By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Student overcomers feted at CUSD breakfast
What do congenital heart problems, language barriers, broken homes, blindness, learning disabilities and family illness have in common? They are some of the obstacles that 19 Ceres students faced and overcame and for which they were recognized at Wednesday's annual Every Student Succeeding breakfast.

Each year the Ceres Unified School District has its schools pick a student who's been a shining example in achieving beyond difficult circumstances. The student, family members and respective school administrators and teachers were invited to a catered breakfast at the Ceres Community Center.

The 19 students honored were:

• Inder Sandhu from La Rosa Elementary;

• Jovanny Chavez Gomez, a student at Don Pedro Elementary;

• Jasmine Zapata, Walter White;

• Kayla Garcia, Adkison Elementary;

• Helem Delgado, Caswell;

• Isaac Salazar, Carroll Fowler;

• Ancel Cruzes, Sam Vaughn;

• Cristobal Barajas, Sinclear;

• Eduardo Ortiz, Virginia Parks;

• Emmanuel Ochoa Rodriguez, Westport;

• Scott Gray, Whitmore Charter School of Arts & Technology;

• Andrea Bryant, Blaker Kinser Junior High School;

• Juan Salcedo, Mae Hensley Junior High;

• Kyle Gaudio, Central Valley High;

• Ruby Anguiano Vega, Argus High;

• Beverly Lewis, Ceres Adult Education;

• Jonathan Jimenez, Hidahl Elementary;

• Carlos Isaac Duran, Cesar Chavez Junior High;

• Destinee Manriquez, Ceres High School.

The students were treated to breakfast with school officials and family members and each were called up on stage as their struggles were shared in a short video highlighting how they overcame their personal drawbacks. Each one received accolades from CUSD Supt. Scott Siegel and Assistant Supt. Mary Jones, Mayor Chris Vierra and officials representing state and federal officials.

Guest speaker Edith Rodriguez talked about being inspired to seek a good education and become a school counselor while growing up in Hughson and being disturbed by the observation that "only Mexicans worked in the field."

Sixth-grader Inder Sandhu, who sufferes from type I diabetes and who has to endure daily insulin shots, overcame from getting behind from absences. Inder was determined to do better in school work after a B spoiled his straight A record. Now he is a 4.0 student.

Jovanny Chavez Gomez was selected for overcoming shyness, absent social skills and oral language deficiencies. Now he works hard at using complete sentences.

Jasmine Zapata scores proficient and advanced in studies despite coming from a socioeconomically lacking household. She is social coordinator at Walter White and maintains a positive attitude.

Fifth-grader Kayla Garcia is overcoming setbacks and absences caused by congenital heart conditions. Despite enduring numerous surgeries which resulted in lots of absences and stoically facing regular blood draws, Kayla has a high grade point average.

Helem Delgado, a third-grader, faces the uncertainties of a mother who has cancer. But she has remained diligent about doing well in her school work even though she often is scared for her mother while in class.

Isaac Salazar, who suffers from Marfin's Syndrome and is legally blind without glasses, is making progress at Carroll Fowler. He scored basic at math and proficient at English language arts on the California Standards Test.

Sam Vaughn fifth-grader Ancel Cruzes, also a Type I diabetic, is diligent about checking blood sugar levels. He works hard to keep up with his assignments - and made Honor Roll. Officials at school say Ancel never allows his medical issue to get in the way of his studies.

Sixth-grader Cristobal Barajas has risen above autism to attack all tasks with an open mind. He is showing great academic and behavioral growth. His teacher calls him a great joy and notes how he sports a continuous smile.

Eduardo Ortiz was born with a deformed left hand which limits its use but teachers notice his great enthusiasm about school work and how he never complains. He is not only open with those curious about his hand but Eduardo has not allowed differences and teasing to affect him.

Once always frustrated and upset in class, Westport's Emmanuel Ochoa Rodriguez has improved from reading only 10 words per minute in fourth grade. He has benefitted from CUSD's new social skills program and now participates in class without hesitation and has improved academically.

Despite Whitmore Charter's Scott Gray eight weeks premature birth and lagging behind developmentally as a result, he is making great improvement socially and academically. School officials say he routinely keys into others who aren't doing well socially and is flourishing today with "purpose and destiny written all over him."

Blaker Kinser eighth-grader Andrea Bryant struggled academically because of her home life. But when she moved in with her grandmother to stabilize her life and challenge her, things improved. Special education classes also helped and Andrea left them in 2010 to become an honor student with a 3.857 GPA. She said of her grandmother: "She saved my life...and never leaves me."

Juan Salcedo, who once struggled with concepts that were easily grasped by others, has succeeded to achieve a 3.657 GPA. He meets his challenges head on with extra effort. Helping him has been the Mae Hensley wrestling program and coach.

Kyle Gaudio, who is wheelchair-bound because of muscular dystrophy, puts no limits on himself. An inspiration to others, Kyle told a staff member, "What I tell myself is this: 'Life sucks. I have this disease. Now get over it.'" Kyle helps his peers understand concepts in class and enjoys the challenge of Advanced Placement classes at Central Valley High School.

Teen mother Ruby Anguiano Vega did not allow her baby to become an excuse to abandon her education. She enrolled her daughter in Argus High's Early Head Start program and continued her studies. Ruby has four other student mothers monitor her progress and mentor her as she benefits from two special education teachers and two paraprofessionals.

A working mom, Beverly Lewis wanted to better herself by taking Ceres Adult School classes beginning in the spring of 2010. Lewis wanted to complete her high school diploma as a role model for her children and further her health-care career goals. Beverly manages a grueling schedule of working, attending school and tending to her young children, all while wearing a smile and a can-do attitude.

County Every Student Succeeding program

Three Ceres students honored at the breakfast were also honored in the recent countywide Every Student Succeeding program. They are:

• Jonathan Jimenez, who came to the United States at age six without knowing English and flourishing into the sixth-grader that he is today. He came to Hidahl as a third-grader who could still speak little English but not only speaks and writes well in English today but he is proficient in a number of subjects including math. He attends the English Language Development afterschool class.

• Carlos Isaac Duran, a Cesar Chavez seventh-grader, was born with painful cancerous tumors and through operations and medications - he spent early life in hospitals - is flourishing. Carlos endures three to four medical procedures but manages to maintain a 3.4 GPA. He wants to become a medical doctor as a result of his experiences.

• Destinee Manriquez decided to veer off her "path of destruction" early in Ceres High School - she wouldn't do homework, exhibited bad behavior and was suspended often - and began applying herself. A CHS administrative assistant saw her potential and began seeing her attitude, grades, attendance and behavior improve. Destinee is involved in dance, Leadership class, choir, Ambassadors, and a senior mentoring program working with at-risk freshmen. Destinee plans to attend MJC and Fresno State to pursue a business management degree. She has a dream of starting her own recording label or talent company.