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Salutatorian chooses UCLA

Rick Monroe

Special to the Village News

Maintaining high grades takes determination and work, said Jett Leeman, salutatorian for the Class of 2022 at Fallbrook High School.

"It's not that difficult but you have to put in the work," he explained in a recent interview on the campus. "Some of my friends had really good grades but put in zero study, so they didn't achieve as much."

Leeman certainly achieved much. His GPA of 4.4762 was one B grade lower than that of Marco Arias, valedictorian.

"We had a good, healthy rivalry for grades and always got along," Leeman said about Arias. "It feels great being salutatorian. It's an amazing accomplishment and I'm very honored."

The high grades are the result of taking all AP classes his final three years.

"I took AP classes to push myself to the highest level, but I really wasn't aiming to have the highest GPA," he said. "The high grades were a product of my effort."

The grades – and his SAT score of 1560 – resulted in a scholarship to UCLA. (1600 is the maximum score on the SAT exam.)

Why UCLA? "It's a very great university, the best offer, and it's a match with my major. I toured the campus and it's beautiful."

He plans to study chemical engineering at UCLA but may switch to environmental engineering. His said his career path is still unclear. He expressed an interest in the oil industry and said he would like to find a positive way to serve his generation.

Leeman said he had strong support from his parents, Joel and Jamie Leeman.

"Their biggest factor was when I was very stressed," he said. "They were a solace for me. They didn't give me incentives but were very supportive of my self-motivation. My mom has a degree in communications, and she was a very helpful, especially in my understanding of literature in the 1600s

His sister, Jaylyn, is two years older and is transferring this year from Palomar College to Cal State San Marcos. "We have different interests," Leeman said. "She's more into books and arts, and I'm STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and love hanging with my beach friends, playing spike ball."

With an active sports and beach schedule, Leeman said a lot of his studies were late at night with the music going. "That's when I was the most creative," he said.

He said his toughest class was AP Chemistry, taken as a sophomore, but it was also most rewarding.

"Mrs. (Marin) Pinnell was amazing," he said. "The class was so challenging because it taught me a lot. There was a second semester AP test, in the middle of COVID, but Mrs. Pinnell kept us engaged with 'meets' – which is like a study group."

Some of the other classes are more of a chore, he admitted.

"It depends on the subject or the teacher," he admitted. "I'm more interested in science and relevant classes for me, and less interested in things like psychology.

For younger students wanting to achieve in high school, Leeman recommended a balanced lifestyle, having a strong support system, and pushing yourself.

"Explore extracurricular options and find your niche," he said. "Discover your intrinsic motivation."

His first name, Jett, was his dad's idea, naming him after former Olympic sprinter and NFL receiver James Jett.

Leeman has some speed, too, focusing on soccer, which he has played most of his life and may continue as a club sport at UCLA.

"They're a top school in the NCAA so I don't think I'll play, but I may try as a walk-on," he said.

At FHS, Leeman was a three-year varsity starter and, as a senior, was team captain and earned all-league recognition.

He also played baseball and football as a freshman, and volleyball in grades 10-12.

Leeman has worked for 75 hours as a private tutor. "My experience in advanced math has allowed me to simplify the subject for tutees and other students that have been referred to me," he said.


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