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Four from FHS selected Students of Month for May

Rick Monroe

Special to the Village News

The final Student of the Month awards breakfast of the school year was held May 5 at North Coast Church Fallbrook. Each of the students selected – Yareli Albino, Erin Burnett, Paulina Gonzalez and Cassandra Ramirez – is a senior at Fallbrook High School.

The students were selected by a non-profit organization dedicated to honoring outstanding students in the Fallbrook Union High School District.

Greg Coppock again served as master of ceremonies. District Superintendent Ilsa Gonzalez-Garza congratulated the students and also interpreted for Spanish-speaking parents. Each student was introduced by Lauren Jones, high school principal.

Albino was nominated by Alydia Han, her counselor, who described the student as kind and the most articulate student she has known, as well as being a natural-born leader. Albino has a 4.1 GPA and has taken seven AP (advanced placement) classes.

Alan, her oldest brother, and Jackie, her youngest sister, also spoke of being proud of their sister's accomplishments.

"I am very blessed and most of all proud of your academics and every aspect of your life," the mom, Lorena Albino, told her daughter.

The Albino family came to Fallbrook as a migrant family, and Yareil is the third of four children, and the first to graduate from FHS.

"She studied hard and is dedicated to her lessons. She fights to get ahead in life," the mother said. "It hasn't been easy but keep fighting for your goals in life and you will be successful. Never give up. Life is not easy. You can achieve it. I see you doing great things and graduating from a university.

Yareli has been a volunteer for several local organizations. She plans to attend Cal State University San Marcos, to major in social science and minor in business administration, with the goal of becoming a director of a non-profit or a counselor.

Burnett was nominated by Marin Pinnell, who was unable to attend, and Lisa Tagle-Nava, her science teacher who said she taught Burnett in two AP classes.

"She is the epitome of what Fallbrook High School represents," the teacher said.

She said it's common for teenagers to have challenges outside of class, being overwhelmed with life issues that can make it difficult to maintain focus.

"Erin is very deserving," Tagle-Nava said. "She has taken multiple AP classes and really shines. She is the first to arrive and last to leave and is always raising her hand with questions."

Burnett will be attending UC Davis and major in human biology.

"I can see her working for Doctors Without Borders or for Mercy Ships," the teacher said. "Watch out world, here comes Erin," she concluded.

Rose Steffee, Burnett's mom, said she was honored and proud of her daughter and called her a bright shining light.

"It was wonderful seeing Erin's care and support for her grandfather, who is battling cancer," Steffee said. "It is something I will cherish forever."

Steffee was interrupted by her mother, Marlene Christiansen, who made some statements common to the "special" attributions of Fallbrook and the care for her husband Jim.

"Let's be real here," Christiansen said. "It takes a village, and there have been so many people who have participated and supported us. That's the value of the village. There's a certain kind of individuals, leaders, and that's what all of you are – and Erin. She is the consciousness of dignity, and she is a light."

Jim Christiansen spoke briefly, saying how proud he was of his granddaughter.

When Burnett spoke, she shared that she was indeed going to attend UC Davis, but in the past year she has changed her longtime goal of being a surgeon – "ever since watching Grey's Anatomy" – to being a nurse. She said she felt she could do more to help others being a nurse.

Debbie Berg, math teacher and coach of the school field hockey and lacrosse teams, nominated two of her student-athletes, Gonzalez and Ramirez, who are also best friends.

Gonzalez, Berg said, is a quiet leader who leads by example.

"She's the first to think about the needs of others," Berg said, adding the qualities of having compassion, maturity and competitiveness.

Berg noted that the student also works in the family business to balance school and athletics.

Gonzalez, is the third of six children to graduate from Fallbrook High School. Her brother shared about the siblings coping with the loss of their grandfather.

Assistant or former coaches Terese Gillcrist, and Collin and Emily Berg, also shared stories about the competitiveness of the petite athlete.

When it was time for the student to speak, she shared about coming to the U.S. when she was 10 years old. "It wasn't easy learning a new language, with no friends, but we knew it was to get a better life."

Her choice after FHS is Cal State Los Angeles, studying performance music and possibly music production, with a minor in business.

"Sports has given me great memories," she said, "and the teams have been like a family. They are always there for you."

Sports also is her medicine, she said, because "when you run as fast as you can, any sadness goes away, and happiness helps overcome difficulties in life."

She also credited her grandfather's influence.

"I learned a lot from him, including that regret is the most powerful thing in life, so to go out and live life the way you want – a joyful life – and not with regret," Gonzalez concluded.

Ramirez was captain of the field hockey and lacrosse teams, Berg noted, and was one of the most determined competitors she's ever coached.

"Cassie is the definition of toughness," Berg said. "She leads, others follow."

Beyond the toughness is also kindness, and she and Gonzalez are always looking out for others and helping maintain the fields.

Other coaches and Gonzalez' older sister, Anna, also shared positive comments.

Ramirez said she would be attending Cal State University San Marcos to study criminology.

The Student of the Month program will resume its awards breakfast in October.


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