June 13, 2013
Angelique LaCour, OVN correspondent
When Alejandro Sandoval and Maria Isabel Perez came to Matilija Junior High School, they did not speak a word of English. Adjusting to junior high is hard enough without the added handicap of being unable to communicate.
“I consider these the two most difficult years developmentally for a young person,” said first-year Matilija principal Bill Rosen. “Seventh and eighth grade is like the on ramp to the freeway. You have to get on and speed up, then it curves a little bit, and when you hit high school you better be moving, or you are going to get run over.”
“It’s already hard to remember not knowing any English,” Sandoval said. The eighth-grader came to Matilija just this year. And as part of the English Language Learner (ELL) program, was provided a translator during class.
But by Christmas, Sandoval no longer required help. “I like learning and learned fast just by listening to the teachers speak,” he said.
“Alejandro is smart and a quick learner; also very respectful to his mother and teachers,” said school secretary and ELL site coordinator Patty Cruz.
In the beginning, Sandoval taught himself to relax to deal with frustration. “I would just quiet my mind by thinking of good things,” he said.
Perez can relate. When she came to Matilija from Topa Topa Elementary School last year, she could understand English, but did not speak it at all.
“I was very shy and only started speaking English this year,” Perez said. “My friends and family helped me a lot.”
Perez has an older brother who graduated from Nordhoff High School yesterday, and a younger brother who just completed seventh grade at Matilija. The Perez family works on learning English together at home. “My dad knows a little English so he started buying fiction books, and we pass the book around and each read a paragraph,” she said.
That self-starter attitude seems a ruling characteristic of this year’s eighth-graders at Matilija — as does their manners. It’s one of the things that surprised Rosen about this year’s class, which was promoted to ninth grade Wednesday. “As they leave the classroom it’s quite common that they say ‘thank you’ to their teachers,” Rosen said. “I hear that from the teachers all the time.”
Matilija’s teachers aren’t the only ones who notice the courteous and polite behaviors of their students. Last month at the Music in the Parks Festival competition at Magic Mountain, Matilija received the Esprit de Corps Award for best-behaved and most courteous group. “All of the judges, staff members — everyone working the festival — is asked which school deserved that award,” said Don Orser, music director, “and it was noticeable that Matilija kids always said ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ and were easy to work with.” Matilija also took home a clean sweep of first-place awards for band, orchestra and choir in the junior high divisions; each group (choir, two string groups and band) also received ratings of excellent.
In addition to being courteous, fast learners, this year’s eighth-graders are also high achievers academically. Sixty-nine students received the President’s Award for Academic Excellence for maintaining a 3.5 grade point average (GPA) for the last five trimesters, and 12 of them maintained a 4.0 GPA.
During Wednesday’s promotion ceremony, student speaker Audrey Hernandez pointed out the growing she and her peers have done over the last two years. “We arrived at Matilija as small nervous children, and have now become free-thinking individuals,” she said.
Sarah Scott and Jordan Perry spoke for their classmates at the conclusion of the promotion ceremony. “The lessons we learned here are seared into our brains,” they said. “Who could ever forget the Pythagorean theorem? According to Mr. Burns, it’s ‘easy peesy pumpkin cheesy.’ Junior high school is a time to grow, and we definitely grew intellectually, emotionally, and physically. Most of us became more mature. But Matilija leaves us with more than just memories — it leaves us with the life skills to be independent and responsible and, most important of all, with the ability to achieve our dreams.”
Representing Nordhoff High School, Kim Hoj, dean of academic services, formally received the class of 2017. “My three nuggets for you today are: find what you love to do and make it part of your life; maximize the opportunity of your education to learn all you can; the best way to honor your parents and those who have paved the way for you is to give back. No matter what high school you go to, take the idea of paying it forward to leave wherever you go a little bit better with a legacy of excellence.”
For more photos from the Matilija Junior High School graduation ceremony, see the June 14, 2013 print edition of the Ojai Valley News.
The following is the list of graduates from Matilija Junior High School:
Claire Woolson, Toni Nicholson, Esmeralda Zamudio, Jake Perry, Annalisa Zaucha, Jordan Perry, Caitlyn Radica, Sachini Rajapaksa, Nathalia Ramirez, Sarah Rogers, McKayla Skaggs, Jasmine Adams, Nicholas Teixeira, Adrianna Bese, Waite Tucker, Skye Bledsoe, Mariana Vacio, Woodrow Brown, Charles Van Lent, Miriam Calderon, Elizabeth Clawson, Cade Crawford, Dante Dikeman, Adriana Duarte, Kristin Fitz, David Flores, Drew Ford, Estefani Garcia, Lolita Gorbacheva, Rafael Guerrero, Lizeth Herrera, Kaitlynn Hillburn, Ronaldo Lule, Devon Malmquist, Dylan Mc Atee, Liam Metlen, Rodrigo Meza, Haley Moore, Kristian Munnikhuis, Victoria Murillo, Lee Chambers, Pia Zonic, Robert Chambers, Elaine Zumaya, Adriana Jazmin Diaz, Aliyah Zweig, Tyler Dierickx, Danielle A. Dunn, Brandon Fairweather, Rebecca Foote, Marc Hayashi, Reyes Hernandez, Nathan Abruzzese, Evan Jackson, Tucker Allen, Ryan Jackson, Brianna Ames, Reuben Levinson Holly, Paola Avila, Noel Lupercio, Haley Barnes, Serena Matzat, Scott Barron, Alyssa Maulhardt, Tessa Bartholio, Berenice Maya, Riley Conn, Kaydin Mc Kay, Nathan Davis, Jose Ortiz, Xander Dubeau, Madison Palmer, Janet Duran, Diana Luz Ponce, Kathryn Dzukola, Gizel Reyes, Angel Esperanza, Alejandro Sandoval, Alex Freeman, Sarah Scott, Alexis Gomez, Mackenzie Sharon, Kevin Gonelli, Paul Sherlock, Rebekah Gorman, Ethan Smith, Lyle Hallblom, Nolan Vyhnal, Jackson Hill, Pierre Weil, Lorelei Jones, Summer Williams, Jack Kelley, Garrett Woll, Elisabeth McColloch, Joshua Zaucha, Herman Zheng, Jose Quino, Ernesto Quintero, Marcus Italo, Taylor Riggs, Kloe Keeter, Reese Royle, Alina Kirby, Jennifer Ruiz, Brendon Looker, Kiefer Rylander, Hailey Mac Adams, Rebecca Saucedo, William Mc Grew, Jared Skaggs, Mikyla McGhee, Francisco Soto, Diana Murillo, Raissa Onglengco, Adrian Torres, Jennifer Patino, Aren Tumamait-Stenslie, Madisen Perdue, Gabriela Velazquez, Melissa Rodarte, Kaitlyn Rogers, Serena Rudolph, Taylor Santino, Garland Scarlett, Jenna Schembri, Abeeree Alexander, Jonathan Villalpando, Katie Alonso, Joshua Weinstein, Max Badger, Efrain Zara, Jackeline Borjas, Mark Zielsdorf, Kaylee Brown, Lennon Chahivec Schneider, Josef Clinton, Grace Davis, Jasmine Davis, Alden DelVecchio, Joaquin Alcantar, Denver Dillon, Austin Cansler, Alexander Ferreira, Jennifer Carbajal, Julia Franklin, Maxwell Chandler, Wyatt Fronterhouse, Olivia Dorenkamp, Irene Galindo, Juana Garcia, Alexis Garcia, Noemi Gonzales, Luke Hamann, Dianna Gonzalez, Vanessa Castagna, Ethan Holder, Iain Coyne, Sara Ignacio, Stella Delgado, Gaven Johnson, Jeremy Donovan, Yadira Juarez, Isaiah Duran, Luis D. Lopez, Sydney Franz, Samuel Marks, Nona Golden, Parker Marquez, Tanner Gross, Mikayla Miles, Audrey Hernandez, Mark Miller, Natalie Hoeppel, Brian Orser, Kirsten Hoj, Maria Isabel Perez, Ernesto Jimenez, Tate Phillips, Sikeli Jorgensen, Yulissa Quevedo Vega, April Jungo-Garcia, Caysee Ransom, Madison Landsverk, Leonel Rebollo, Cassandra Larson, Guadalupe Reynaga, Fabio Lauretta, Jacques Robles, Ciara Lenehan, Karina Rodriguez, Isolde Marx, Andy Sanchez, Kalista O’Neil, Carly Skiba, Alexa Perez, Wyatt Stroud, Jasmine Perez, Raymond Valenzuela Guadalupe, David White, Maryann Shilo, Elenna Wiggins, Sara Smith, Jake Stevens, Timothy Thatcher, Kangchen Tsering, Bella Van Aken, Vincent Villa, Emma-Rose Allen, Julia Vondriska, Vanessa Andrade, Jesse Westbrook, Brighton Balfrey and Addison Wood.