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Jessica Armas: CVHS valedictorian
Jessica Armas remembers sitting in the audience at the 2004 Ceres High School graduation as a sixth-grader and being in awe and inspired by the speech of valedictorian Liz Rivera.

"I thought it was so neat for her to be giving a speech and people looking up to her and I knew I wanted to be valedictorian of my class," said Armas, the 2010 class valedictorian of Central Valley High School.

Armas, 17, takes the class' top honor by achieving the highest grade point average - that of 4.341. She leaves the high school tomorrow night ready to explore biology at her next educational stop, California State University, Stanislaus in Turlock.

"I just love biology," she said, "and I'm excited to get more into it. I've known for about a year and a half that I wanted to do something with biology."

Armas took Advanced Placement (AP) biology in her junior year. She toyed with the idea of becoming a doctor but doesn't feel that would be a good fit as she is "more into research."

After four years at CSUS, Armas plans to transfer to the UCSF School of Pharmacy. Right now the prospect of being in the Malibu area of Southern California appeals to her.

Armas, daughter of Oscar and Lupe Armas, came Ceres from Tracy as a fourth-grader. She credits her parents for much of her drive to succeed, saying they "push me a lot."

Jessica said she enjoyed her experience at Central Valley High School and was inspired by three teachers in particular: biology teacher Stephanie Beck, Spanish teacher Juan Martinez and English instructor Paul Rutishausen.

"I love the way they interact with the students. They just involve you and enjoy making you understand the concept."

Outside the classroom, her extracurricular activities included track, California Scholarship Federation (CSF), National Honor Society (NHS), Protecting Health and Slamming Tobacco (PHAST).

Armas will be accompanied by a large collection of salutatorians - 21 in all. The school gives the honor to all seniors who achieve a GPA of at least 4.0. They include: Rigel Smart, 4.262 GPA; Haley Tessaro, 4.256; Gisele Villegas, 4.256; Stephanie Muci, 4.250; Katherine Avila, 4.228; Ashley Dostie, 4.186; Omar Lopez, 4.186; Madeline Henry, 4.163; William Berryhill, 4.159; Molly Dempsey, 4.119; Stephanie Becerra, 4.114; Harsimranjot Kanda, 4.105; Kevin Olsen, 4.095; Ashley Armenio, 4.068; Jaspal Singh, 4.047; Trinidad Sandoval Melendrez, 4.046; Marcella Pena, 4.024; Chirag Amin, 4.023; Mary McDade, 4.023; Emma Stone, 4.023; and Louisa Jacquez, 4.0.