Payne.
Ceres High School student Ivan Arita (right) was recognized by history teacher Derrick Saenz-Payne.
Manuel Ortega
Carroll Fowler Elementary student Manuel Ortega is inspired by teacher Anthony Preciado/
Shania Evans & Amy Dunn
Ceres High School student Shania Evans with Assistant Principal Amy Dunn.