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Congratulations to this Year’s Finalists and Winners of the Heart of Education Awards

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Congratulations to the approximately 800 Clark County School District teachers who were finalists and the 20 winners of this year’s Heart of Education Awards, presented by The Smith Center for the Performing Arts and made possible by The Rogers Foundation.

The awards program recognizes teachers who go above and beyond for their students. This year, the coronavirus pandemic led to the cancellation of the red-carpet ceremony that honors the educators. Instead, on May 20, the 20 winners received a surprise video chat call from their principals and the president and CEO of The Smith Center, Myron Martin.

Each of the 20 winners will receive a medallion, a $5,000 cash prize, and an additional $1,000 to use for a school program of their choice. There also will be full-page ads in the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Sunday and in El Tiempo, congratulating the educators.

The 2020 award winners include:

  • Claudia Ahumada, Kermit R. Booker Sr. Elementary School
  • Donato Avila, John C. Fremont Middle School
  • Kari Bastin, Dr. Beverly S. Mathis Elementary School
  • Bianca Bautista, Las Vegas Academy of the Arts
  • Belisa Brownlee, Rancho High School
  • Matthew Christian, Barbara and Hank Greenspun Junior High School
  • Robert Cuccurullo, Coronado High School
  • Tiffany Grant, Clifford J. Lawrence Junior High School
  • Elizabeth Harris, Lied STEM Academy
  • Elisa Marcheschi Hickey, Western High School
  • Pamela Honey, Martha P. King Elementary School
  • Carolyn Lara, Spring Valley High School
  • Kimberly Law, Mabel W. Hoggard Elementary School
  • William John Love, Liberty High School
  • Crystal Massengale, E.W. Griffith Elementary School
  • Mark Nekoba, Jack Lund Schofield Middle School
  • Richard Pokropski, Centennial High School
  • Tyler Swick, Robert and Sandy Ellis Elementary School
  • Michelle Taylor, Mabel W. Hoggard Elementary School
  • Kelly Wagner, Green Valley High School

Star Graduates 2020 – Bonanza High School

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Maya Duckworth is our student body president. She was also the freshman, sophomore, and junior class president. She has played varsity soccer and takes the most rigorous courses we offer including both honors and AP courses. Maya balances everything life throws at her so well. She is extremely involved, loves Bonanza High School so much and is always such a positive person to be around.

Maya was accepted into Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah and will major in Accounting. She plans to serve a mission for her church, and upon return hopes to complete her degree and be able to join an accounting firm or maybe even be an accountant for the Vegas Golden Knights!

To view more Class of 2020 CCSD Star Grads, click here.

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Star Graduates 2020 – Sandy Valley High School

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The story of Goodwin began seemingly with no future. Goodwin (“Goody”) was raised in a family with a mother suffering from mental illness and a father of many ailments that eventually took his life. In that life he was made to quit high school putting him 2 years behind peers. Forced to live a reclusive life of poverty, he withdrew from the world feeling hopeless and trapped with only his journal as his means to communicate.

In 2018 Goody and brother found a foster family and Goody began to believe in tomorrow.

For the first time in his life he began to explore and dream that all things were possible. With his new family he was shown the world. Of course the first thing was to re enroll him in high school. With an enthusiasm unmatched by many high school students, Goody embraced every opportunity to excel in his class work. It was soon apparent to his teachers, and counselors that Goody was a stellar student. He remains among the top academic high school scholars.

His new family learned of his dream to join the Navy, so they flew him to Annapolis, Maryland to interview and attend personal tour with the US Naval Academy. Now with eyes wide open he returned home to join the US Naval Sea Cadets. He dedicated weekends, starting at 4:30am in full uniform to attend training at Nellis AFB. During the summer he attended training in California on a Naval Base. His devotion paid off, Goody earned a Military promotion. When most recruits report to Basic Training they will be an E1, but Goody will begin as an E2.

To view more Class of 2020 CCSD Star Grads, click here.

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Star Graduates 2020 – Morris Sunset East High School

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Morris Sunset East H.S. is proud to have Brianna Billings as their 2020 Star Graduate. Brianna has overcome several obstacles throughout her life. Growing up she lived with her mother, who was undocumented, this proved to be extremely difficult for her and her younger brother. Moving from hotel to hotel every other month became an unbearable struggle for her mother. So, the family moved to Mexico to live with relatives. While in Mexico, Brianna missed several months of school before her older brother offered to move her and her brother to Las Vegas with him. She was happy to be in Las Vegas, but the move was short-lived. Brianna and her brother had to move back to Mexico. Upon her return to Mexico, she had to care for her ailing mother who suffered from two strokes, along with battling an addiction to alcohol. Brianna and her younger brother were able to move back to Las Vegas when a good friend of the family offered to take over as their guardian. Due to moving around and missing months of school, Brianna was off-track to graduate. However, since enrolling at Morris as a full-time student during the Fall of 2019, Brianna has recovered all of her missing credits and will graduate on-time with the Class of 2020. As a student at Morris, Brianna is a leader on campus. She is a key member in the B.I.O.N.I.C. Team and a phenomenal student who always has a smile on her face. Brianna will start classes at UNLV this Fall. She will begin taking classes to start on her career path in the Health Industry, with a goal of becoming a Nurse. She is ever so grateful to her teachers and the staff at Morris Sunset because of their guidance, support and the overall caring environment on campus that has made this year a success for her.

To view more Class of 2020 CCSD Star Grads, click here.

Star Graduates 2020 – Mojave High School

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Samantha Fowler has several strengths to offer, as she is a hardworking student who is determined to achieve what she sets her mind to. Some of Samantha’s greatest assets are her ability to handle adversity and her willingness to push herself to meet the expectations that she has set for herself. Samantha’s commitment, motivation and desire to succeed is nothing short of outstanding. Samantha’s drive definitely sets her apart from her peer counterparts, especially given her personal circumstances; whereas these circumstances alone would cause many to give up and quit especially when you take into consideration that she is still a teenager. In addition to Samantha embodying the devotion and passion necessary to be successful, I feel compelled to add that her ability to be self-disciplined and maintain her grades, all the while keeping up with the rigor of AP and Honors classes, a full-time job, taking guardianship of her siblings and dealing with adversity, has truly been astounding and I personally admire her abilities to do so. Samantha values her education and realizes that her education can ultimately change the course of her life. She exhibits the perseverance to overcome obstacles and achieve greatness for herself, despite the circumstances that have been put before her. Samantha has challenged herself by taking Honors and Advanced Placement classes this school year and her GPA of 3.338 is proof of her commitment to academic excellence. Samantha is set to graduate in May with a College and Career Ready Diploma, despite the adversity that she is currently facing and the obstacles that she has overcome.

To view more Class of 2020 CCSD Star Grads, click here.

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Star Graduates 2020 – Southeast Career & Technical Academy

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On behalf of Southeast Career and Technical Academy (SE Tech) we would like to recognize Daniela Pedraza Orenday as our 2020 CCSD STAR Graduate.

Daniela Pedraza Orenday, who is a Valedictorian Candidate, at SE Tech has been an outstanding leader for our campus and community. She is a member of the National Honors Society, and Society of Latinos (SOL) at SE Tech. Daniela enjoy’s volunteering and helping children immerse into the life of reading.

Most recently Daniela was selected as a candidate for QuestBridge, a program that recognizes students for their hard work and ability to overcome hardships.

Daniela’s road to success has come with some tough life challenges, yet she continues to persevere and succeed with her education. Daniela will attend UNLV in the fall where she will pursue Computer Engineering with the intention to accelerate the world’s transition to a sustainable lifestyle. SE Tech High School wishes Daniela Pedraza Orenday a lifetime of continued success and is proud to have been part of her journey.

To view more Class of 2020 CCSD Star Grads, click here.

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Star Graduates 2020 – Sandy Valley High School

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At 16, London had given up on dreaming. He was in a life with a mother suffering mental illness, and a father with no ability to care for himself. Forced to leave high school, London was made to play the role of caretaker, homemaker, and parent to his younger brother. Never being allowed to contact the outside world to seek help London had no idea how to plan for his future & wondered, “why bother?, for this will be my life forever”, so he just withdrew from society. In 2018, his father passed away London and his younger brother found a foster family.

When joining his new family they discovered that London had little ability to communicate, to speak, and suffered with anxiety attacks and agoraphobia. He just had no social skills or ambition for his future. It was very obvious to his new family that to open his eyes to life there was work to be done!

In his new home he immediately found the support and love he needed. He no longer had to wear the weight of the anchor of the family. He was free to be a teen and was free to explore. When he re-enrolled in high school he discovered he loved to learn new things. It took no time for him to make up for those lost high school years. He is and remains an “A” student. With an enthusiasm highly lit, he brings joy to his teachers as they look forward to engage him in every class. He is a human sponge, spend more than 5 minutes with him he will soak up all he can get you to share.

London volunteers for every task and program. It soon became obvious that London has natural leadership skills. Last year London was chosen to attend Camp Anytime, a leadership camp for a select few high school students. In 2018 and 2019 he received four scholarships to other leadership camps and was invited to return as Leadership Counselor.

His new family wanted to expose London to everything. They would pack up and travel in an instant if it would provide London a chance to discover the world anew. With each trip his eyes opened more. His anxiety dissipated and London started having lots to say & he wants to see the world. After an impressive trip to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD London finally knew what he wanted to become. He is going to join the Navy.

To prepare him for a life in the Navy he joined the US Naval Sea Cadets and devoted weekends training at Nellis AFB.

The school London attends has no classes on Friday. While many teens considered this a free day to play, London and his brother devoted every Friday volunteering at St. Rose Hospital. With a natural curiosity and pension for being eager to help his Supervisor gave him the opportunity to serve in various departments. It was while devoting almost 300 hours London knew he wanted to enter the field of Medicine.

When London graduates, he will become a Navy Reservist, while attending CSN in order to begin his course study leading to his desire to become a Nurse Practitioner and eventually full time Naval Officer.

London has shed his fears. Just ask him, he will give you a quarterly detail of his 5 year plan. In 2025 get ready world to salute Lt. London O.L Forrester….. but first he gets to celebrate his graduation on a World Cruise with his adopted family. Happy Grads London!–

To view more Class of 2020 CCSD Star Grads, click here.

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Star Graduates 2020 – Mission High School

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Carlie Pachinger has made an indelible impression on Mission High School, and her VW Beetle tracks have blazed a trail worth celebrating.

As a freshman, Carlie admittedly did not see a bright future for herself. Her personal struggles had led her astray; the first semester of her freshman year, she frequently ditched classes and hung out with a destructive crowd.

Thankfully, something shifted when she transferred to Mission High School. Carlie began to heal from her past, using her experiences to help her peers. Academically, Carlie discovered her talent for reading, writing, and science; now graduating a year early!

We will never forget when the fiercely individualistic, natural-born leader belted out a jaw-dropping, operatic “Ave Maria” in an impromptu talent show.

Carlie’s spirited drive to better herself and help others will be an asset at Nevada State College and wherever else life takes her. The Mission family wishes our Star Graduate continued success and inspiration!

To view more Class of 2020 CCSD Star Grads, click here.

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Star Graduates 2020 – Desert Pines High School

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Dalia Rosas-Perez is an amazing student who has risen to the challenges of being a low-income First Generation High School Graduate and a member of the LGBTQ+ community to graduate first in her class. As a leader in the Video Production Program at Desert Pines Magnet Academy, Dalia loves the challenge, creativity, and growth that CTE, AP, and Honors level classes offer her. While at Desert Pines High School, Dalia has a 4.8 GPA, has taken 11 AP classes, and is recognized as an AP Scholar by College Board. She will also graduate with the Seal of Biliteracy and CTE Certification. She has served as President of the Desert Pines National Honors Society Chapter, President of SkillsUSA, Producer of our weekly Jaguar News Network student news program, and was part of the Cross Country and Track and Field Teams. Dalia is a QuestBridge Scholar and won a full-ride scholarship to Oberlin College in Ohio where she will be studying Environmental Sciences and Engineering. Dalia is an inspiring, motivated, and hard-working student who will continue to make her mark in the world.

To view more Class of 2020 CCSD Star Grads, click here.

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