Nataliya Yamkova of Oasis High School and Hailey Drew, Ben Huff, and Brittney Zelasco of Fallbrook High School were honored as Students of the Month for the Fallbrook Union High School District (FUHSD) at a special celebratory breakfast held April 3 at the Fallbrook Community Center.
To be chosen for the recognition, students must stand out among their peers, have outstanding achievements in academics and community volunteerism.
Addressing the four honored students, FUHSD superintendent Dale Mitchell, Ed.D., noted, “We have reason for hope and optimism for the future from what you have done so far.”
Nataliya Yamkova was nominated for the student of the month honor by Oasis High teacher Bennielyn Verrett.
“Nataliya transferred (to Oasis) needing to concentrate and turn things around,” Verrett said. Over the last two years, “Nataliya’s attitude really changed; now her academics are right up there with tennis which allowed her to meet one of her goals – to qualify for a four year scholarship,” Verrett explained.
Yamkova, who immigrated with her mother from Ukraine when she was young, has played tennis for Fallbrook High for three years. She helped the team win the Avo League Championship in 2011, has won three tournaments, and is #3 in California satellite rankings. She volunteers as a tennis teacher, makes Ukranian cookies at Christmas to take to homeless shelters and is collecting clothes for a Ukrainian orphanage as well as tennis racquets which she wants to deliver herself. She was described as respectful, driven and happy.
Yamkova will attend Palomar College for a year before going to a university. After thanking Verrett and everyone at Oasis, she said, “I want to play tennis [in college] and pursue nursing to help everyone.”
Hailey Drew was selected for the student of the month honor based on the recommendation of Fallbrook High coaches Anthony Morrow and Dan Bachman.
Bachman said that Drew, a second generation Fallbrook student, has played on the varsity basketball team since halfway through her freshman season, was second league in basketball, and all league in softball, the sport in which she has received a college scholarship. He also talked about Drew’s leadership ability, “She leads through example and verbal acumen to command respect; it comes naturally for her on and off the court.”
Morrow pointed out Drew’s accomplishments off the field. She has volunteered many hours at the Angel Society, is a leader of Fallbrook Warrior Fellowship, “steps up when something is not right and says something, can always be counted on to be there and represents everything about Fallbrook students that we want people to know, hard work, dedication, caring, and academics.”
Drew thanked her teachers/coaches and parents and said she is going to McNeese State University in Louisiana “to major in criminal justice and go into military or federal law enforcement.”
Ben Huff was honored as a student of the month after being nominated by coach John Kroger.
“Unlike the stereotypical teenager, Ben breaks the mold across the board,” Kroger said. He arrives 30 minutes early for practice, Kroger said, and is the last kid to leave. Described as a go-getter, he volunteered to help the JV team after varsity practice. “He gave up his summer to play basketball and help the JV team; he is selfless – broke the record to take the most charges for the team.” Because of that, Kroger said he has had two concussions, one trip to the hospital, and numerous trips to the doctor.
Huff was described as hard-working, with passion and work ethic. A three year letterman in basketball, he was given the Warrior Award at the team’s banquet, was named honorable mention in league and was just named to the North County All-Star team.
Huff thanked his coach “for inspiring me;” his parents, “my biggest supporters;” and his uncle, “my best friend.” He said he is going to Arizona State University to major in kinesiology with plans to become a physical therapist.
Brittney Zelasco was honored as a student of the month based on the recommendation of teacher Sharon Griener.
“It was an honor for me to nominate Brittney for student of the month,” said Greiner who has had Zelasco in her ASL (American Sign Language) class for three years. Because of her skills and abilities, Zelasco was moved up to fourth-year ASL.
Besides signing for Greiner at open houses, Zelasco has participated in floral design, yearbook, ASB, and Link crew; started the FHS recycle program, is the current pep commissioner and a Girl Scout besides volunteering at REINS, the Oceanside Animal Shelter, nursing homes and with North Coast Church’s program for fifth/sixth graders. She also plays softball and volleyball.
Zelasco was described as having spiritual strength and tenacity, being caring, able, and determined.
Like the other students, she thanked the student of the month committee and said she was “super honored” to be there and congratulated the other honorees. After being accepted to several universities, she has chosen to attend Azusa Pacific “to major in communications and psychology to become a speech pathologist or ASL interpreter.”
The first awards were presented by Karl Fekete of American Legion Post 365, who gave each student a personalized Lamp of Knowledge medal. In addition, the students received many certificates of recognition and gifts from local organizations and businesses for their accomplishments.
The Fallbrook Student of the Month breakfast is funded by generous local businesses and organizations, including Major Market, Pedro’s Tacos, Fallbrook PTSA, Law Offices of Faunce, Singer & Oatman, Fallbrook Vintage Car Club, and Sheri’s Flowers.
To nominate an FUHSD high school student for this honor, email [email protected]