Meet Sonoma County's 2015 valedictorians
Among the Sonoma County seniors honored during this spring’s commencement exercises are several dozen who also carry the valedictorian title. They represent the pinnacle of academic success, boasting grade point averages that often top 4.0, but most are eager to share the accolades with the people who have inspired them to succeed. Below, these top achievers name their role models and talk about their future college plans.
Because not all schools select valedictorians, some class presidents and graduation speakers have been included.
Analy High School, Sebastopol
Rebecca Colbert, 18, student body president
Rebecca Colbert credits her parents, Audrey Desky and Cyrus Colbert, and grandfather Michael Desky with her success in school. “They pushed me and supported everything I’ve done,” she said. “They were always there to help and were great role models,” she said.
She also singled out Erin Elliott, an Analy activities director who advised her leadership class and “made sure I’m on track.”
Colbert intends to study marketing, business and communications and was accepted by the University of California at San Diego and the University of Oregon.
“I want to work with people and promote products that are good for people and the environment,” she said.
Cardinal Newman High School, Santa Rosa
James Gunnar Walker III, 18, Windsor, co-valedictorian
James Walker III attributes his success in school to his parents, James Walker Jr. and Judy Groverman Walker.
“They really pushed me to try my hardest,” he said. “My mom especially pushed me and kept me on track.”
Walker also mentions Anna and Steve Williams, his sixth grade teachers at the Santa Rosa Accelerated Charter School in Rincon Valley. Anna taught English and history. Steve taught math and science and encouraged Walker to pursue a degree in engineering.
Walker was accepted to the University Notre Dame and the University of California at San Diego, where he would like to study aeronautical or chemical engineering. He also was offered a $30,000 scholarship to Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Paige Amormino, 18, Windsor, co-valedictorian
Paige Amormino cites her parents, David and Jocelyn Amormino, as her biggest fans and supporters.
“They made the most difference,” she said. “They helped me and encouraged me to pursue what I wanted to do. There was no pressure to go to a big college. They had no ulterior motive.”
Amormino was admitted early to Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in New Jersey, where students wait until the end of their sophomore year to choose a major.
Casa Grande High School, Petaluma
Jeanette Jin, 18, valedictorian
Jeanette Jim knew in December that she attend Harvard University in the fall to study history and literature, and minor in economics.
“Harvard was my dream school,” she said, adding that she also wants to learn Chinese or German, and possibly earn a law or business degree.
“A career in politics would be awesome,” she said.
She initially was interested in pursuing a career in health care but enjoyed her English classes and mentoring by teachers Richard Pillsbury and Atthena Kautsch.
She was a page editor and writer for the school paper, The Gaucho Gazette, and was active in the debate club.
Her biggest inspiration is her father, Zhong Jin, who left China when he was between 25 and 30 years old, moved to the United States and attended Monmouth University in New Jersey.
“He had to be persistent in getting an education, and he taught me the value of an education,” she said.
Jin also considers teachers Richard Pillsbury and Atthena Kautsch as influential mentors.
Cloverdale High School
Perla Anguiano, 18, student body president
Perla Anguiano credits her teachers and counselors for the Upward Bound Program who have challenged, supported and guided her. “Having this outreach as a first-generation student has made a big impact in my life,” she said.
Anguiano will attend UC Santa Cruz this fall, with from The Wine Road and Wilson Artisan Wineries Children of Vineyard Workers scholarships.
Maria Gonzalez, 18, senior class president
Maria Gonzalez will attend Cal State Channel Islands and will major in psychology, but instead of naming an inspirational mentor said, “When it comes to my success, I want to say that I still have to grow. I’ve had supporters along the way who’ve helped me, that contribute to my everyday life. They all have been part of my ongoing story.”
El Molino High School, Forestville
Sydney Saxon, 18, and Brent Rivera, 18, co-presidents
Sydney Saxon will go to Oregon State University to study nutrition.