Tiger Talent: California Scholarship Federation honors three Portola Jr.-Sr. High students
The PJSHS Community announced that PHS Senior, Maria (Celeste) Zuniga-Sanchez, is one of 10 seniors in Northern California to have been invited to the California Scholarship Federation’s Regional Seymour Finals, which will be held on April 15 in Rocklin. Seymour Finalists are students that embody the pillars of the California Scholarship Federation — demonstrating success in academics; pursuing a path of rigorous scholarship; displaying a commitment to their community through acts of service; and exhibiting strong leadership abilities in school clubs and organizations. It’s one of the highest honors a student can receive in the state. An invitation to the Semi-Finals includes a $2,000 award, with the potential of winning an additional $3,000.
Celeste not only takes a variety of AP and STEM courses at PHS, but is an active member of the Associated Student Body, CSF, a volunteer with Rotary, and a mentor to students in the English Language Learner programs. Bilingual herself, Celeste is a candidate for the Seal of Biliteracy on her high school diploma, as well as Seal Bearer status honors with CSF. After graduation, Celeste has been offered a merit-based scholarship to study Environmental Engineering at the University of San Francisco. When speaking of her experiences and what lead her to choose this area of study, Celeste stated:
“I was lucky enough to live in a place where connecting with our surroundings is very important. In sixth grade my school had a unit called ‘Connecting With Our Backyard’. This program taught us about our watershed, the forest, and how to respect the place we live in. These trips made me start thinking about possible environmental studies in the future and were true inspiration to me. They helped me see the importance of preserving our planet and to ‘never leave a trace behind’.”
Using tools like Google Maps to locate the trees and other large scale obstacles, Celeste is designing upgrades and modifications to the City of Portola Public Park for her senior project, in order to make it more accessible and enjoyable for everyone in the community. Her main “community give back,” however, involves taking local first-grade students to the park to help with the clean up phase of the project, while also empowering young students to be stewards of their local resources and landscapes.
The school’s College & Career Counselor, Lori Marquette, who is the dedicated CSF Advisor, offers critical support to graduating seniors. This process would not have been possible without her commitment to CSF and its vision, which Portola High has been a member of since its inception over 100 years ago.
California Junior Scholarship Federation
In addition to Celeste, CJSF Adviser and ELA Teacher, Niecea Freeman, would like to congratulate two 8th-grade students who were nominated from PJSHS for the Marian Huhn Award. Ainsleigh Pruitt and Kirsten Boyd have been invited to the Regional Awards ceremony as finalists on April 15 for middle school CJSF chapters in Northern California. Marian Huhn nominees are selected by their chapter based on their commitment to academics, community involvement, and leadership and must submit personal narratives about their interests, hobbies, accomplishments, and future goals as part of the application process.
Ainsleigh Pruitt is currently co-leading a book survey and resource list for 8th graders as part of a larger school-wide grant our library has received this spring! In addition she is an involved CJSF member (recently winning 3rd place in our Lunar New Year Trivia competition) and a dedicated athlete—participating in the Feather River Youth Softball League for many years—and qualifying for the all stars team.
Ainsleigh is a student who personifies a love of learning and academic interest. She takes a variety of rigorous electives, such as Spanish, and pushes herself to explore subjects outside of the classroom and in real world context.
“Outside of school, I have learned how to grow native pine trees, and I am working on growing many other native trees, like oaks and incense cedar. I am even working on growing shrubs, like mountain mahogany and the endangered native sagebrush. I am also exploring how to make sure the trees do not die from drought due to the lack of rainfall and the wildfires in California.”
As of right now, Ainsleigh is considering a career in Ecology and has her sights set on CalPoly Humboldt’s many environmental programs, based out of the heart of the Redwood forest. When asked how her love for environmental stewardship developed, Ainsleigh, like Celeste, cited her experiences with the Outdoor Learning and Learning Landscape program in PUSD:
“I got the chance to go on field trips farther from home, from down in the Sierra Valley wetlands to study birds, up to the crest of the Northern Sierra Nevada to study our Lakes Basin Watershed Divide, with 20 lakes that feed the Feather and Yuba Watersheds.”
Plumas Unified and Portola Jr./Sr. High are so grateful for the powerful partnerships it has with the Feather River Land Trust and their Learning Landscapes program. It takes a whole community to empower our learners with the tools they need for the future.
Kirsten Boyd, the second Marian Huhn Finalist, is also interested in a STEM career, with a passion for sharks and Oceanography. Kirsten is fascinated by the ways that animals and humans interact with the environment and is excited to explore more as she continues into high school next year.
She is also a competitive athlete, especially in the sport of basketball, and is hopeful of joining the varsity team as soon as possible:
“In school and sports I work my hardest to be my best self. Sports taught me to stay determined and focused on a goal, to cooperate better with my team members, to make the changes I wanted to see. Being a part of a basketball team gave me my first skills in leadership and being part of a community besides just in school.”
In addition to athletics , Kirsten’s leadership skills are evident in the many roles she has taken on in the Tiger community. She is the 8th-grade class president and ASB class representative, volunteering at the Halloween event, chairing fundraisers and dance committees, and other important school spirit activities.
This year she is also our CJSF President for all 7th and 8th grade. This February, Kirsten led her CSF team at the California Scholarship Federation Student Leadership Conference in preparing their proposals for How CSF/CJSF Can Shape School Culture? using real world applications at Portola Jr./Sr. High School.
Students who are selected as a winner from their regions are awarded $250 and are featured on the CSF website among the other regional winners in the state.
CSF & CJSF Membership Awards
In order to qualify for CSF & CJSF membership, students must strive for academic excellence in all of their core subjects and can’t have a D or an F in any subject. The California Scholarship Federation is an honors society and a non-profit organization whose mission is to recognize and encourage academic achievement and community service among middle and high school students in California. Just because a student qualifies for Honor Roll does not mean that they qualify for CSF or CJSF. Though both encourage academic excellence – CSF/CJSF has a specific course list students must use in order to qualify their grades for membership. This year, PJSH does not have a CJSF/CSF for 9th grade as it is an optional year and we are continuing to build our programs on site. For Semester 1, here are all the PJSHS students that qualified for CJSF (7th grade pictured above, 8th below).
CJSF – California Junior Scholarship Federation S1 Members 2022 – 2023
Ariyannah Ruiz Salked
Tomas Murrieta Olaje
CSF – California Scholarship Federation S1 Members 2022 – 2023