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Three rise to the top of CHS class of 2010
The top three students of the Ceres High School class of 2010 each come from diverse backgrounds and are headed in diverse directions. But one thing is certain, valedictorian Robert Mata and salutatorians Jack Parnoutsoukian and Wilson Liang all had their nose to the grinding stone during their four-year experience at CHS.

Mata plans to return

Mata, the 17-year-old son of Carlos and Angela Mata, claims the coveted position as the student with the highest grade point average, a 4.26.

After graduation on June 4, Mata will be try to enjoy summer before heading to Stanford University where he won a full-ride scholarship. He may major in political science or communications and for now thinks a political career may be in his future. After enjoying his experience as a student representative on the Ceres Unified School District board of trustees, Mata has developed a taste for politics. He believes a life in public service would be a way of "making a difference in the way society works."

Mata sees himself returning back to the Valley where he was raised to start a political future, possibly starting out as a local official and working up to the state level or higher.

The valedictorian says his place at the top is partly due to his parents who stressed for him to do his best.

"I'm going to be a first-generation college student," said Mata. "I really wanted to go to a really good college so I did as many extracurricular academics and what-not. And I also tried to do my best for my two younger sisters and I have a lot of cousins."

Mata finds many of his peers got sidetracked through high school romances and outright being "really lazy."

He managed to get grades despite being busy in other areas. He was active in tennis, track and swimming as well as Leadership Class for four years. Last summer he took the initiative to attend the Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America program.

"They chose 60 kids from around the country and we even had some international students," said Mata. "I lived pretty much for a week with people from New York City, China and all over the world. Our classes were discussion oriented so we really talked a lot about politics. They really coached me through getting into the school I wanted to be in."

Parnoutsoukian likes engines

Parnoutsoukian plans to attend Modesto Junior College for two years and plans to transfer to a four-year. Having been raised around his father John's downtown Ceres Texaco station and being exposed to mechanical repairs, the 17-year-old find mechanical or automotive engineering to be an alluring career.

"I've always been around cars and I like cars," said Parnoutsoukian, who ends his high school career with a 4.23 GPA. "Probably more towards engines. I just enjoy the series of operations of engines."

"My parents were my primary motivation," said Parnoutsoukian. "They've always pushed me to do well. As I grew older I saw what the benefits were so I did better. I've always strived to do the best I could."

Liang into sciences

Liang has his eyes on becoming a medical engineer or a science-based researcher. He is energized by science and excelled at tough classes like chemistry, AP physics and AP biology. Having achieved a GPA of 4.22, Liang has been accepted into the University of California, Los Angeles.

Liang, 18, shies away from being viewed as "competitive" in landing one of the top places in the class, saying instead it was all about hard work and "just do what we're supposed to do." His Chinese immigrant parents gave him a head start and started tutoring him on fundamental math when he was just three years old.

"I knew math in kindergarten but I don't think I even knew how to say my name," said Liang. "English is my second language; I don't think I'm very good at it. But because I really excelled in math they just sort of motivated me to try to excel in other subjects as well."

Liang played tennis all four years, was president of the Ceres High School Science Club and was involved in the "S" Club, National Honors Society and California Scholastic Federation. He also helped produce the 2010 Cereal yearbook.

All three will be delivering speeches at the commencement exercises. Because of their closeness as friends, Parnoutsoukian and Liang will be delivering one common address but take turns reading a paragraph. They plan to talk on coming from very different backgrounds, involvements, origins and interests yet they are working together to make a difference.

"We are the new future," said Parnoutsoukian, "So we're developing how all of us can be great and make a new future."

This year Parnoutsoukian was active in PHAST, Protecting Health And Stopping Tobacco and enjoyed making a public service announcement against smoking.

Principal Linda Stubbs said her school is very proud of the three.

"We feel they represent all different types of people from Ceres High School. We have very diverse people from very diverse backgrounds and parents with different parenting styles."