Heartfelt honors

editor@sierrastar.comMay 6, 2014 

Nearly 200 Yosemite High School Community Awards totaling nearly $115,000 were presented to 69 graduating seniors May 5 at the school's Performing Arts Center.

School Principal Randy Seals said the event is to recognize the students who have put their own mark on Yosemite High school and the community.

"The students who will have their name called this evening are truly the best of the best at YHS," Seals said.

Seals added that the night also puts the spotlight on the citizens of a great mountain community who support education.

Seven of the seniors, Michael Neff, Phillip McLean, Stephanie Pardue, Hunter Murphy, Kierstern Riggs, Kenneth Jeffris, and Eddie Nixon, accounted for 53 of the awards.

Five seniors, Alex Mello, Angela Du, Hannah McMechan, Jared Wood, and Page Peterson gathered five awards each. In addition, 27 seniors received two or more awards.

The cash awards from Mountain Area clubs, businesses and family memorial funds ranged from $100 to $4,000. Many Mountain Area clubs and organization hold fundraising events year-long, specifically for YHS Community Awards.

The majority of the businesses and organizations presented multiple awards. Service Organization of the Sierra gave eight awards, Vision Academy of the Arts and the El Capitan Education Foundation presented seven, and Oak Creek Intermediate School and the Gerald A. Smith Memorial presented six awards each.

Sherry Colgate and Sheri Lee, representing the El Capitan Education Foundation, presented seven $500 awards to students who will attend the Oakhurst Community College. Over the years, the foundation has presented more than 180 awards to graduating seniors.

Sierra Tel's Cindy Huber presented a $1,000 award to Tristan Webb, in memory of Harry Baker's parents, Harry Sr. and Marie Baker. The company provided an additional six $500 awards. Sierra Tel has been giving scholarships to students in the Mountain Area for more than 45 years.

Memorial awards were presented in honor of Barbara Banich, Billy Vukovich III, Buddy Cudd, Eakin Peirsol, Gerald A. Smith, Ibrahim Kabbani, Jeremy Carter, Travis Myers, Sam Rowlett, William Beau Bushman, Wilma Ely, Dalton Mayn, Frank Logar, Ruth Ross and Cary Simms.

Athletics was well represented with six $250 awards from Yosemite Youth Basketball Association (Sierra Dominici, Jensen Eames, Karley Mumm, Stephanie Pardue, Julia Walsh, Page Peterson), three awards from Yosemite Badger Youth Football and Cheer (Stewart Carlson, Whitney Juras, Allison Boyer), and one award from River Creek Golf Course (Austin Bain).

The Barry Bartlett Service and Recognition Award was presented to Rebecca Levee. As one of the original counselors at the school, Bartlett helped to found the Yosemite High School Scholarship Foundation and still serves on its board. He and his wife, Carolyn, still work advocating for students as home and hospital teachers.

Bartlett said he remembers when the awards program started in 1977 with 10 awards totaling $12,000.

Marlene Ray, the daughter of Muriel Lavell of North Fork and the late Ray Jones of Friant, presented a $5,000 scholarship to Tristan Rhoan, in honor of her father, a 1965 graduate of Sierra High School. The Ray Jones Scholarship fund was established in 2009 to provide financial assistance to Indian students graduating from central valley high schools. Scholarships for $1,000 and $5,000 have been presented to graduates in Merced, Mariposa, Fresno, Kings, and Tulare counties over the past six years, and Monday's presentation was the first to be given to a Yosemite High student.

"This scholarship commemorates the value placed on higher education and the respect he had for his family and Mono-Chukchansi heritage," Ray said.

Ray graduated from Wasilla High School in Alaska, and went on bachelors degree in Political Science and Public Policy from Stanford University, a Masters of Business Administration degree from Arizona State, a Juris Doctor law degree from the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State, and post-law studies in natural resources and environmental law at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon.

Ray pointed out that American Indians comprise 14% of the California population, yet of all the students receiving degrees from four-year institutions, only .6% are Native Americans.

"We all stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us, who have helped us on the path we've chosen. It is truly an honor to be a small part in helping someone fulfill his or her dream," Ray said after the event.

Suzzanne Ordway, a 2007 graduate of YHS, presented a $500 "Impression Award" to Julia Walsh and Jordan Rose.

Ordway, who taught high school in Mississippi and is now a middle school teacher in Oakland, started her giving tradition as a senior project at YHS.

"After becoming a teacher in some less fortunate areas than our Mountain Area, I reflected on what a great opportunity this is, and decided to continue to give an award,' Ordway said.

Her sister, Sarah (YHS class of 2008), now a law school student at Syracuse University, has joined the fundraising effort along with their mother and stepfather.

Jeanne Ratchford, YHS coordinator of Community Awards Night, said the night is successful due to the support of so many people joining together to encourage Yosemite graduates to further their education.

"I'm happy to be a part of this program and it's heartwarming to see so many of the same names sponsoring awards as in years past," Ratchford said. "The citizens of this community faithfully give to the deserving students of Yosemite High School. There are many reasons to choose to live in this community and tonight shows another reason to love this wonderful place — the generous businesses and members of the community."

Prior to the presentations, Eddie Nixon sang the National Anthem.

Ratchford told the seniors that no matter where their paths take them, they will always have this special community to proudly call their own.

"Know that this community believes in all of you," Ratchford said.


Adam Scott Madera County Office of Education Academic Decathlon
Service Organization of the Sierra Caring on Higher Ground

Alexander Mello Madera Republican Women Federated
Service Organization of the Sierra Sierra Tel Business Systems
Yosemite Gateway Association of Realtors Billy Vukovich III Memorial

Allison Boyer Yosemite Badger Youth Football and Cheer
Sierra Lions Club of Oakhurst

Andrea Whitcomb Ladies of the Lake

Andrew Selbicky El Capitan Education Foundation
Bass Lake Lions Club

Andrew Tuttle El Capitan Education Foundation
Jeremy Carter Memorial Cary Simms Memorial Scholarship

Angela Du Oakhurst Elks Award
Oakhurst Sierra Noon Rotary Club Sierra Lions Club of Oakhurst
Sierra Tel Cellular Oakhurst Democratic Club

Erin Asis Gerald A. Smith Memorial
Vern & Delores Brooks Educators Award Yosemite Football Boosters Scholarship

Austin Bain North Fork Faculty Club
River Creek Golf Course Yosemite High ASB Leadership
Billy Vukovich III Memorial - Auto Award

Azani Pusina Service Organization of the Sierra

Benjamin Hartesveldt Vision Academy of the Arts
Ibrahim Kabbani Memorial

Benjamin Williams Pines Civic Council

Brenna Hatfield Vision Academy of the Arts

Brittany Merillat Tenaya Lodge Hospitality Award
Billy Vukovich III Memorial

Brittany Mihall Billy Vukovich III Memorial
Eakin Peirsol Memorial Award Aiming High Award

Brittney Hughey Oak Creek Intermediate School
Native American Scholarship, North Fork

Chance McGee Swortzel Trust

Craig James Stieler Sierra Ambulance-Cathy Kern Memorial

Craig Stieler Jeremy Carter Memorial
Billy Vukovich III Memorial

Danielle Borreson Soroptimist International of The Sierras
Wasuma Elementary School Yosemite Bank
Pines Civic Council

Edward Nixon Frank Logar Memorial Music Award
Golden Chain Theatre Ibrahim Kabbani Memorial
Sierra Meadows Golf Club Vision Academy of the Arts
49 EARS (Yosemite-Oakhurst-Sierra)

Eirena Ewert Dalton Mayn Memorial
Vision Academy of the Arts Yosemite Unified CSEA Chapter 698
Sam Rowlett Memorial

Erica Smith Swortzel Trust

Erik Strauss Indian Lakes Ladies Auxiliary

Eurasia Philley Gerald A. Smith Memorial

Hannah McMechan Ibrahim Kabbani Memorial
Sierra Lions Club of Oakhurst Veterans of Foreign Wars
Yosemite Unified CSEA Chapter 698 Caring on Higher Ground

Hunter Murphy Oak Creek Intermediate School
Oakhurst Sierra Noon Rotary Club Pines Civic Council
Service Organization of the Sierra Sierra Tel Internet
Veterans of Foreign Wars Vision Academy of the Arts
Marine Corps League Griswold Mtn. Det.#1121

Jacob Caldwell Sierra Tel Business Center
Gerald A. Smith Memorial

Jared Wood Oakhurst Sierra Sunrise Rotary Club
Service Organization of the Sierra Sierra-Oakhurst Kiwanis Club
Yosemite Gateway Association of Realtors Grant Mercantile

Jeffrey Foster Vision Academy of the Arts

Jeneen Varian Eakin Peirsol Memorial Award

Jensen Eames Yosemite Youth Basketball Association
Buddy Cudd Memorial

Jill DeGrasse Rodney Peter DDS& Dennis Jones, DDS
Soroptimist International of The Sierras Ibrahim Kabbani Memorial

Jordan Rose Yosemite Unified CSEA Chapter 698
Impression Award (Ordway) money from PG&E

Julia Walsh Oakhurst Sierra Sunrise Rotary Club
Rodney Peter DDS& Dennis Jones, DDS Yosemite Youth Basketball Association
Impression Award (Ordway) money from PG&E

Kailyn Hammerling Wilma Ely Memorial
Yosemite Unified CSEA Chapter 698 Positive Living Center (Ruth Ross Memorial)

Kaitlyn Sikora Ladies of the Lake
American Legion Coarsegold Auxiliary

Kaitlyn St. Laurent Gerald A. Smith Memorial

Kaley Mumm Yosemite Youth Basketball Association
Wilma Ely Memorial

Kenneth Jeffris Barbara Banich Memorial
Oakhurst Elementary School Oakhurst Sierra Sunrise Rotary Club
Service Organization of the Sierra Vision Academy of the Arts
Adrian Buca DDS Academic Achievement

Kiersten Riggs Chowchilla Western Stampede
Eric & Virginia Seger Memorial Jimmy Phillips Memorial
Travis Myers Memorial William Beau Bushman
Yosemite High FFA AG Boosters Cary Simms Memorial Scholarship

Lance Litton Yosemite High School Theater Arts

Lauren Ecklund William Beau Bushman

Liam Womack Wilma Ely Memorial

Lisa Robichaux Soroptimist International of The Sierras

Megan Kroon Wilma Ely Memorial

Michael Neff Barbara Banich Memorial
Caring on Higher Ground Oak Creek Intermediate School
Oakhurst Democratic Club Oakhurst Elementary School
Oakhurst Sierra Noon Rotary Club Oakhurst Sierra Sunrise Rotary Club INTERACT
Service Organization of the Sierra Sierra Telephone
Adrian Buca DDS Academic Achievement

Nathan Williams MCSBA

Page Peterson Grant Mercantile
Oak Creek Intermediate School Sierra Mountain Quilters Association
Yosemite Youth Basketball Association Bass Lake Lions Club

Pedro Villa H.O.L.I.D.A.Y.S.(Hallmark Ornament Collectors)
Oak Creek Intermediate School Our Lady of the Sierra Women's Guild
El Capitan Education Foundation

Phillip McLean Buddy Cudd Memorial
El Capitan Education Foundation Harmelin Family Award
Oakhurst Sierra Noon Rotary Club Oakhurst Sierra Sunrise Rotary Club
Recycle Award Sierra-Oakhurst Kiwanis Club
Bass Lake Lions Club

Raven Daniels El Capitan Education Foundation

Rebecca Levee Barry Bartlett Service & Recognition Award

Regan Samora Eakin Peirsol Memorial Award
Buddy Cudd Memorial Sierra Tel Long Distance

Robbie Drosche Heart of the Mountains Award

Sara Wood El Capitan Education Foundation

Sarah McKissack Swortzel Trust

Sharon Warmerdam Oakhurst Sierra Noon Rotary Club
Our Lady of the Sierra Women's Guild Oak Creek Intermediate School

Shelby Pisel El Capitan Education Foundation

Sierra Dominici Yosemite Youth Basketball Association
Yosemite Unified CSEA Chapter 698

Stephanie Pardue Madera County Retired Teachers Assoc.
Sierra Masonic Lodge #788 Sierra Pines Church
Soroptimist International of The Sierras Tenaya Lodge Hospitality Award
Veterans of Foreign Wars Yosemite Youth Basketball Association
ACSA - Madera County Office of Education

Stewart Carlson Yosemite Baseball Boosters
Yosemite Gateway Association of Realtors Yosemite Badger Youth Football and Cheer

Torree Riggs Yosemite High FFA AG Boosters
Travis Myers Memorial

Tristan Rhoan Ray Jones Scholarship Fund

Tristan Webb Sierra Tel - Harry & Marie Baker Memorial
Gerald A. Smith Memorial

Victoria Bartunek Ladies of the Lake
Our Lady of the Sierra Women's Guild Caring on Higher Ground

Victoria Glanzer Yosemite High FFA AG Boosters
Gerald A. Smith Memorial

Whitney Juras Rodney Peter DDS& Dennis Jones, DDS
Yosemite Badger Youth Football and Cheer North Fork Women's Club

Yvonne Celeste Luna Cedar Valley Fire Department

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