Academic stars stand out at Antelope Valley graduations
Valedictorians honored for dedication, sacrifice
LANCASTER, Calif.—It’s that time of year again when parents congratulate their shining stars and watch anxiously as they walk across the stage to receive their diplomas. And throughout the Valley, a few special parents have even more to brag about.
Some standout graduates at Highland, Littlerock, and Pete Knight High Schools are the few African American students who have earned the title of valedictorian.
Throughout the district, students who have earned a 4.0 or higher grade point average (GPA) have the unique privilege of graduating with the honored title. So schools may have as many as 10 valedictorians or more.
At Knight, two young women happen to be the top two scholars.
Nichole Fields earned a 4.5 GPA [Students who take AP and honors classes can achieve a GPA higher than 4.0.] and will be attending New York University in the fall with an academic scholarship granted by the university and has been named a Gates Millennium Scholar (GMS).
GMS students are among 1,000 students selected each year to receive a scholarship to supplement other scholarships and parental funding for college until graduation.
Getting to the point of success was no easy task for the teen. Because of her family’s support and relentless self-determination, Fields is proud of herself and glad to say she is at the top of her class.
“I definitely had to prioritize some things that are most important to teenagers to get where I wanted to go,” she said, explaining that hanging out with friends was fun, but was something worth setting aside. “It was a big sacrifice and hanging out was fun, but it wasn’t helping me get where I wanted to go. I don’t regret anything. I had fun when it was time to.”
And as one of the few African American students in the district to graduate with honors, she says this milestone is proof that young Black students can achieve and be scholars.
“I feel it to be a bit more of an achievement,” she said. “We (she and Brittany Carr) are the first African American valedictorians out of Knight High School…. It’s amazing how diverse our generation is and how much we are stepping up to the plate as young Black men and women. We don’t have a lot of opportunities afforded to us, like affirmative action…. But we really have to take the opportunity and make things play in our favor. I feel more accomplished to say that I did this and that I’m representing my Black community.”
Her peer, valedictorian, Brittany Carr, tied Cullor’s GPA for first place at top of the class.
At Littlerock High School, a sole African American valedictorian, Matthew Hogains, will be proudly representing his community with a 4.4 GPA. The athlete, who plays basketball and volleyball, dreams of one day working at Boeing or Lockheed as a computer engineer.
Hogains will attend the University of California, San Diego, and has earned a scholarship from Palmdale’s Kiwanis Club.
The young star commented that the most challenging part of school was trying to balance all of his extracurricular activities, including band, to maintain his grades.
Now that he’s getting ready to graduate, he can breathe a sigh of relief and start a new chapter of life.
Highland High School has three young stars who will be walking across the stage with a special gown and tassel. Braxton Cullors decided she wanted to be one of the standout kids at graduation before she entered the ninth grade. She pursued her dream with passion and determination, knowing her work would eventually pay off.
Also an athlete and very involved student, Cullors had to learn to maintain her grades while practicing for track and soccer. She is also Miss Antelope Valley Black Chamber of Commerce and participates in community events.
“At first I didn’t think I was out of the ordinary,” she said about being a Black valedictorian. “Now, I really see that there aren’t that many of us. So I’m really proud of myself and there aren’t a lot of people who can do the same.”
Cullors is the first generation in her family to graduate and go to college. In the fall, she will be starting the aerospace engineering program at Cal Poly San Louis Obispo.
Mark Gross Jr. is the second in his class at Highland with a GPA of 4.83.
The young scholar credits the support of his family and friends for helping him get through school and achieve the high status he now has. With the fabulous grades and sacrifices he made for four years, Gross will be attending Stanford University in the fall. He’s undecided about his career choice right now, but is eyeing pre-med.
“I hope to travel and find a way to use my profession to go around the world and meet different people,” he said. And about moving away for college, he commented, “I’ll definitely miss family and friends, but I’m definitely looking forward to the new experience.”
Tamakloe Senam is also rated one of the top scholars at Highland.
Other Black valedictorians throughout the Antelope Valley Union High School District include Laura Brown at Eastside High School, Shannon Ashley Franklin Danielle Monique Sappleton, and Chidera Kendra Ufondu at Quartz Hills High School.
LANCASTER, Calif. — Parents, teachers and students swarmed to Eastside High School for the 4th Annual Parent Symposium sponsored by High Desert Alliance of Black School Educators.
Kicking off the event with a panel on Saturday, graduate students discussed their challenges and victories while paving their path to success.
PALMDALE, Calif. — The eighth edition of the Tour of California begins two days of racing in Los Angeles County today with a 110.3-mile stage from Palmdale to Santa Clarita.
The 121 cyclists will leave from Marie Kerr Park at 11:20 a.m. for a stage that will feature racing through the hills north of Santa Clarita along San Francisquito Canyon and a 22-mile climb up Lake Hughes Road, followed by a gradual 18-mile descent down Spunky Canyon and Bouquet Road.
TORRANCE, Calif. — The Torrance Police Department announced today that it has three suspects in custody who are believed to have been involved in credit card fraud victimizing 37 people from San Diego to Simi Valley.
The investigation began on Sept. 17, after a Torrance resident living in the 17500 block of Emanita Avenue was fraudulently billed for a delivery to a FedEx office at 21023 Hawthorne Boulevard.
Surveillance video allegedly showed a suspect picking up a package.
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Airport traffic control towers in Pacoima, Fullerton, Riverside and San Diego will close starting April 7 under the Federal Aviation Administration’s forced spending cuts, the agency announced today.
Control towers are scheduled to close at Whiteman Airport in Pacoima, Fullerton Municipal Airport, Riverside Municipal Airport, Brown Field and Ramona Airport in San Diego County, according to the FAA.
More than 100 Crenshaw High School students and parents had the opportunity to hear directly from UCLA admissions and financial aid officials and to get personal advice on achieving their college dreams at a special Oct. 22 assembly and resource fair at the South Los Angeles campus.
The event was part of Achieve UC, a University of California systemwide initiative designed to inspire students from historically underserved high schools to aim for and apply to college and to equip them with the information and resources they need to get there.