21 YHS valedictorians honored at Pitman Award banquet last week

Community CorrespondentMay 6, 2014 

Yosemite High School's 21 valedictorians were honored May 1 during the 28th Annual Paul & Martha Pitman Awards Banquet at Sierra Meadows Country Club in Ahwahnee.

The event is held in remembrance of Dr. Paul and Martha Pitman, educators who retired and moved to Oakhurst in the early 70s, soon becoming a driving force behind the establishment of Yosemite High School.

The Yosemite class of 2014 valedictorians all achieved a 4.0 or higher cumulative grade point average all four years at Yosemite. They are Jacob Caldwell, Angela Du, Kenneth Jeffris, Chance McGee, Hannah McMechan, Alexander Mello, Brittany Mihall, Hunter Murphy, Michael Neff, Azani Pusina, Tristan Rhoan, Jordan Rose, Regan Samora, Adam Scott, Ericka Smith, Erik Strauss, Andrew Thach, Julia Walsh, Sharon Warmerdam, Benjamin Williams, and Jared Wood.

More than 30 Mountain Area businesses and community members provided items for gift bags that all the students received.

During the ceremonies, first year Yosemite High School Principal Randy Seals praised the school for its tradition of excellence.

"One of the hallmarks that enticed me to come to Yosemite High was the school's tradition of excellence," Seals said. "The school's academic decathlon team has won the county title 20 consecutive years."

Also in attendance were members of the Pitman family, including son Marsh and his wife Mary Beard, grandson Eric Coyne and his wife Johanna, and Nancy Palazzo (Martha Pitman's niece) and her husband Tony.

"Martha was taken to Oakhurst by Nancy in 1965 to look for a place to live after Paul retired from the University of California system," explained Marsh. "That is how the Paul and Martha came to live in Oakhurst. This was the first time Nancy or Eric have attended one of these dinners honoring Yosemite High School graduates. They were very moved by it."

District board members in attendance for the event were Monika Moulin, board president, and John Reynolds.

Dr. Angelo Pizelo gave the invocation and Tim Madden served as master of ceremonies.

The banquet was sponsored by Sierra Telephone and the Oakhurst Sierra Sunrise Rotary Club.


The 21 valedictorians of the 2014 YHS graduating class who were honored at the 27th Annual Paul & Martha Pitman Awards Banquet May 1 are:

Jacob Caldwell

Caldwell served as president of the Drama Club and vice president of the Key Club/Interact for two years and participated in Relay for Life for three years.

Caldwell was the junior class homecoming court nominee in 2013 and was a two-year member of the Badger JV golf team.

He was named the Theater Arts Student of the Year for 2013 and was this year's Student of the Month in February.

Angela Du

Du was Science Club president, academic decathlon co-president, varsity girls tennis co-captain, Relay for Life team co-captain, Rotary youth leadership awards, Asian Pacific youth leadership project delegate, and a Rotary youth exchange student.

She was a member of theScience Club, California Scholarship Federation, Key Club/Interact, a member of the science research team, Badger Youth Summer Sports Camp team leader, and Yosemite Summer Tennis Clinic assistant coach.

She took second-place honors at the Central California Science, Math and Engineering Fair, second and fourth places in the North Sequoia League Singles Tournament; she received recognition for most dedicated (varsity tennis), most spirited (academic decathlon), top scoring social science scholar (academic decathlon), and was named Grocery Outlet student of the month.

Kenneth Jeffris

Jeffris served as co-captain of cross country team, co-president of California Scholarship Federation, and was publicisit while a junior in the Yosemite High School Band. In his sophomore through senior years, He was the band's first chair saxophone player for three years. section leader.

He was senior patrol leader, troop guide and patrol leader for his Boy Scouts troop, and was a member of the Academic Decathlon team, Science Club, Key Club/Interact,and the science research team.

He was on the cross country and varsity tennis teams.

Honors include Rotary Student of the Month (twice), UCSF Fresno summer biomedical research internship participant, Coca-Cola Scholars semifinalist,Rotarian Youth Leadership Awards, Rotary Camp participant, Boys State nominee, and the behavioral science winner at the Central Valley Science, Math and Engineering Fair, and winner for the behavioral sciences.

Jeffris was Regent's and Chancellor's Scholar at University of California Berkeley, a Smittcamp Family Honors College recipient at California State University Fresno, and oral presenter at Stanford University for the Stanford Undergraduate Psychology Conference.

Chance McGee

McGee acted in seven drama productions, including the lead role in 'The Giver.'

He played JV basketball (2010-2011), JV sSoccer (2011-2012 - most valuable defender), and varsity soccer (2013-2014 - academic All league).

McGee was on the honor roll all four years at Yosemite.was Most Valuable Defender (2011-2012) and Academic All League (2013-2014).

Hannah McMechan

McMechan served as president of the Drama and Golf clubs, and treasurer of the Key/Interact and Spanish clubs.

She was involved with Relay for Life, and was the YHS Advanced Theater/Lunchbox leader, host, and mainstage actress; a volunteer at events with CSF and clubs Key/Interact, Spanish, Art, Foreign Language, Library, and the benefit concerts and senior projects. She acted/directed/managed Two Person Play and Night Mother, benefitting Fresno Survivors of Suicide Loss.

McMechan played girls varsity golf four years, and girls varsity soccer.

Honors include third place for Individual in League for girls varsity golf, Athletic Scholar and Academic All League awards four years for both soccer and golf; second place at the Fresno Valley Drama Festival; Lifetime CSF member, and honor roll student four years.

Alexander Mello

Mello was president of California Scholarship Federation, vice-president of Spanish Club, secretary of YHS Research Team, and captain of the varsity soccer team.

He was a member of the Key/Interact, Spanish, and Science clubs.

Mello played varsity soccer, varsity track, and varsity cross country.

He was honored as varsity soccer MVP, varsity soccer offensive MVP, varsity soccer high goal scorer/assist, All Regional First Team (soccer), North Sequoia All League First Team (soccer), Junior Varsity Soccer Playmaker, and received multiple medals in varsity track/cross country.

Brittany Mihall

Mihall was on the Yosemite High School Equestrian Team and served as English captain. She was a CSF Life member, Key/Interact club member, and a Fresno/United States Pony Club member.

Mihall was a full IB Diploma candidate, honor roll student and Rotary Club March Student of the Month.

Hunter Murphy

Murphy served as swim teach captain (junior and senior years); assistant drum major (junior year); and drum major (senior year).

Activities were California Scholarship Federation, Key/Interact Club, Percussion and band, drum major (junior and senior years), and Chamber Singers.

Murphy played on the varsity boys water polo team, and varsity boys swim team.

Honors include swim team captain, Eagle Scout, drum major, Boys State Delegate, Rotary Youth Leadership Award, Scholar Athlete, second place in the Rotary Speech Contest, and second place in the Lions Speech Contest.

Michael Neff

Neff served as Interact president and treasurer andSpanish Club president.

He was a member of theInteract/Key Club, Spanish Club, California Scholarship Federation, Library Club, and Science Club.

Neff playedJV Soccer twoyears, varsity soccer two years, varsity tennis four years, and was on the ski/snowboard team three years.

His honors include Rotary Student of the Month, Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA), Boys State Finalist, Class Rank #1, Tennis Captainand Tennis #1.

Azani Pusina

Pusina served as treasurer of Key Club, CSF, Science Club, and YHS Science Research Team; and publicist of Library Club.

Club memberships include the CSF, Spanish Club, and the academic decathlon.

Pusina was on the varsity cross country team.

Honors are full IB Diploma candidate and four-year Scholar Athlete.

Tristan Rhoan

Rhoan was a member of the CSF Club, ROP Film class and Relay for Life.

She ran cross country and played soccer, and was on the Honor Roll.

Jordan Rose

Rose was secretary of the Foreign Language Club as a sophomore and junior.

Activities include Advanced Drama for two years, Lunchbox theater for two years, and performing in dramas — Holes; The Love of 3 Oranges; The Giver Almost, Main; and Beauty and the Beast.

She was on the soccer team her freshman and sophomore years; cross country her junior and senior years; and tennis for four years.

Rose was a Scholar Athlete, on the Gold Honor Roll every semester, and is a CSF Lifetime Member.

Regan Samora

Samora has been Commissioner of Design for ASB (Associated Student Body) for the last two years.

Activities include ASB for three years, working on ideas, design, set up, and cleanup for school activities, such as rallies and dances.

Samora played on the varsity soccer team for four years, and was captain of the team junior and senior years.

Samora received First Team All League Defensive Player for soccer in junior and senior years, and was the team's MVP as a senior.

Adam Scott

Scott served as vice-president of the YHS band and percussion.

He was first chair trumpet player in the band, and was a member of the academic decathlon, Jazz Band, Key Club and Science Club.

Scott ran four years on the cross country team and played three years of tennis.

He won the 2014 Madera County Academic Decathlon competition, was Sunrise Rotary Student of the Month for January 2014, was on the 'A' Honor Roll each high school semester, received four varsity letters in cross country, the Student-Athlete Award, four letters in band and four academic letters.

Ericka Smith

As a freshman, Smith was secretary and as a senior was president of the Library Club; president of the YHS Science Research Team, co-president of Academic Decathlon, vice-president of the Science Club, secretary of the Spanish Club, and electoral board member of YHS California Scholarship Federation.

Her activities include Art Club (freshman and sophomore years); Journalism (sophomore year); and her senior project — installing Brita hydration stations on campus.

Smith was honored as National Hispanic Scholar, Grocery Outlet January 2014 Student of the Month, 2013 California State Academic Decathlon Highest Scoring Team Member; and was also awarded a gold medal for Art, a bronze medal for Economics, Literature, and Music, and first place in Super Quiz. In the 2014 Madera County Academic Decathlon, Smith received first place in Super Quiz.

Erik Strauss

Strauss was a member of Key Club and CSF.

He played tennis for two years, was on the gold Honor Roll every semester, and was a member of the band.

Andrew Thach

Thach was director of the high school End of the Year video, and public relations officer of Spanish Club.

His activities membership in the Key Club and California Scholarship Federation.

Thach was on the snowboard and ski club.

He was on the 'A' Honor Roll four years, and received first place in the C4D Model and Animation Contest.

Julia Walsh

Walsh was a member of and secretary for the Key Club, and a member of and secretary for the CSF.

She was involved in volleyball, water polo, basketball, and swimming.

Sharon Warmerdam

Warmderdam was publicist of Key Club, secretary of Science Club and the YHS Science Research Team, and historian of CSF.

She was a member of the Library Club and Spanish Club.

Warmerdam was on the varisty cross country team.

She was honored as a full IB diploma candidate, was nominated for Rotary Youth Leadership Conference (RYLA), and was a four-year scholar athlete. ``` Benjamin Williams

Williams was president of Spanish Club and captain of the basketball team as a senior; and treasurer of Foreign Language Club during his sophomore and junior years.

He played basketball and tennis for four years, and was on the cross country team during his junior and senior years.

Williams was a Scholar Athlete, and on the Honor Roll.

Jared Wood

Wood served as president of the Key Club, vice-president of the California Scholarship Federation, and co-president of the Future Business Leaders of America.

School activities include membership in the Business and Science clubs.

Wood played on the water polo team for four years, basketball team for four, swim team for three, and baseball team for one.

Wood received a Letter of Commendation— National Merit Scholar, three-time 'All League' for water polo; 'All League' player of the year for water polo; 'All League' Defensive First Team basketball, and was in the IB diploma program.

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