First-Ever Scholarship Dinner Honors Students

The district's Fresno Unified Scholarship recipients celebrate May 10 at the district's first Fresno Unified Scholarship & Awards Banquet, hosted by Parent University at Golden Palace.

Forty-five of Fresno Unified's most-deserving seniors were awarded $60,000 in Fresno Unified Scholarships, made possible by the generous donations of district employees and the community.

The district began awarding scholarships in 2009, but this is the first year to honor the recipients at a dinner. More than 400 attended the banquet, where a special award was also given to Francine and Murray Farber. To read more about scholarship winners from each of the high schools, see pages 4-10.


Jennifer Manivanh
Edison High School
GPA: 4.21
College: UC Irvine
Career goal: Nurse, psychologist or pediatrician

About Jennifer: Fluent in Lao and English; special skills include making origami; plays tennis; a chemistry project on nuclear accidents steered her toward the medical field as a career; parents immigrated from Laos; Math, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) club activities director

I Am Ready: "From my parents' and my own experience, I understand what it is like to struggle. I understand how it feels to receive help from others as well, which is why I now want to help by giving back."

Math teacher Barbara Simons: "Jennifer is a talented mathematics student. She quickly grasps new concepts and is able to use this knowledge in applied form and abstract form."

Oscar Aguilera-Panuco
McLane High School
GPA: 4.32
College: UCLA
Career goal: Social worker

About Oscar: Speaks Spanish; observing children who have been neglected or abused, experience with a severely depressed family member and a chance meeting with a psychologist inspired him to pursue psychology as a career

I Am Ready: "Helping people has always been my goal, especially helping people cope with depression. That is my purpose, to help."

Social Studies Department Chair William H. Mitchell: "Over the years, Oscar has proven himself to be a kind and caring student. I have no doubt that he will serve our community well."

Mariska Karaszi
Bullard High School
GPA: 3.69
College: University of San Francisco
Career goal: Pediatric neuro medicine

About Mariska: ASB president; California Scholarship Federation; lettered in badminton; knows conversational Greek, Spanish and American Sign Language; competes in Greek dancing; lost her father suddenly; sister diagnosed with autism

I Am Ready: "Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to change lives. Since my father's passing, I have worked my hardest to stay on track and focus on the things he would want me to accomplish. I am not afraid to step into the world and fight for what I believe in because I know my father is cheering for me every step of the way."

Teacher Kristi Robison: "Mariska is a natural leader, intelligent and compassionate."

Natasha Ann Dixon
Hoover High School
GPA: 3.5
College: CSU Stanislaus
Career goal: Elementary teacher

About Natasha: Math, Engineering and Science Achievement club; lettered in tennis; works as a photographer; was placed in the foster care system at age 10, which made her strive for stability and success so that her life would be different

I Am Ready: "I became self-determined to make my future amazing. I was going to make sure I did what I loved that helped my community and made me financially stable."

AP calculus teacher Lucas Ross: "I cannot count the times Natasha has come to me asking to explain a concept further, dig deeper, ask why something is true. This characteristic is rare among the high school age group and Natasha Dixon possesses it."

Sukhmanpreet Kaur
Roosevelt High School
GPA: 3.64
College: Fresno City College
Career goal: Doctor or engineer

About Sukhmanpreet: Recent immigrant from India; inspired by grandfather to be a doctor

I am Ready: "I feel immigrating here has encouraged me to dream big. I really want to get a college education and achieve my dreams but affording the expense is a bit hard for me."

AP calculus teacher Nathan Boldt: "Obviously, moving across the world in your senior year is a huge change for a teenager. However, Sukhmanpreet has managed this stress with a level of maturity that belies her age. She is now a vocal participant in my calculus class who can work with anyone. I feel this is a huge indicator as to how adaptable Ms. Kaur is and I know whatever college or life has to throw at her in the future she will rise to meet the challenge."

Ruben Aldama
Phoenix Secondary Academy
GPA: 3.6
College: Fresno City College
Career goal: Automotive technician

About Ruben: Works to help family pay bills; single-parent home; cares for younger siblings; will be the first from his family to graduate from high school

I Am Ready: "I truly believe that it takes confidence and self-determination to live through everything I have been through and still be able to graduate from high school. I have chosen to live a better life and give my future family everything that I lacked in my life."

Principal Brian Radtke: "Ruben has been with us for two years and has made amazing progress not only in his school behavior but his academic standing as well. Ruben has shown an incredible ability to not allow his past to dictate who he becomes in the future."

Alexis Diaz
J.E. Young Academic Center
GPA: 3.7
College: Fresno Pacific University
Career goal: Psychologist for troubled youth or convicted felons

About Alexis: Enjoys writing short stories and poems; worked on Bernie Sanders campaign; works as a child care provider; enrolled in Advance to College program and took classes at Fresno City College; has a family member diagnosed with bipolar disorder who has been in an out of jail

I Am Ready: "My decision to pursue a degree in psychology and criminology will give me the opportunity to help my family and many other troubled youth who are faced with this disease."

Advance to College coordinator Jodie Garabedian: "Alexis is passionate when she talks about her program of study in psychology and criminology and her dream of becoming a psychologist for troubled youth. Her purpose in life is to make a difference in the lives of those who are faced with the challenge of mental illness as they, too, want quality of life."

Daniela Hernandez
Fresno High School
GPA: 4.32
College: UCLA
Career goal: Music educator

About Daniela: Ranks No. 1 in her class; President of the Book Club; member of marching, concert and jazz bands and symphonic orchestra; created Crafty Paws, designing and knitting clothes for veterans' pets; California Scholarship Federation; family struggles financially

I Am Ready: "My parents were never allowed to explore themselves in their education, and so they want me to have the best opportunity to do so. Through this encouragement, I have set my sights on going farther than any of my family members before me."

Teacher Laura Spongberg: "Daniela is a highly motivated self-starter who is consistently responsible, mature and hard-working. She is a critical thinker who writes well but still excels in math and science."

Sabrina M. Juarez
Cambridge High School
GPA: 2.9
College: Fresno City College
Career goal: Math teacher

About Sabrina: Completed college courses while at Cambridge; gold medalist in Academic Decathlon; started working at 15 to help the family pay their bills; to shut out turmoil at home, she would retreat to her room to read

I Am Ready: "A lot of my teachers have had a big impact on me and have motivated me to do my best, and I would love to have the opportunity to do that for someone else. I hope to be an Algebra II teacher."

Teacher Elva Carlos: "Sabrina's hard work and determination are just a few of the strengths she has to offer. Sabrina is always interested in supporting others. For example, if there is a student who is having difficulty understanding the content, Sabrina takes the time to help the other student."

Cecilia Adriana Prieto
Sunnyside High School
GPA: 3.84
College: Fresno State University
Career goal: Athletic training/kinesiology

About Cecilia: Mother is disabled; she has been her mother's caregiver since sixth grade; Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Student of the Year

I Am Ready: "Ever since I was little I knew that I wanted to go to college and study for something that was in the medical field. My passion for sports is what really finally drew me into becoming an athletic trainer. I hope to receive my master's degree and one-day work for FIFA or the NFL."

AVID teacher/coordinator Amanda Peterson: "Cecelia strives to learn and is motivated beyond grades -- she is interested in learning for learning's sake. She has developed remarkable self-discipline in reaction to seeing the challenges her family faces. They encourage her to pursue education so that she will not have the physical demands and stress that come with manual labor and a lack of education."

Acsa Payan
Duncan Polytechnical High School
GPA: 3.81
College: Fresno State University
Career goal: Kindergarten teacher

About Acsa: Loves to skateboard; fluent in Spanish; found her passion for teaching in the Child Development Pathway; has interned in elementary schools; father immigrated to the U.S.

I Am Ready: "My school has prepared me for the career I want to achieve in the future. Going to this school has made me have a true passion for teaching and has made me want to make a difference in children's lives."

Teacher Maria Salinas: "Throughout the school year, I observed Acsa grow in confidence and in understanding of child development practices. In addition, she is reliable, creative and always consistent about completing required class work."

Diana Castellanos
Design Science High School
GPA: 4.11
College: UC Davis
Career goal: Engineering

About Diana: ASB treasurer; Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet; emigrated from Mexico with no English; works as a math tutor in migrant education; father is a field worker; will graduate with more than 50 college credits

I Am Ready: "I want to be a role model for my brothers and all of the migrant farm workers I have stood alongside in the fields. I have dreamed many dreams and row by row I have thought about the life I want to have. College is the first step in making my dreams come true and I am ready to work hard to make my goal a reality."

Lee Yang, English college support teacher: "The first time I saw Diana speak in front of the entire school year this year, I was so impressed and proud of who she has become. She went from being a quiet, unsure student to a dynamic leader who demonstrates to her peers that helping others and being responsible is extremely important."

Daisy Nieto
DeWolf High School
GPA: 3.17
College: Still determining
Career goal: Health information specialist or nursing

About Daisy: Single-parent home; father is on disability.

I Am Ready: "In the beginning of my high school years, it never came across my mind that I would get to this point since I was so far behind in school. Luckily, here I am today already getting ready to graduate."

Teacher Betty Lee Gong: "Daisy has the combination of a positive attitude and the belief that she can overcome obstacles in her life. Raised in a single household by a father who is disabled, it was her father who mentored Daisy to be successful in school and to never give up. Her financial situation at home was a constant reminder that the key to success was doing well in all her academic subjects at DeWolf."
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