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High school Students of Month recognized

Rick Monroe

Special to the Village News

The first monthly recognition of Student of the Month from the public high schools in Fallbrook was held Thursday, Oct. 6, with four students selected – Jose Velasquez from Ivy High School, and Liberty Benitez, Ashley Schlumpberger and Anthony Thomas from Fallbrook High School.

The students in the Fallbrook Union High School District were honored at a breakfast hosted by North Coast Church. Teachers from the schools in the district nominated students and the community SOM committee made the selections. Clubs and businesses in town gave a gift bag that included gift certificates and at least one check.

Program sponsors of the traditional program include many local nonprofits like the Angel Society and Fallbrook Village Rotary, along with several local businesses including Coldwell Banker Village Properties and Del Rey Avocado.

Crystal Gates, a member of the nonprofit organization, served as emcee. Marines from MAG-39 at Camp Pendleton led the Pledge of Allegiance and presented medals to the students.

Superintendent Ilsa Garza-Gonzalez welcomed the students, their families, teachers and community, noting the key ingredient of community. She also shared about the importance of kindness, telling the story of a co-worker at a previous position who was always friendly but she didn't know him well. The man committed suicide recently and no one knew his troubles, she said.

"Be kind," she encouraged, "because you never know when it may be the only hope for someone."

Michael Gray, principal at Ivy High School, introduced photography instructor Dana Smith, to recognize the first student, Velasquez.

"He has the grades," Smith said, but he also shows the kindness."

An example, the teacher said, was Velasquez and a friend playing music in the courtyard before school each morning. He cited the student's creativity and composition in his photography and said Velasquez would shine if he pursued either music or photography as a career.

The student thanked all his teachers who "pushed all of us to succeed." Velasquez said he would like to work in the landscape design field because "it's a fun thing to do."

The student said he wasn't comfortable playing his music in large crowds and wouldn't pursue it as a career. "I fell in love with photography because it opens up how you see the world," he said.

His mother, Elva Baltazar, thanked his teachers and said how proud she was of her son, translated by Garza-Gonzalez. "We wish he continue to pursue his dreams and know that his family will support him in anything."

Lauren Jones, principal at FHS, introduced Benitez, who she noted always challenged herself. Benitez was nominated by Spanish teacher Estay Cazares, who told a story about the student, in her freshman year, asking about how to get a better grade. "Raise your hand more," the teacher suggested, and sure enough, that's what Benitez did. "And she's always had a smile," the teacher added.

Benitez said she is considering scholarships to play Division 1 rugby and would like to study psychology or sports medicine. Her father, Erik Benitez, and twin sister Harley said how proud they were of her accomplishments.

Schlumpberger was nominated by teachers Katherine Stampbach and Marin Pinnell but neither were able to make the breakfast meeting. Smith read statements from the two instructors with Stampbach focusing on Schlumpberger's expertise in science.

The student said she was undecided between science and chemistry as a college major, but that she also loves music and nutrition. She's known for trying different food recipes.

"I'm just excited about what is ahead," Schlumpberger noted.

Her mother, Rhonda Schlumpberger, shared personal tidbits about her daughter, including her love for singing and songwriting. She cited the importance of Ashley's "genuine faith journey" and her timed periods to do homework being an example of her love of learning.

Thomas was nominated by Pat Walker, FHS athletic director and baseball coach. He said the two-sport athlete could play Division One football as a linebacker and/or baseball as a catcher.

The athlete was a team captain of the football team for four years and as a catcher has potential to be turn professional. "He's a big, strong kid who I know is looking at USC, North Carolina and USD.

Thomas said he was undecided which sport to pursue and that in college he would like to study sports management. "My goal is to play professional sports," he said.

His mother, Rachel, said the family is third-generation Warriors and said she was proud that her son was always thinking of others.

His father, Anthony, said his namesake always wanted to be a Warrior and has always given a 100% effort. "He makes me want to be better," the dad said.

For information about nominating a student or being a sponsor, contact Lynne Grantham at 760-214-1755.


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