Valedictorians

Fredrick Beckmann

School of Dreams Academy

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Fredrick Beckmann

Family: Parents, Federico and Christine Beckmann

Plans after graduation: “I have been accepted into the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, and I plan to pursue a degree in business management.”

1. What is your best memory from your time during high school?

“My best memory was in junior year. I was excited and honored to be chosen to represent SODA at the 2019 Independent Charter School Symposium in Albuquerque where I got to show my school pride.”

2. What did it take to become valedictorian?

“To become valedictorian, a person has to be committed to succeeding but you also need to make sure you take time to make friends and have fun. Working hard is great if you can reward yourself every now and then.”

3. What is the best advice you can give the underclassmen?

“The best advice I can give to underclassmen is to make sure to surround yourself with fun and positive people, and never give up on yourself or your dreams.”

Laysha Chaparro

Los Lunas High School

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Laysha Chaparro

Family: Parents, Renato and Aracely Chaparro; younger sister, Oyuki

Plans after graduation: “I plan on continuing my education at The University of New Mexico main campus, participating in the honors program, and majoring in psychology, as well as minoring in Spanish studies.

1. What is your best memory from your time during high school?

“The best memory I have of my time during high school was experiencing the school assemblies that we had right before homecoming, when all the classes would join together to compete in games, cheer on our athletes and fight for the spirit stick. We all joined in, wearing our class colors, making posters, being as loud and spirited as we could to have the chance of taking the spirit stick. It was an amazing memory because everyone participated, upperclassmen, underclassmen, teachers, principals, coaches, they all gathered up for this assembly because of the adrenaline rush everyone got from it. It was always filled with crazy games that got everyone out of their seats, cheering or booing on the competitors. The loud chants that were made across the gym from one class to another and back, trying to prove which grade was better. This is a memory I sadly didn’t experience my senior year but all my other years, I had the pleasure of being a part of it.”

2. What did it take to become valedictorian?

“It took a lot to be valedictorian, especially with the amount of competition we had in our class. I tried to always keep up with my classes, never turning in any assignments late, trying to set myself up throughout the grading periods to have the best grade possible for in case I didn’t do too well on my finals, I had a safety net. I also tried to take as many AP classes as I could handle, those classes boost up your GPA and can also help out when you aren’t doing too great on a course.

“All these small details that you can take care of can easily help you get closer to the top. It also took a lot of dedication. Since freshman year, I went into high school intending to be top five of my class; this goal kept me on track because I knew it had to be a goal that needed all four years to achieve.

“I couldn’t decide to be top five my junior year because it would be too late at that point if I didn’t watch my grades. With that dedication came a lot of perseverance, my perfect attendance these four years was due to fear of being behind on my courses, not with assignments but the knowledge I’d miss out on that day. With that being said, to be valedictorian, it takes an immense amount of responsibility and self-drive.”

3. What is the best advice you can give the underclassmen?

“The best advice I could give to underclassmen would be to simply get your work done sooner than later, getting it out of the way as fast as possible makes it way easier on you. You can then focus on other assignments or extracurricular (activities) without having to worry about it.

“Also, don’t forget that getting a bad grade on one assignment doesn’t make you a bad student. Some subjects are just hard to understand and everyone learns differently, with time you’ll grasp the concept better and that bad grade won’t matter too much as long as you truly know about the topic.”

Gavin Chavez

Belen High School

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Gavin Chavez

Family: Parents, Robert and Ann Chavez; sibling, Logan Chavez

Plans after graduation: “I plan to attend New Mexico State University.”

1. What is your best memory from your time during high school?

“My best memories from high school is Friday night lights and hanging out at the river.”

2. What did it take to become valedictorian?

“It took a lot of hard work and discipline to become valedictorian.”

3. What is the best advice you can give the underclassmen?

“My advice to underclassman is to never take anything for granted and enjoy every minute of high school. And to try and be involved in as many school activities and sports as you can, and to have as much fun as possible!”

Sierra Gabaldon

Belen High School

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Sierra Gabaldon

Family: Parents, Veronica and Stretch Bayless; younger brother, Watson

Plans after graduation: “After graduation, I plan to get a certificate at The University of New Mexico-Valencia campus in digital arts and film.”

1. What is your best memory from your time during high school?

“My favorite memory is Spirit Week. I always enjoyed the activities and the Rowdy-o. Seeing our class come together was always so fun.”

2. What did it take to become valedictorian?

“For me personally, it took self discipline to continue achieving my goals as well as keeping an organized environment.”

3. What is the best advice you can give the underclassmen?

“The best advice I can give to the underclassmen is to manage your time wisely. If you keep a good schedule then you can accomplish your goals even when it gets difficult.”

Taylor Gonzales

Belen High School

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Taylor Gonzales

Family: Parents, Brian and Mindy Gonzales; brother, Tristen Gonzales

Plans after graduation: “I plan on attending Texas Tech University and major in chemistry.”

1. What is your best memory from your time during high school?

“My best memory from my time during high school would have to be my junior year homecoming because I was very involved, the school was very spirited and it was lots of competition and fun.”

2. What did it take to become valedictorian?

“To become valedictorian, it took lots of honors classes, hard work, dedication and the want to learn and succeed. I have always loved to learn so becoming valedictorian was a very fun accomplishment to achieve.”

3. What is the best advice you can give the underclassmen?

“Some advice I can give to underclassmen is to always get involved in school activities, don’t care what anyone thinks about you or what you do, always strive to do your best, strive to find something that excites you and stick with it, have respect, it gets you far in life, and always, always stay true to who you are.”

Mia Guest

Canon Christian Academy

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Mia Guest

Family: Parents, Adrian and Susan Guest; sister, Alexis; brother, Ezra

Plans after graduation: “My plan after graduation is to attend Colorado Christian University and pursue my career in basketball. I have not decided on a major yet, but I am very excited to see what the Lord has in store for me.”

1. What is your best memory from your time during high school?

“My best memory during high school was when my senior class went on our senior trip to Walt Disney World. It was not the rides or Mickey Mouse, but it was when one night, after a long hot day, we all were in one hotel room eating ice cream and talking to each other.

“I had never felt so happy then when I was just hanging out with everyone and seeing them for who they truly are: incredible and caring individuals.”

2. What did it take to become valedictorian?

“Becoming valedictorian took two things: discipline and sacrifice. I had to discipline myself to make good study habits and give 100 percent effort on every assignment.

“I also had to sacrifice a lot of time to pursue my studies instead of hanging out with friends or watching TV. I had to discipline myself to reach the goal I had of becoming valedictorian.”

3. What is the best advice you can give the underclassmen?

“The best advice I can give the underclassmen is that you get what you put in. If you want to get an A on a project or assignment, then you have to exert your best effort. Good grades do not just appear.

“You have to work for everything you want, not just in school, but in life too. You have to earn everything, don’t expect good things to happen if you don’t put the effort in first.”

Elizabeth Jones

Belen High School

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Elizabeth Jones

Family: Mother, Sonia Peña; father, Stephen Jones; brother, Tyler Jones

Plans after graduation: “I am going to attend New Mexico State University where I plan to study chemistry.”

1. What is your best memory from your time during high school?

“The Spirit Week showing of our cheer routine. To hear our entire school cheer and yell for us was the best feeling.”

2. What did it take to become valedictorian?

“It took a lot of encouragement from my family and friends to keep my 4.0 even when times were difficult. Nurse Joseph, Desiree and my mom and dad were my biggest supporters throughout my high school years. It also helped taking every extra credit assignment possible to always ensure my grade was up.”

3. What is the best advice you can give the underclassmen?

“Show up for class and when you don’t understand the curriculum don’t be intimidated to ask for extra help.”

Natalie Marie Martinez

Belen High School

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Natalie Marie Martinez

Family: Father, Ruben Martinez; mother, Carla Martinez; brother, Diego Martinez; sister, Sara Martinez

Plans after graduation: “I plan to study kinesiology at New Mexico State University before applying to a physical therapy program.”

1. What is your best memory from your time during high school?

“My favorite memories are those I share with my track and basketball teammates. Athletics were the best outlet for me during my high school years and I will never forget the laughs from long bus rides and competitions.”

2. What did it take to become valedictorian?

“This accomplishment came with many sacrifices. I spent multiple lunch periods studying for exams in Mr. Hekmati’s classroom and countless late nights finishing assignments. I also had a great support system made up of my friends, family, coaches and teachers.”

3. What is the best advice you can give the underclassmen?

“As you go through high school, stay true to yourself. Focus on the things you enjoy the most and surround yourself with people who love you for you. Push yourself to your limits and never be afraid to ask for help.”

Jace McNabb

Belen High School

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Jace McNabb

Family: Parents, Kevin and Brenda McNabb; siblings, Gregg Chavez and RaeAnn Jimenez

Plans after graduation: “To attend Arizona State University to pursue a career in anesthesiology.”

1. What is your best memory from your time during high school?

“My best memory from high school was just doing normal things like going to sports games, seeing friends at lunch and being the class president in student council.”

2. What did it take to become valedictorian?

“It just takes staying on top of your work. It’s easy to fall behind in high school but as long as you do your best to get work turned in on time, many people can do it, especially with an unweighted GPA scale we have at Belen.”

3. What is the best advice you can give the underclassmen?

“The best advice I can give to underclassmen is to make sure that they’re doing it for themselves and making decisions that will make them happy. I think often we do a lot to impress others but how you feel about yourself matters more in my opinion, and it will do a lot for you when you start basing decisions off of that.”

Damaris Gomez Olivas

Belen High School

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Damaris Gomez Olivas

Family: Mother, Flor Olivas; father, Robert Gomez; brothers, Roberto Gomez and Max Gomez

Plans after graduation: “Attending The University of New Mexico in the fall and do something with civil engineering.”

1. What is your best memory from your time during high school?

“My favorite memory was probably when my best friend and I placed second at our last tennis tournament. It was such a fun day and we got to meet so many new players from around the state.”

2. What did it take to become valedictorian?

“I had to take many AP classes, dual credit classes and honors. I spent most of the time studying and tutoring.”

3. What is the best advice you can give the underclassmen?

“Don’t put so much stress on yourself and try to join as many clubs as you can.”

Taeya Padilla

Belen High School

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Taeya Padilla

Family: Francisco Padilla, Elena Padilla, Matias Padilla 

Plans after graduation: “After graduation I plan to attend New Mexico State University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering.”

1. What is your best memory from your time during high school?

“My favorite memories from high school were watching my guy friends do unintelligent things, such as lighting tennis balls on fire and playing catch or putting their hands in coyote traps for fun.”

2. What did it take to become valedictorian? 

“I was very hard on myself. If I was not getting As, I was failing. Whenever I was not satisfied with the way I performed on a test or an assignment I would do anything in my power to redo it or fix my mistakes.

“When I was not content with a grade I would communicate with my teachers and ask them why I got that grade so I could do better next time. I set high standards for myself and in the end it paid off.”

3. What is the best advice you can give the underclassmen? 

“Sit in the front of the classroom. In eighth grade my math teacher gave me this advice and it has never failed me. The front row of the classroom helps you to focus on what the teacher is saying, it will help you concentrate, you can interact better with the teacher, hear instructions better and chances are you will get better grades.”

Aracely Flores Ramirez

Valencia High School

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Aracely Flores Ramirez

Family: Parents, Genevieve and Edgar Ramirez ; siblings, Gwen and Brady Ramírez

Plans after graduation: “I am planning to study political science at the University of Chicago.”

1. What is your best memory from your time during high school?

“My best memory from high school was probably attending the All-State music festival my junior year. I worked hard all year to prepare my music and make it into the symphonic orchestra. After everything, I was finally able to walk onto that stage and put on an amazing concert. I felt a huge sense of satisfaction and happiness. All my work paid off and I had so much fun working with my fellow musicians.”

2. What did it take to become valedictorian?

“It took a lot of perseverance and sacrifice to become valedictorian. Even when it was difficult to get out of bed in the morning, I still forced myself to open my backpack and do my homework.

“On days when I felt I had done nothing worthwhile, my good grades reminded me that I was still moving forward. Over the years, I had to learn how to prioritize my time to put my health and my education above the expectations of others. I missed some extra credit assignments and some opportunities to hang out with friends, but gained new life skills in the process. Life cannot be all work or all fun so I found a balance that made me both happy and successful.”

3. What is the best advice you can give the underclassmen?

“My best advice to underclassmen is to stop overworking yourself to impress others. Don’t take on more work than your schedule can allow because you will only end up stressed out of your mind. I promise nobody but you will notice if your project only has the required seven slides instead of 10. Extra credit is not worth missing sleep.

“Focus less on doing better than everyone else and focus more on doing your best work. Your accomplishments will shine even brighter when you’re paying attention to the product you create.”

Dekoda Sparks

Belen High School

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Dekoda Sparks

Family: Mother, Tammy Tafoya; father, Chase Sparks; grandmother, Jane Tafoya

Plans after graduation: “I plan on attending New Mexico State University and getting my degree in criminal justice.”

1. What is your best memory from your time during high school?

“One of my favorite memories would be when I attended state for student council in Farmington.”

2. What did it take to become valedictorian?

“To become valedictorian, it took a lot of hard work and dedication.”

3. What is the best advice you can give the underclassmen?

“To never give up and to try your best in everything you do.”

Salutatorians

Deborah Brant

Canon Christian Academy

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Deborah Brant

Plans after graduation: “Attending Grand Canyon University to study theology and ministry.”

1. What is your best memory from your time during high school?

“The best memory I have of high school is our senior trip. Our class had the privilege to go to Florida. Spending my last days as a high school student laughing and experiencing a new place with my classmates is something I will remember and carry with me for the rest of my life.”

2. What did it take to become salutatorian?

“To become salutatorian, it took consistent hard work along with having a mindset to complete my goals and be successful! Also, all the late-night homework sessions.”

3. What is the best advice you can give the underclassmen?

“The best advice I can give to those graduating after me is that there is no life outside of Jesus Christ and to live in the moment and not for it. Graduation and every other milestone in life will come soon enough, but these moments you will never get back.

“Enjoy them while getting to know the Heart of Jesus. There is no better life than one lived in this way!”

Daniela Corral

Belen High School

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Daniela Corral

Family: Father, Daniel Corral; mother, Bertha Corral, deceased

Plans after graduation: “I plan attend to The University of New Mexico and major in psychology as well as be part of their BA/MD combined degree program.”

1. What is your best memory from your time during high school?

“My best memory was in freshman year. My science group and I were one of the groups chosen to go to Washington, D.C., to present a science project to numerous students from around the country. It was cool touring around and going to several museums. My favorite part was becoming closer with my partners and teachers, and of course trying buffalo wings for the first time.”

2. What did it take to become salutatorian?

“I’m not going to sit here and say that it was easy, because it wasn’t at all. To have salutatorian under my name is the result of those late nights studying, taking time to prioritize school over anything else, having to tell my friends and family, ‘Sorry I can’t hang out today, I have an assignment due,’ and overall determination.”

3. What is the best advice you can give the underclassmen?

“The best advice I would give the underclassmen is: Focus on yourself, stop comparing yourself to the person doing better than you. At the end of the day, it’s only you versus you. You are your own competition, strive to become better than you were yesterday.

“Also, make as many memories as you can in high school. Four years will go by in a blink of an eye. Enjoy yourself and make good decisions.”

Daesha Garcia

Valencia High School

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Daesha Garcia

Family: Mother, Crystal; father, Joseph; sisters, Jadyn, Grace, Deyanira and Nyla; brother, Joshua

Plans after graduation: “I will attend the University of Nevada, Reno, to major in wildlife ecology and conservation and, hopefully, one day have a career in the National Parks.”

1. What is your best memory from your time during high school?

“My best memory from high school would have to be traveling long distances to play in tournaments and games with my basketball team. Overall, just bonding and having fun with some of my best friends.”

2. What did it take to become salutatorian?

“Becoming salutatorian took lots of self-discipline to make sure I was producing work that I was proud of and avoiding distractions. I also think realizing my own self-worth and knowing that I was capable, privileged to and worthy of taking my education seriously and to a higher level played a big part as well.”

3. What is the best advice you can give the underclassmen?

“The best advice that I could give to the underclassmen is to not be too hard on yourselves. We’re all human and not everything is going to work out in the way we hope it will. Instead, build from any mishaps and create a better atmosphere for yourself (physically or mentally).”

Brooke Halverson

Los Lunas High School

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Brooke Halverson

Family: Parents, Erik and Stacey Halverson; brother, Cameron Halverson.

Plans after graduation: “I plan to attend The University of New Mexico to major in nursing and eventually obtain a master’s degree as a nurse practitioner.”

1. What is your best memory from your time during high school?

“My best memory from my time during high school was being a part of my school’s relay teams in track and field during my sophomore year. I had the opportunity to compete at state with my team and it was an unforgettable experience.”

2. What did it take to become salutatorian?

“It took hard work, perseverance and the willingness to take higher-level classes that were out of my comfort zone.”

3. What is the best advice you can give the underclassmen?

“The best advice I can give is to get involved in your school’s clubs and activities. High school is much more enjoyable when you’re participating in activities you truly care about, with people who have similar goals to you.”

Makayla Henson

Belen High School

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Makayla Henson

Family: Parents, Christine and Abraham Henson; brother, Eric Henson; sister-in-law, Tammy Henson; nieces Allie Henson and Brooklynn Wagner

Plans after graduation: “To attend The University of New Mexico and pursue my bachelor of science in nursing to become a neonatal intensive care unit nurse.”

1. What is your best memory from your time during high school?

“Mr. Pemble’s class. I had so much fun in there no matter how good or bad my day was going before I entered the classroom. My friends and I always ate, made jokes and had fun learning math when Mr. Pemble was around.”

2. What did it take to become salutatorian?

“It took a good support system and a good work ethic. I would have not been able to accomplish becoming salutatorian without my parents and brother pushing me to be the best I can be. They always made me strive for greatness and were there for me every step of the way.

“I learned my work ethic from my hardworking family who never stops even when they are comfortable. I also had very supportive friends who had my back in everything I did.”

3. What is the best advice you can give the underclassmen?

“Do what makes you happy. Not everyone in this world is going to support you or be happy for you. Let go of the pressure of other people, their opinion of you and what you do, and move through life accomplishing your dreams for yourself. But, do not procrastinate — it creates so much unnecessary stress in your life!”

Alicia Medeiros

Belen High School

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Alicia Medeiros

Family: Parents, Maria and Daniel Medeiros

Plans after graduation: “Move to California.”

1. What is your best memory from your time during high school?

“Any time I spent with my friends.”

2. What did it take to become salutatorian?

“Hard work and dedication.”

3. What is the best advice you can give the underclassmen?

“Put your mental health first. School isn’t your number one priority. You are your number one priority.”

Cailean Romero

Belen High School

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Cailean Romero

Family: Mother, Ericka Romero; father, Chris Romero; brothers, Dominick Romero and Christopher Romero

Plans after graduation: “I’m moving to Texas with my family and will be studying either psychology or criminal justice at Texas Wesleyan University. I earned the Presidents Scholarship there and a wrestling scholarship.”

1. What is your best memory from your time during high school?

“Junior year during wrestling season, I was the first-ever girls’ district champ and first ever placer for state for Belen High School.”

2. What did it take to become salutatorian?

“It took a lot of focus on academics, making sure my work was turned in on time and constantly checking everything to stay on top of my work.”

3. What is the best advice you can give the underclassmen?

“Don’t give up no matter what. You can do whatever you put your mind to no matter how impossible it seems.”

Alejandro Diaz

School of Dreams Academy

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Alejandro Diaz

Did not respond to questionnaire

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