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Students honored as exceptional

It is always an honor to be able to highlight the accomplishments of the students who are chosen as Fallbrook Student of the Month. Incredible stories are always shared. These are students who achieve in many different arenas or have overcome great obstacles on their way to educational fulfillment. The March recipients are no exception. The four honorees are many-faceted and each deserves this accolade.

The honoree from Oasis High School is Joanna Kuhtarev; the exceptional students from Fallbrook High School are Gabriela Dominguez, Brett Rasmussen and Jessica Schramm.

Sue Johnson was again the articulate emcee at the event, which was held at Fallbrook Golf Club’s Hukilau restaurant on March 5.

The four students were presented stunning Lamp of Knowledge medals by Frank Larkin and Karl Fekete of the American Legion Post 365. They were also given certificates from Supervisor Bill Horn, Senator Dennis Hollingsworth, Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries and Congressman Darrell Issa. The honorees will also receive a designated parking space for a month and were also presented with bags bursting with certificates and other gifts from 22 local organizations and businesses.

Oasis student Joanna Kuhtarev was given a testimonial by Dave Major. She has attended six high schools and has only been a student at Oasis since October; however, she is graduating early.

Major, who is one of her instructors, was impressed by this fact. “For many students, just transferring from one school to another is a reason to delay graduation,” he commented. “[Joanna] has transferred five times; this is evidence of her remarkable resiliency and consistency.” He also mentioned that she is a hard worker.

Joanna is fluent in Ukrainian and Russian as well as in English, is an accomplished poet and maintains a high academic standard. During her last winter break she traveled to the Ukraine with her church, Poway’s Living Way. The short-term mission group spent three weeks visiting three different orphanages.

Her father shared that many of the orphans who would not interact with other adults would be drawn to Joanna, who plans a career as a child psychologist working with special needs children.

Joanna’s grandmother, Irina, from Russia, spoke to the audience through interpretation: “I hope that she will achieve at the university and bring the achievements back to the community.”

Sue Johnson mentioned that Joanna and her entire family were volunteers at the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce phone bank during the firestorm of 2007 answering approximately 25 phone calls every five minutes.

Fallbrook High School’s Gabriela Dominguez is an AP student; a member of the California Scholarship Federation, FFA and water polo team; and is in the AVID program. She also tutors at Potter Junior High.

Gabriela has volunteered in the community as a student representative on the Fallbrook High School Board and has worked with children at Arts in the Park and Safe Halloween. She also sings in the St. Peter’s Catholic Church Choir and works part-time at the Grand Tradition.

Iris Bourque of AAUW gave a testimonial. “This young lady is a bright spot in my life; she is very selfless and just gives and gives and gives. I think of her as a light in a lighthouse shining into others’ lives.” Bourque said that Gabriela has “strong people skills in addition to her academic achievements.”

Her father mentioned how Gabriela began to shine after entry in a program sponsored by Scripps. She plans to study either pre-law or pre-dentistry in college.

“It is a blessing for me to be her teacher,” said instructor Dave Evans.

Evans also spoke of Brett Rasmussen of Fallbrook High School, saying he “is the kind of guy who goes about his daily life and does exceptional things, whether it is academic, extracurricular or athletics…It just goes on and on.”

Brett was honored as Fallbrook High’s Outstanding Senior Boy for the school year and as a junior was honored as a Warrior Head. He has been the captain of the varsity football team – he played two years on varsity and two on JV – and was on the basketball team for three years.

He is a second-year member of the National Honor Roll, is an AP Scholar and has a grade point average of 4.6. He has been a member of the California Scholarship Federation for four years.

Brett is a Student Volunteer with the Fallbrook Hospital Auxiliary and he tutors his peers and younger children. He also puts smiles on the faces of the residents of Silvergate Retirement Community when he volunteers during their Bingo nights. He is a member of St. Peter’s Catholic Community.

He was chosen as an Athlete of the Week for KUSI television station’s Prep Pigskin Report and was chosen All League for football. He was also selected for Union Tribune’s county-wide All Academic Team.

Brett’s career goal is to become a medical doctor and surgeon, looking toward the field of cancer research. His aunt died of cancer and in her honor he wants to help to find a cure.

Fellow Fallbrook High honoree Jessica Schramm was given a testimonial by Joe Silvey. “Her interest in learning goes well beyond grades and well beyond the requirements of the class,” he said.

Silvey also mentioned that Jessica is the kind of student who is “charming, cheerful, dedicated to her schoolwork and capable in all areas of her life.”

“She is thorough and very determined,” he added.

Jessica volunteers at the Fallbrook Library promoting literacy and is also a tutor. She is the only female in a woodshop program called “Skills USA.” She also works at the Fallbrook Café.

She wants to be a Naval Intelligence officer and is looking at NROTC college programs. “I want to travel around the world and make the world a better place,” she said. Her late grandfather was in the US Navy and she knows that he would have been proud of her.

Jessica’s father said that even at 6:15 in the morning his daughter has a gleam in her eye and a smile on her face. He also mentioned that she is always prepared and ready to go. Victoria, a coworker at Fallbrook Café, said that they call Jessica “Sunshine” because of her cheerful attitude.

Her brother Mike, who flew in from Idaho, said that Jessica has a “zeal for life.” He also praised the rest of the honorees: “All of these young people are world-changers.”

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