Yosemite High School’s 18 Valedictorians were honored May 4 during the 30th Annual Paul & Martha Pitman Awards Banquet on the gazebo deck at Ducey’s on the Lake.
The Pitman scholars came dressed for success with many of their closest friends and family. All the Valedictorians held at least a 4.0 GPA all four years of high school in addition to their numerous extracurricular activities that they take part in on a daily basis.
This year’s group of students is made up of a wide variety of characters and backgrounds, one even coming to Yosemite High all the way from the windy city of Chicago. In addition to being some of the school’s top academic achievers, every student also belongs to at least one interactive group or club on and off campus. The group also included some of the school’s top athletes.
The night was filled with plenty of laughter and some nostalgic tears as teachers and counselors came together to introduce Yosemite’s best academic students, with anything from their best qualities to their favorite (sometimes embarrassing) memories of them. It was a perfect way to end the ceremony; first you got to see how hard working, determined, and intelligent all of these students are, and then you got to see their personalities unfold through these stories held by their closest teachers to really give you a sense of just how grand all of they all can be.
The Pines Resort catered the dinner of chicken piccata, rice pilaf, french bread, garden salad, greens, and cake made by the Sweet Dreams Cakery. Each valedictorian received a personalized cupcake with a smiling face and a graduation cap placed on top.
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.
Madera County District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler provided each of the students with a certificate of recognition for “exemplary scholastic achievement” from the Madera County Board of Supervisors.
The banquet was sponsored by Sierra Telephone.
Sierra Tel’s Public Relations Supervisor Laura Norman served as master of ceremonies for the evening.
Norman explained that this year’s event format was different from prior years by replacing community donated gifts with student ‘roasts’ by five teachers, Steve Browning, Evan Higgins, Matt Skeahan, Rebecca Hardison and Rob Nobles, and Guidance Counselor Stephanie Samuels.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled with Yosemite’s faculty and staff jumping in to participate at a higher level this year,” Norman Said. “Their participation at the dinner made the evening much more personal for the students and their families. I look forward for this new format to continue in the years to come.”
Norman noted that the fact these scholars dedicate a lot of their time and energy into their extracurricular activities, and still mange to pull off straight “As,” is remarkable and their recognition is well deserved.
Prior to the ceremony, student Meagan Montalto gave praise to the YHS staff and the community.
“Although Yosemite High School is located in a rural area that some may argue is limited in resources compared to big cities such as the Fresno and Clovis, the devotion the YHS staff has to its students, the strong integration of the International Baccalaureate Program, and the overwhelming support of local community members has given me a world-view context and support system that I don’t believe I would have received anywhere else.”
The 18 valedictorians honored at the banquet were:
* Mackenzie Behrens: president of the Library Club, Advanced Theater, IB History and Art.
* Naryan Black: Key/Interact Club member, CSF Club, soccer goal keeper for four years, and cross country four years, All-League Award.
* Brooklynn Bragdon: Varsity girls soccer captain (2013-16), Key/Interact Club member, varsity soccer (2012-16), varsity tennis (2016), swim team (2015), team leadership award (2015), YHS Captain Award (2016), “A” Honor Roll every semester, and NSL Academic All-League (2012-16).
* Clara Briley: Senior Class vice president, Academic Decathlon president, California Scholarship Federation secretary, Key/Interact Clubs, CSF, Academic Decathlon, and Full International Baccalaureate Candidate, Varsity Swim and Dive, Gold medal in essay (2016), silver medal in math (2016), highest scoring senior (2016) in Academic Decathlon; bronze medals in essay, speech, music, highest scoring team member in 2015 Academic Decathlon; UCSF Summer Biomedical Internship (2015).
* Rose Curley: Student Body president, president of Interact, Science Club secretary, swim team captain (2016), varsity soccer captain (2013-16), sophomore and junior class president, student representative on the YUSD board, Site Council member, CSF Club member, Key/Interact and Science Club member. Four year varsity swim, and soccer teams, three years varsity cross country, varsity water polo (2012); Student of the Month (May, Sept. 2015), Sunrise and Noon Rotary Student of the Quarter (Fall 2015), Rotary Youth Leadership Awards participant, American Legion Auxiliary Girls State Program nominee, NSL All League (2012-16), varsity girls soccer coaches award (winters 2012, 2014), varsity swim MVP (2014), varsity swim rookie of the year (2013).
* Gianna DeFelice: President of Advanced Theatre, vice president of Key Club, publicist of Key and Interact clubs, Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteer, Mock Trial (2015), member of girls JV and varsity soccer team for four years, member of tennis, swim and cross county one year, MVP of Mock Trail team, North Sequoia League.
* Allie Donnell: Future Business Leaders of America President (2015), YHS Band president (2015-16), Key/Interact clubs, CSF, (member, grades 10-12), YHS band, cross country, swim and soccer teams, cross country outstanding race performance (2014), coach’s award (2015), scholar athlete (2013-15), swim coach’s award (2015, scholar athlete (2014-15), soccer scholar athlete (2013-14), and Rotary Student of the Month (2014).
* Isabella Flaherty: Vice president of sophomore and junior class, co-president of the CSF, president and chief editor of yearbook, president of Academic Decathlon, Big Brothers-Big Sisters mentor, Key/Interact clubs, CSF, three year member of Associated Student Body, varsity swim and pep, Academic Decathlon second place in prepared and impromptu speech (2014), and first place in same category (2015), Swim, Pep, Academic Varsity Letters, first alternate in American Legion Auxiliary Girls State Program, nominated for Smittcamp Family Honors College, CSU Fresno.
* Quentin Lawrence: Vice president of California Scholastic Federation, vice chairman of Students Site Council, ASB, CSF, Key/Interact clubs, SSC, soccer and cross country, California Boys State Delegate, Rotary Youth Leadership Award, Academic All League Soccer, Academic All League Cross Country.
* Connor McMechan : CSF, Key/Interact clubs, golf, full international baccalaureate candidate.
* Tanner Meeks: President of Ski and Snowboard Club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes Huddle Leader, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, CSF, Robotics Club, golf, football, Lyles College of Engineering Honors Scholarship recipient.
* Jenny Mills: Key/Interact clubs, special needs teacher assistant, office assistant, varsity tennis, “A” Honor Roll four years, and Academic Letter and Pins.
* Meagan Montalto: Assistant YHS drum major (2013-14), drum major (2014-16), Girls State delegate (2015), CSF publicist, band and drumline member, CSF (2013-16), Key/Interact clubs (2012-16), Big Brothers Big Sisters two years, Academic Decathlon team (2014-15), JV basketball (2012-14), JV swim (2013), JV water polo (2013), tennis (2014), June 2015 Sierra Sunrise Rotary Club Student of the Month, “A” Honor Roll recipient, Gold medalist in Interview at the County Academic Decathlon competition.
* Brendan Rhoan: Captain of Varsity Soccer Team, CSF Club, JV football, varsity cross country, varsity and travel soccer, Grocery Outlet Athlete of the Month, varsity soccer Defensive Player of the Year, varsity cross country Thunder and Lightning Award, Scholar Athlete Award (North Sequoia League), and academic all league.
* Tyler Wallace: Life-member in California Scholarship Federation, Advanced Theatre Arts, four years soccer (three varsity), cross country, varsity golf, baseball, Academic Honor-Roll four years, captain and MVP JV soccer (freshman), Outstanding Underclassmen of varsity soccer (sophomore), all-league Nomination for soccer (junior), captain and MVP varsity soccer (senior), first-team All-League soccer.
* Katie Whitcomb: Key/Interact clubs publicist, CSF, ASB, water polo, girls soccer, cross country, track and field, girls softball, MVP (2 years) for varsity girls soccer defensive player,NSL scholar athlete.
* Travis Wood: Key Club president, soccer captain, swim captain, Key/Interact clubs, CSF, Academic Decathlon team member, water polo, cross country, soccer, and swimming teams. Academic Decathlon Science silver medalist, Second-Team All-League Soccer, Academic All-League, QuestBridge National College Match recipient.
* Trevor Wood: CSF president, swim captain, soccer captain, CSF, Key/Interact clubs, Academic Decathlon team member, water polo, cross country, soccer, andswim teams. Full IB Diploma candidate, CSF Life Member, QuestBridge National College Match recipient.