Success is achieved through hard work and dedication. It takes passion, perseverance and heart. In today’s society, true success may be a difficult road, but the journey is challenged and embraced by many young, extraordinary students.
WestCoast Magazine wishes to recognize the talent, integrity and strength of these local teens who are well on their path to success. They embody the energetic spirit of youth, and utilize their intelligence and drive to pave the way so that they may one day change the world. These High School students were nominated based on their outstanding accomplishments in academics, sports, volunteer work and more. They are the exceptional youth of today, and when you hear their stories, though you may not know them, you cannot help but be proud!
Sophomore, Don Lugo High School
Though she is just a sophomore, Brianna Cabrera has acquired the very essence of leadership, integrity and drive that takes most young students years to achieve. Raised by her grandfather, Brianna credits him for her success – he attends every gymnastics meet, school presentation and performance, and is her biggest fan. It’s clear that she gets her inspiration from him.
Just a year ago, she received a county-wide award and used it to become the Founder and President of the Hearts and Heroes club, which works with special needs kids from ninth grade to 22 years old at Don Lugo High School. She has also received two Golden Conquest awards (academic awards) and won in the National Champions for Cheer. Her passion for animals is exemplified as she participates in Guide Dogs for the Blind. Her athleticism is illustrated with precision as she has already obtained a Varsity Letter in Track and Field. She is currently a Renaissance Co-Commissioner, has been nominated for the National Honors Society, and was given the Chino Youth Community Hero award from the L.A. County Fair board.
She values her relationship with God, family and friends, her integrity, and education. As she began to compete in gymnastics, she gained confidence. “Gymnastics is a sport in which the athlete is alone on the floor, beam, bars, or vault. It’s nothing but you, the apparatus, and the judges. I continued to gain confidence with each season that I competed, and it translated to confidence in the classroom.” Being a gymnast taught her how to manage her time, balance school, and compete.
Her goals for the future are to attend a University on the East Coast and study education. “I want to become a Special Education teacher and work with students with moderate to severe needs.” Her advice to others is to find what you love to do, and do it. With such a strong sense of self and clear goals for her future, Brianna will not only succeed at what she sets out to accomplish, but she will thrive. Brianna will surely catapult to new heights and set a great example for fellow students, as well as the youth of tomorrow.
Senior, Damien High School
Less than 0.1% of high school students who take the ACT get a perfect score – Sean Davis from Damien High School is part of the elite percentage who received a score of 36. He credits his family as his motivation to succeed, recognizing that without them, his accomplishments would mean nothing: “As I get older, I [have recognized to] never put my studies or work in front of family and friends, for they are the ones who truly make my life worthwhile.” With this mindset, Sean finds a striking balance between family, sports and academic excellence.
Aside from a perfect ACT score, Sean is the pitcher and Co-Captain of Damien’s Varsity baseball team. As a pitcher, Sean identifies the parallels between challenges in sports and his life. Each of the past three summers, he has suffered painful injuries. “It would have been easy to call it quits. Instead, I promised myself each time I was hurt that I would not only fully recover, but return even stronger.” As a result, he has learned to persevere when hardships come his way, earning him many scholastic and athletic awards. He was given the Outstanding Senior Award for the Baseline League, the AP Calculus AB Award, was announced as a National Merit Commended Student, and was given the AP Scholar with Distinction Award. In addition, Sean has dedicated himself as a board member of Assisteens of Covina Valley for two years.
In the next five years, Sean envisions himself in Law School and aspires to excel in his dream job as a sports agent. “Success requires hard work and commitment, which means a student must make sacrifices.” His ultimate goal is to “be happy.” The most valuable lesson he has learned over the years is to try your best and leave the rest up to fate. “I can’t be something I’m not; I can only be the best me I can be.” With his core values of loyalty and accountability, Sean will far exceed anything he can imagine. With a mind and heart like this young man, the possibilities are endless.
Senior, Chino Hills High School
Naedum DomNwachukwu only sees one way of living his life, and that is to live it with meaning. He is one out of four children, and the son of parents who immigrated to America from Nigeria. “[My parents] had a desire for my siblings and me to receive the best of the land and have the greatest opportunities here.” Naedum took their desire to heart. The fact that he is able to juggle so many different passions and responsibilities is something he takes pride in. His motto is God first, family second, and he values people with compassion. “I am here, not just for myself, but for others.”
As a talented public speaker and natural motivator, Naedum is a crucial member of the Varsity Debate team on campus, contributing to several wins for them. He has a way of motivating everyone around him. He used his natural ability as a leader to become the founder and president of Club Cinema on campus. “I work well with others, and try my best to inspire.” Aside from these honorable characteristics, Naedum is also Brass Captain and the Mellophone Section Leader in the Chino Hills High School Marching Band. He has excelled as a musician, winning Best Brass Musician, Best Visual Performer, is a Marching Band Open Series Champion and many more awards.
His inspiration comes from the core role models who have helped shape him into the outstanding young man he is today. His father gives Naedum inspiration to always have a sense of purpose in his life. He also looks to his oldest brother Osinahi, who contributed to nurturing Naedum’s creative side and always reminds him to have a little fun.
Naedum is a dedicated young man with many goals for the future. He hopes to be a biochemical engineer. “I see it as a means to impact the health needs and economic prospects of developing nations.” With a goal to live his life with meaning, Naedum hopes to change the world, one accomplishment at a time.
Senior, Damien High School
“Passion is the universal fuel for the human spirit. Passion is this abstract substance that compels people to continue to strive toward their dream, despite numerous failures, struggles, and pain.” As a young senior in high school, Nick Hibshman recognizes the path to greatness, one on which he is just beginning to leave his footsteps. With a dream to become a mathematics professor, Nick, who identifies as “innately and introvert,” pushes to not only challenge his boundaries, but revolutionize his personality through multiple activities, hobbies, and thought-provoking ideas. The result is a gregarious young man filled with integrity, dedication, and honesty.
With a 4.6 GPA and ranked first in his class, it is no surprise that Nick excels at a variety of subjects. He joined the Honors Debate team his freshman year, and is currently the ASB and Ambassador President at Damien High School. Nick also embraces a strong foundation of faith; he’s currently part of the Christian Leadership Team and has volunteered over 200 hours of community service. He has been genuinely recognized for his knowledge and proficiency in mathematics, which brightens the signs of his dream coming true. This year alone he received the Honors Algebra II Award, AP Calculus AB Award, and AP Calculus BC Award. While he is a natural leader and a genius with numbers, Nick is no stranger to sports. During his junior year, he was selected to play for USA Volleyball, an honor that only 40 kids in the nation experience, and is currently the Varsity Volleyball team captain. He was nominated this year to receive the Baseline League Outstanding Senior Award. Only five well-rounded student athletes in the school are chosen for this award.
In the near future, Nick sees himself pursuing a master’s degree in mathematics at a world-renowned university. The legacy he leaves to fellow youth of today is, “Don’t quit and don’t give up. Pain is temporary, but quitting will last forever. Trust me, it will all be worth it.” Nick’s optimism and rich wisdom will pave the way to more outstanding achievements as he notes, “Visualizing the day I change somebody’s life as a math professor is my number one motivator to succeed.” This dedicated attitude toward success truly sets Nick apart from many other students his age.
Sophomore, Centennial High School
Although only a sophomore, Abigail Hwang-Nable has excelled in many aspects of her life, contributing to the community, her school and her future. An active participant in many clubs and activities, Abigail does not hesitate to step in and help others in need. With a dream of having a career in law, she is motivated and dedicated to reaching her goals.
Abigail uses her strengths to help her fellow peers. She is a member of WEB, a student leadership program where students are mentors to their peers. In partnering with this organization, Abigail has gained a high sense of self-esteem, and the confidence in knowing she is making a positive difference in this world. She was also on the Student City Council for Corona and exemplified outstanding leadership skills. Abigail is currently part of the Unity Youth Advisory Council, an organization that works within the community to pinpoint and tackle local youth issues. She participates in Friday Night Live on her campus, a club that interacts with the student body to prevent any use of tobacco or alcohol in their daily lives. She’s in the marching band and has been a volunteer for the past four years at a local Animal Shelter. With all this involvement in the community and school, she has impressively maintained a 4.0 GPA.
In recognition for her outstanding service, Abigail is the recipient of awards like the “Top Ten Award” for the past two years and was presented with the Unity Youth Award this year. Many cities and organizations have acknowledged Abigail for her excellence, including Corona, Eastvale and Norco, as well as the California State Senate. Her goal is to attend the University of San Francisco. She is currently trying to fundraise to attend the National Youth Leadership forum for Law and CSI so she can explore a career in the law or criminal justice fields. She has far exceeded what most people expect of a sophomore in high school and has been a shining light the entire time.
Senior, chino High School
From reserved to respected, Wyatt Jackson knows what it takes to succeed, and he embraces the hard work that comes with it. He is the Valedictorian of his senior class at Chino High School, as well as the ASB and Senior Vice President and AP President on campus. He holds over a 4.6 GPA and was recognized with an AP Scholar Award. A regular on the basketball court, Wyatt has held a varsity position for the past two years. He also assists his fellow classmates, offering tutoring in math and science.
Wyatt values his faith, family, and the well-being of others. He looks up to Dave Grohl, Kobe Bryant, and his parents, noting that while each of these individuals work in extremely different fields, they have the commonality to work hard with a “great passion to earn respect and become great at what they do…and I couldn’t have asked for anything more from my parents who have led me and supported me to become who I am today.”
When he is not busy with school, he can be found playing video games, basketball, rock climbing, or guitar. In the near future, Wyatt will pursue a Bachelor’s Degree, followed by a Master’s Degree in engineering. “My ultimate goal would be to make a difference in the world, helping people and serving as an inspiration through my work.” He believes that excellence in anything you are passionate about can be achieved if you put in the time, hard work and effort. “Opportunities to improve one’s self come by all the time; you just have to look for them, and take them when you can.”
Senior, Chino Hills High School
From a very young age, Trisha’s parents told her to give more than she receives. She took it to heart. “Opening our minds to these views will allow us to learn more about the world we live in and the society that comprises it.”
She frequently gives back to her community and was recognized by Pomona Valley Hospital with the “You Make a Difference” Award highlighting 300 hours of volunteer work. The mayor of Pomona valued her exceptional commitment as she was given the City of Pomona Mayor’s Recognition Award for volunteering. In addition to her community achievements, Trisha excels as a scholar too. She has received the San Bernardino County Top 1% Award, as well as the National AP Scholar Award.
Her deep love for music gave Trisha the opportunity to be an excellent piano and flute player. She’s no stranger to sports as she is on the JV Tennis Team at Chino Hills High School. She also stays busy as the Pomona Valley Hospital Junior Volunteer/Treasurer, along with the Make-a-Wish Club Treasurer, Vice President, and Fundraising Chair. As a balance, she lets out her inner child and delights in drawing cartoons in her free time.
Trisha has had many role models, from her parents, who demonstrated the importance of hard work and unwavering faith, to her teachers, who showed her the power of education and its ability to foster change and growth. She even credits the strangers she has met on her journey: “They taught me that, in the end, we should all channel our talents and efforts toward creating a better society for future generations.” Trisha envisions herself in the medical field. She aspires to receive a B.S. in Neuroscience, followed by attendance at Harvard Medical School. Her pursuit for higher education is nurtured by the knowledge that it will give her a greater understanding of herself and the role she plays, “Because, in the end, knowledge is only as good as how we choose to use it!”
Trisha expresses, “The greatest efforts come from feelings of genuine interest and passion.” She reveals, “It is always important to remember where we began, and treasure the journey over the destination.” With such a heart full of compassion, Trisha will far exceed the goals she writes down on paper; one act of giving will produce a field of seeds planted that will continue to flourish for years to come.
Senior, Corona High School
Just before she entered ninth grade, Rachel Mershon received some shocking news – she was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), a chronic, progressive, auto-immune disease that causes irreversible joint damage. Although initially heartbroken, Rachel chose to see this challenge as a beautiful opportunity. She began a quest to help others suffering from RA and became a young advocate for this disease, all the while achieving outstanding milestones in her academic career. She jumped into volunteering and has since given back to her community over 1,700 hours of hard work and devotion. Her resilience has helped her leap over the bounds of what would cause some to give up, “My mother tells me that I ‘bounce.’ Whenever something gets me down, I am able to look past it and pick myself back up.”
Her achievements are a testimony to her success. Rachel is currently PTSA president and an AP Ambassador. She serves at St. Mary Magdalene’s Oasis of Teen Hope as a Youth Ministry peer leader and is an advocate for the Arthritis Foundation, as well as a participant of Relay for Life. She received the Arthritis Foundation Travel Award and attended the Arthritis Foundation Advocacy Conference in Washington D.C., presenting legislative priorities to Congress members. She is active on the Varsity Tennis Team and received the title of “Athlete of the Month” and “Most Valuable Player” last year. She is the deserving recipient of the Gold Academic Medal, Corona-Norco Board of Education Student Recognition Award, and the Corona-Norco Unity Award.
Her role model is José Niño, her tennis coach of four years. Through his life story, she has learned how to see the world with a different perspective, “I couldn’t have asked for a better coach or teacher to mentor me. He has made such a huge impact on my life.” Rachel has realized that the most important value in life is to be kind. Her advice to others is to take time out for yourself, otherwise all the work you try to accomplish will become too much to handle. In the future, Rachel desires to raise a family, as well as pursue a degree in Nutritional Health Science, “I want people to know that there is hope after a serious diagnosis…I want to empower them to take control and live longer, healthier lives.” Her story is empowering and will serve as a message of hope and inspiration to everyone she meets for years to come.
Senior, Centennial High School
Alyssa is a natural leader. The Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization in the Inland Empire has recognized her exceptional qualities, and quotes, “Alyssa ensures that all her peers are empowered, encouraged, and inspired to meet their task at hand.” She’s currently the president for the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Club at school and proudly represents the peer mentoring program as an outstanding liaison for Centennial High. With an outpouring of love, she mentors a young student from a local elementary school. She gives back and receives more than can be measured in words.
A dedicated student, Alyssa is part of the Centennial Madrigals Choir and an active member of the California Scholarship Foundation. With a 4.78 GPA, it is apparent that she successfully prioritizes all of her duties and excels academically. She has received many honorable awards for her exceptional achievements that include, but not limited to, AP Scholar with Distinction, Student of the Month, Inland Empire Big Brothers Big Sister’s Big of the Year Award, American Legion Auxiliary California Girls State Award, and the Presidential Volunteer Service Gold Award for completing over 2,000 hours of community service.
Through it all, she still recognizes the impact her family has on her success. “My younger sister is and always will be my motivation. I want to give her a role model and someone she can look up to and trust, which is why I push myself to be the best I can be.” Alyssa’s role models are her parents. She recognizes that they have never given her anything less than incredible love and dedicated support, “I can honestly say without them I would not be the person I am today. I am forever grateful to have such incredible people to look up to in my life.”
As someone who believes that “giving one’s best is the key to success,” Alyssa hopes to one day reach her goals of becoming a pediatrician. One day, she would like to travel to third-world countries to assist people who do not have access to proper healthcare. It is no doubt that she will accomplish everything she sets out to do, and she will do it with a steadfast heart that shines brighter than a diamond.
Senior, Ayala High School
Juggling academics and sports is a challenge, but Miles President does it with poise. As a scholar athlete with over a 4.0 GPA and the Team Captain of the Varsity basketball team at Ayala High School, Miles represents his school with talent, intelligence and integrity. He realizes that hard work and devotion to your goals equates to success.
Along with being the Bulldogs’ Team Captain, Miles is recognized all over campus for his astounding leadership; he is a member of the National Honor Society and National Society of High School Scholars. He is also highly dependable and dedicated, receiving the California Legislature Assembly Perfect Attendance Award.
Miles understands that “you have to prioritize” to succeed. Dedicated, with perseverance and drive, even after a knee injury left him sidelined in the CIF playoffs in 2015, Miles re-focused his motivation and commitment to own the title this year. Miles credits his tenacity and hard work to his parents, who are his role models. He highly regards his family and friends, “They are of the utmost importance to me, and without people to share the journey with, there really is no point.” Miles also volunteers at The Orphanage run by Priceless Pets Rescue, Rolling Ridge Elementary School’s Family Fun Night, and actively leads the National Junior Basketball League, teaching local youth how to play basketball. He gives back to his peers by tutoring fellow high school students.
In the future, Miles plans on attending either Harvey Mudd College or Caltech to study Civil Engineering, as well as play basketball. He has a distinct passion for music and plays the piano. He advises others not to procrastinate and to plan ahead to accomplish success. Miles’ passion for life, the people in it, and his drive to accomplish anything at all odds is what sets him apart and will catapult him to new levels of excellence.
Senior, Ayala High School
As the current USB President, Student Representative to the School Board and Student Council Advisory President for Ayala High School, Shweta Shah shows that she is a driven young woman with many leadership qualities. She passionately contributes to the well-being and integrity of her school. For the past three years, she has been a member of the Future Business Leaders of America, and just last year, she received the Member of the Year Award. It is no wonder that she is at the top 8% of her class!
Over the years, she has found how to treasure the time she has been given. She shares, “Time is a precious resource, and from this journey, I truly learned how to utilize each and every second of it.” In her spare time, Shweta enjoys dancing, a hobby she has pursued since she was five years old. She also loves to draw and sees it as a creative outlet, as well as a positive way to relieve stress. With a warm heart, she deeply believes in others and sees this as a strong connection with those around her. “Appreciation allows me to acknowledge others for what they have done for me.”
Her future goal is to become a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. “I hope to continue to impact others’ lives.” She looks forward to traveling and exploring the beauty that Earth has to offer. Her role model is Yoda from Star Wars; while he’s only a fictional character, his attributes are what Shweta strives for in her daily living. She aspires to foster development in others, to encourage, to remain humble, and to always give people a chance to try, just like the original Jedi Master.
Shweta believes that willpower is the key to success: “It may seem like a lot of work, but it will only be hard if you think it is hard.” She inspires others to strive for what is best and stands firm on the belief that people should do what they want to do.
Senior, Damien High School
Although he is vision-impaired, Ray Sun does not lack vision. His motivation to succeed is fueled by a passion for technology and robotics, with hopes that he will one day make meaningful contributions to NASA, and create advanced robotics for space exploration, scientific endeavors and sustainable efforts in third-world countries.
But before these goals were set, Ray was just a small kindergarten student from Taiwan, trying to understand the English language. He recalls crying on the first day of school, after understanding nothing the teacher said, but even that wasn’t enough to stifle his brilliance. He overcame several hurdles, and now, as a senior at Damien High School, he is the recipient of the Excellence Award, a team award from a recent California state robotics championship, which qualified him for the 2016 World Championship this month, as well as gave him the opportunity to participate in CREATE US Open Robotics Championship. This is the first time that a Damien team has qualified for a world-level competition.
And he has accomplished everything with a visual disability he’s had since birth, something that he declines to let prevent him from pursuing his passions and succeeding. “[I refuse] to allow circumstance, my eye condition, to dictate the outcome of my life…that [and] I cannot stand not trying my best.” This is made evident by his most recent project, which is to create a design for a vision-enhancing device that would support him and others who suffer from impaired vision.
Currently, Ray is the President of the Engineering and Robotics Club, and values integrity, respect and loyalty, as well as holds a high regard for tradition. His role models range from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Albert Einstein and Nelson Mandela to his former teacher, Lisa Le Duc. He also has ingrained the wisdom and teachings of his physics teacher and robotics coach, Charity Trojanowski, into his mind. It is evident that he has transformed and holds many of his mentors’ traits within himself. He has a passion to learn what he loves in the areas of science, engineering, robotics, computers and aerospace. Ray Sun is the voice of the technological future and continues to push himself to reach his goals.