June 3, 2007

Class of 2007 – Valedictorians



Thomson graduated at the top of Pojoaque's 139-member senior class, its largest ever. Thomson still can't believe high school is over. "It hasn't really sunk in at all yet," Thomson says. Thomson devoted much of this school year to working on Pojoaque's student yearbook as one of three senior editors on the yearbook staff. She also took advanced-placement courses in English IV and Calculus. She left Wednesday for a two-week trip to Italy and Greece with Pojoaque's European Travel Club. In her speech to her peers at graduation, Thomson urged her fellow graduates to enjoy the moment and not fret over the small stuff they can't control. Thomson will attend New Mexico State University in the fall, where she will take part in the school's honors program. Her parents are Curtis Thomson and Molly Magnuson.



When Rubin wasn't hitting the books this year, she could usually be found at the Tae Kwon Do Institute in Santa Fe. "That's where I end up most of the time after school," said Rubin, a level-three Tae Kwon Do black belt who has been involved in martial arts since she was 6 years old. Rubin also is a level-two black belt in the discipline of Hap Kido. Rubin ran track this spring for Desert Academy and programmed the light board for a school play - a time- consuming endeavor. She has also served as an intern at the Santa Fe Performing Arts Theater this year, helping operate stage lights and sound equipment during shows. Rubin plans to attend Willamette University in Salem, Ore., in the fall. She knows that means leaving behind the small, close-knit world of Desert Academy, which had 19 students in its 2007 graduating class. "I really loved my class, and I'm definitely going to keep in touch with most of them," Rubin said. "It's great to have a support net of your best friends around you when you're learning." Her parents are Danny and Louise Rubin.



Melander-Dayton will be attending the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. She was sold on the school after taking an extended visit last summer. "I did a summer animation program there last summer and really enjoyed (Philadelphia)," Melander-Dayton said. Melander-Dayton said she is leaning toward a double major at Penn in visual arts and physics or biology. Melander-Dayton was part of Santa Fe Prep's fencing team for three years, and was named team captain this year. She was also an editor for the school's literary magazine, The Skirmisher, for three years. She filled the magazine's head editor post this year. Her parents are Steve and Joyce Melander- Dayton.



Alessandra Serrano credits her history teacher, Charles Olivea, for encouraging her to study hard. "He encouraged me to not be afraid of pursuing knowledge," she said. Olivea also encouraged her to not be afraid to learn even if others made fun of her, she said. But she credits her hard work on her school assignments, even if she didn't feel like working, for earning her the title of valedictorian. When she was in middle school, she took high-school classes because she thought they were "more fun" and finished high school in three years. When she's not studying hard, she enjoys fencing; playing the harp, marimba and piano; belly dancing; drawing; and painting. She wasn't disappointed she had to share the honor of valedictorian with her friend Benjamin Knudsen. "I'm really, really glad. Not only that I was valedictorian but because I got to share it with a very good friend," Serrano said. "We were both really happy." In the fall, Serrano will attend Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., where she will major in civics. She is the daughter of Jose Serrano and Carmela Lisanti of Santa Fe. She used her speech to express gratitude to all her family members, teachers and fellow classmates. "I wanted to thank them for helping me change and become the person I am now," she said.



Competition has never really been a part of the way Benjamin Knudsen thinks, he said. Naturally, when he heard he was up for valedictorian it really wasn't a big deal to him. "I'm not sure that valedictorian is all that significant," Knudsen said. Knudsen said his history teacher, Charles Olivea helped him value curiosity, work ethic and truth. "It's always a good reminder to see that someone (values knowledge)," he said. In the past, Knudsen has dedicated his time to the student council and The New Mexican's Generation Next section. Since he was 7, he's been studying karate and now teaches at Martial Arts Academy in Santa Fe. Knudsen, the son of Mary and the late Paul Knudsen of Santa Fe, plans to "waste time" until July when he will take a month-long trip across Europe with friends for one last vacation before he enrolls in fall classes at Princeton University in New Jersey. He took the opportunity to thank the "important people" in his life including his parents, family and teachers during his valedictory address. "Gratitude isn't something that's expressed often enough," he said. "(I thanked) all of my classmates ... because they were pretty excellent people."



School pride isn't something Jesse Crews takes lightly. During his time at Capital High School, he has found that it is just as good a school as any other high school in Santa Fe "despite what the public at large thinks." When he was named Capital's valedictorian, he sought to squash Capital's "bad reputation" in his valedictory address. "It's exciting," he said of the honor. "I think the most important part to me is it gives me a chance to stand up and show how good of a school Capital really is and hopefully be a good representative for my graduating class." He wanted to stress to the public that Capital is a great place to learn. "In reality, a student who goes (to Capital High School) and really wants to learn receives a good education," he said. Over the years, Crews has dedicated his time to both The Jaguar Voice, Capital's student-run newspaper and The New Mexican's Generation Next section. Last year he served as The Jaguar Voice's arts and entertainment editor and was the managing editor this past year. He credits his success to the teachers he's had over the years and "good family support.""I've had a lot of good teachers," he said. "Both my mom and dad have been very encouraging and enthusiastic about my education."



Pecos High School valedictorian Lyric Bowles didn't want to break tradition. She is the fourth Bowles valedictorian to graduate from Pecos High School. The last was her sister, Harmony Bowles, who graduated in 2004. Bowles credits her success to her parents, Clyde and Jeannette Bowles, and her sister, Harmony. "They've helped me a lot and made me strive to do better," she said. When not studying, Bowles spends her time playing the violin in the school's mariachi group and working on special projects with the National Honor Society, such as a writing program where the students interviewed seniors at Rosemont Assisted Living Center and Kingston Residential in Santa Fe and wrote articles that were published in a book titled Connections. In the fall, she will enroll in the pre-med program at The University of New Mexico. She used her speech to encourage her classmates to believe in people and themselves in order to make a difference. She is proud to be the PHS valedictorian and even more proud that she didn't break tradition.



Nicholas Mora doesn't work hard in school just to make the grade. "I've been passionate about school for learning," he said, "not just to get the grade." He used his speech as an opportunity to stress the point that learning from all aspects of life, not just school, was the most important thing. He credits his English teacher, Janis Chitwood, for pushing him to do "more than (he) expected to do. "I learned to look deeper into things than I did before," he said. Mora credits his success to the support of his family, mother Lisa Mora, friends and his dedication to learning. In the fall, he will attend Princeton University but hasn't yet decided what he will study. He said he's leaning toward economics and applied mathematics.



Being the 2007 valedictorian at Santa Fe Indian School was a goal for Pino, who just turned 18. Spending four years at a boarding school taught Pino what it meant to live by the rules, while also learning how to be responsible with her time and money. Pino was a member of the Lady Braves cross country team and spent a year on the girls basketball team. She was a member of the school chapter of the National Honor Society for two years and served as its secretary; and spent her time at her home at Acoma Pueblo teaching children the tribe's culture and language. Pino will attend the University of California-Berkeley to pursue a major in psychology. "I would love to come back to my home pueblo and start a counseling center to help teens," Pino said, "and maybe teach English at the middle-school level."



Huang isn't even in college yet and she already claims to have the best job ever, conducting research on financial economics at the Santa Fe Institute. "I get to set my own hours and it's not doing grunt work," Huang said. Huang didn't set out to be valedictorian at Santa Fe High School; her goal was to be the best student she could. It just so happened that by doing one, she accomplished the other. Moving from Singapore to Santa Fe led to several challenges for Huang, one of which was communication. She feels that the best thing she learned in school was how to deal with people. "I had to learn how to approach a problem and deal with it," she said. Huang, 18, is familiar with experiments. She was president of the school's science club, participating in several science fairs and bowls. Huang plans to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. "The school won't let me have a triple major, so I am going to have a double major and double minor," she said. She wants to major in math and management and minor in biology and bioengineering. Her goal is to be CEO of an investment firm such as Goldman Sachs or Mackenzie or a biotech firm such as Genentech or Genzyme, which has an office in Santa Fe.



Armstrong and Garcia have been tied at the top of their graduating class since the two were sophomores. Most would think this would create friction between them, but just the opposite happened - they became supportive of each other. Both graduates consider it an honor to finish their high school careers shoulder to shoulder. They participated in several of the same organizations - National Honor Society, National Society of High School Scholars, MESA (Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement) and the International Science Fair. But there were things they did separately. Garcia was co-president of the senior class. And while she loves playing both instruments, she says she is more experienced in piano than in violin. "I learned a lot about myself through all the activities and organizations I was a part of," Garcia said. "I learned that I can handle a lot of things at once. That will be useful when I go to college." Armstrong was a member of the cross country, basketball and track and field teams. She showed horses through the U.S. Equestrian Federation and Arabian Horse Association and was a conflict mediator at the school. "I learned how to learn in high school," Armstrong said. "It's important to get yourself in the right mindset when you open yourself up to new ideas and ways of thinking." Garcia plans to attend New Mexico State University this fall and major in mechanical engineering, then go on to earn her master's degree. Armstrong plans to attend the University of California-Santa Barbara in the fall.



Lucero said she gave a message of hope to the New Mexico School for the Deaf's Class of 2007. If there is one thing she would like to her classmates to remember about their graduation, it would her message of not giving up any dreams or goals. "I hope this message gets across to my classmates because we will all be going our separate ways - I would love for them all to achieve their dreams and goals," she said. Lucero is the daughter of Anthony and Guadalupe Lucerof El Rito, NM. She plans to attend Gallaudet University and major in biochemistry. During her high-school career she was was involved with the Academic Bowl, the science fair, volleyball, basketball, the student body government and drama club.

Heather Radosevich of Espanola Valley High School was not available for an interivew.

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