Last week, four area high school students were recognized by the Oro Valley Optimist Club, receiving the Student of the Year award.
Canyon Del Oro senior Texana Sonnefeld, Immaculate Heart senior Dayne Baron, Pusch Ridge Christian Academy junior Joel Johnson and Ironwood Ridge senior Kaitlin Elizabeth Williams were presented with a plaque and a check for $500 during May 9 luncheon at the Oro Valley Country Club.
Sonnefeld, who plans to attend the University of Arizona to study psychology, was introduced by counselor Michelle Barcanic.
“She is honestly the first person who came to mind when I got the flyer that said ‘this is what we are looking for: we are looking for a good student, a good citizen and a good leader on your campus’,” Barcanic said. “It was a no brainer.”
Sonnefeld participated in Odyssey of the Mind, ran track, and competed on the school’s forensic team, all of which went on to compete at the state level. She also had an art galley with her photography displayed at the school, is in the National Honors Society, and is part of a program where students mentor other students.
“I am really thankful for a lot of things my parents have done,” Sonnefeld said of her parents Jim and Texana. “They have been really supportive. I just can’t thank them enough for giving me all of the opportunities of being a part of so many different things like track and Odyssey of the Mind.
“It is just an honor to be recognized for the hard work I put in.”
Baron lives in South Tucson and has commuted every school day to Immaculate Heart High School, where 95 students go to school and was in a class of 24 kids.
School principal Dan Ethridge introduced Baron.
“It was a no brainer, just like it was for Michelle,” Ethridge said. “He is very quiet and is someone that could easily be overlooked because he doesn’t say very much.”
But his quiet nature doesn’t detour him from helping others.
“He is involved with every service organization I can possibly think of,” Ethridge said. “He spends so many hours outside of school helping people.”
Baron’s parents, Carmen and Paul said he is a great leader because he leads by example in yearbook, soccer, track, basketball, volleyball, golf, and anything else he does.
Joel Johnson was the only junior to be nominated for the Student of the Year.
His father Dan and sister Jenna stood up and spoke about him.
“He very much enjoys sports, and school and loves music,” Dan said. “He performs in worship bands at our church as well as school.”
Jenna said her brother is always helping her.
“He is a very balanced guy in sports and school and everything he does,” Jenna said. “He ends up coaching me at tennis and then coaching me at calculus.”
Johnson has been at Pusch Ridge for the last six years.
“It has been just a great place to learn and enjoy a lot of different opportunities,” he said about his school. “Probably the main thing, though, was learning how to learn.”
School counselor Marva Jeffers introduced Ironwood Ridge’s Kaitlin Elizabeth Williams at the luncheon.
“Our senior class is one of the most academically-competitive classes,” Jeffers said.
In looking at what Williams had done, over the last four years Jeffers found Williams had taken 16 honors classes along with 6 AP classes a will graduate with a GPA of 4.5. She has been a member of the varsity soccer team all four years and has participated in and taken on leadership rolls in more than 12 clubs and organizations on campus.
“There really isn’t a lot she hasn’t done in high school,” she added.
Williams, who showed up a little late, along with Johnson, due to end-of-the-year testing, was very thankful for the opportunities she has had in high school. Next year she plans to attend the University of Arizona and intends to major in mathematics.
“I am so proud of all of my fellow students and how far I have gone with them. I hope that all of the connections I have made in high school last.
“I seek to challenge myself in the future,” she added.
Basis School did not have a senior class this year, but plans to nominate a student next year.