By Nancy Gutierrez
Middle school is the first big change students must adjust to according to Wilson Middle School Valedictorian Samantha Goates.
"Three years ago I was excited to get out of elementary school," she said in her valedictorian speech at the graduation ceremony June 17. "I didn't realize I'd be leaving my carefree days behind and entering a place where people depended on me. Now teachers expect nothing short of your best."
Goates said through the years she and the members of her class learned to expect change and work hard.
"I can honestly say my classmates worked harder than most," she said.
Last Thursday these hardworking eighth graders were rewarded for their efforts with diploma's and a promotion to a new experience, high school.
Several awards were given out at the ceremony. Kiara Ragsdale received the Shirley Baker Humanitarian award. The American Legion honored four students that evening. Stan Dillon presented Sarah Terhune and Matthew Wright with honorable mention certificates. American Legion School Award winners were Laura Brinkman and Stephen Franckowiak. Dillon was the very first recipient of the American Legion award which started 63 years ago.
Amanda Quiroz and Brandon Coker received the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Good Citizenship Award. DAR member Bonnie Shakespeare said the award is given to students who display characteristics of honor, courage, service, leadership and patriotism.
The Lions Club Top Ten award honored the 10 students who had the top ten grade point averages (GPA). Bill Sario and Mickey Hirni presented awards to Samantha Goates, 4.13 GPA; Laura Brinkman, 4.12 GPA; Kiara Ragsdale, 4.12 GPA, Peggie Wong, 4.11 GPA; Amanda Quiroz, 4.08 GPA; Rebecca Renzi, 4.06 GPA; Sarah Terhune, 4.03 GPA; William Brown, 3.96 GPA; Jennifer Landers, 3.96 GPA; Natasha Howell, 3.93 GPA.
Breana Willbanks was the winner of the Kiwanis Citizenship award. Kiwanis representative Matt McEwen said Willbanks exhibited the qualities of a model student with a gentle unassuming nature and constant pursuit of excellence.
Mark Keller and Erica Vallejo received the Friday Night Live Character award. Each year the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) presents awards to two students. This year's winners were Jonathan Phillips and Allison Gonzalez.
One of the more prestigious awards is the Wilson Middle School Faculty Award. Two students are chosen by Wilson staff for the award. This year's recipients were Jose Marroquin and Peggie Wong.
The School Board Award is given to the student who exhibits excellence in motivation, self discipline, leadership as well as a strong character. Exeter Union School District Board President Dean Sutton presented the award to William Brown.