Four very impressive individuals with varied interests – dietetics, health, art, fashion, music, engineering, the U.S. Marine Corps – were acknowledged March 2 when Taylor Durick, Kayla King and Carol Valenzuela of Fallbrook Union High School and Christian Perez of Ivy High School were honored as the Students of the Month for March.
The awards breakfast hosted by the Fallbrook Student of the Month committee was held at the Fallbrook Community Center and emceed by Greg Coppock.
The first student to be saluted was Durick, the school’s ASB president as well as Homecoming Queen. Durick was nominated by teacher Alana Milton, who couldn’t make the event due to a conference in San Diego but penned comments about her nominee that were read by Pam Cain of the school’s college and career center.
Cain, before reading Milton’s words, expressed her own thoughts about Durick, stating, “Taylor is probably the most inspiring and passionate student we have on our campus. She’s involved in everything.”
Milton’s remarks about Durick included: “Taylor is dedicated to her education. She has challenged herself with AP classes and has enriched herself with art classes. She has tried all different types of sports. She really enjoys school and appreciates her educational journey. Taylor is also very committed to her faith. She firmly believes in helping others, being kind to everyone, and staying true to who she is.”
Durick, who as a freshman lost 50 pounds, plans to devote herself to helping others get and stay healthy through nutrition and dietary guidance.
“I evolved as a result of so many people in this room just loving me, supporting me, guiding me, encouraging me,” said Durick. “When I felt like I couldn’t do it, I wasn’t allowed to think that because of the incredible people in this room. I am so incredibly grateful. I am grateful to God.”
“I’m planning to attend Point Loma Nazarene and I want to study dietetics and food science so I can approach food in a way of healing,” continued Durick. “It’s sort of with my faith, loving your body, and loving yourself, and the way you were created. And just to nurture what you’ve been given – the gift of our bodies.”
Teacher Lita Tabish, career and technical education department chair, runs the fashion program at Fallbrook High and nominated King.
“I’m honored to introduce my outstanding fashion student, Kayla King,” said Tabish. “Kayla has completed both the fashion merchandizing program and the fashion design classes at Fallbrook High. In the fashion merchandizing class, she created an outstanding sample business plan, and I hope that she’ll be able to implement that plan and make a name for herself in the fashion industry. I know the future is very bright for Kayla. She has wonderful communication skills, real creative talent, and a heart of gold.”
Tabish noted that King designed “an awesome-looking garment” that a professional model walked down the runway at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, during the Palomar College fashion show last spring.
King credited Tabish with helping her pinpoint her professional goal.
“Miss Tabish helped me realize what I wanted to do with my career in fashion,” said King. “It started out in fashion merchandizing. That’s the business side of fashion. I realized that I wanted to be my own boss, basically. I love fashion and I love to work with people. My future goal is I want to get into retail management. I will be attending California State University San Marcos.”
Fallbrook High band director Victor Torres nominated Valenzuela, and noted how the girl who played clarinet as a freshman repeatedly challenged herself during her four years in band by learning how to play three other instruments – French horn, tenor drums and marching bass drum.
“I knew from watching her in the beginning that she was going to be something special because she had a lot of energy and she wanted to learn as much as possible,” said Torres of Valenzuela. “When she played the tenor drums she helped my drum line win the gold medal a couple of years ago at ADLA (American Drum Line Association championships), but then again it wasn’t good enough for her. From that she went to playing the marching bass drum.”
Torres added that Valenzuela achieved her success while helping her family deal with “crisis.”
“It’s a miracle that she is doing as well as she is now,” said Torres. “To come from where she’s come from, to where she is now. I cannot wait to see – five to 10 years down the road – what this one is going to do, because she has taken such a hard situation in her life and she’s made great things happen.”
Valenzuela thanked Torres for always being there for her.
“Mr. Torres, you have given me opportunities in and out of band that I will hold with me for the rest of my life,” said Valenzuela. “I still remember my first day of band and instantly feeling a sense of inclusion and belonging as a tiny freshman. Furthermore, thank you also for all the support and guidance you have given me for the past four years. You taught me to always, always strive for better, and that once I’ve got it down to a T, to keeping working.”
Valenzuela said she plans to attend a university in California and major in engineering.
“I have always loved math and science, so after high school I want to study something that includes both but also helps others,” said Valenzuela. “I am extremely eager to begin the path toward my dream career, whatever it may end up being.”
Ivy High School principal John Hayek and Ivy teacher Greg Keener nominated Perez, and they were joined by Lt. Col. William L. Wade, USMC (Ret), in recognizing their nominee. Wade serves as senior military instructor and administrator of Fallbrook High’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Program (ROTC).
Hayek referred to Perez as a trailblazer.
“For the first time that I can remember, we have a student who is dual enrolled at Fallbrook High School in the ROTC program, and Ivy High School,” said Hayek. “Christian’s mother, in the in-take meeting, said he finally found something he loves – finally found something he’s passionate about. That was the ROTC program.”
Perez spends periods one through five at Ivy before heading to Fallbrook High for the ROTC program. While at Ivy, Perez has consistently impressed Keener.
“Christian is well-mannered and he’s polite,” said Keener. “He’s respectful to everybody, his teachers as well as his peers. The way that he communicates with people is always so positive. Christian has just been a joy to have in class.”
Wade said Perez has successfully progressed in the ROTC program.
“I was initially impressed by his demonstration of intestinal fortitude and guts to enter into a program where he would be essentially flying solo into an arena where he knew no one,” said Wade. “It took an immense amount of courage and tenacity. What continues to impress me and Master Sergeant Brian Richardson most about this young man, however, is his unwavering world compass, his generous and kind spirit, and his unwavering devotion to his family.”
Perez expressed gratitude to officials at both schools for giving him the opportunity to participate in the ROTC program.
“Thank you to Ivy and Fallbrook High School for helping me out throughout the years and making it possible for me to take the ROTC class,” said Perez. “Thanks mom and thanks family. Thanks teachers. I would like to thank my ROTC class. They really taught me to keep pushing forward, and if you get knocked down, get back up. The worst thing you can do is just stay down.”
Perez said he plans to enlist in the Marines and then follow up his service by attending college. “I would like to get a career in health care,” said Perez.
All of the honorees enthusiastically thanked the Student of the Month committee, teachers, family and friends, the event sponsors, and all in attendance.