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Every Student Succeeding event recognizes incredible student stories

Ten Sunnyvale School District students and three Fremont High School Union District students were recognized at a special ceremony April 3 through the Association of California School Administrators’ (ACSA) Every Student Succeeding program. The program honors students who have overcome challenges which may be related to school, family, medical, or difference in ability and the educators who support them along the way.

Due to her outstanding entry, Columbia Middle School’s Keily Hernandez will move up to compete at the regional level, and all of our nominees were recognized with a certificate and a gift card from Leigh’s Favorite Books. Winners from SSD include: Azariel Martinez Maya of Bishop, Gabriel Farmer of Cherry Chase, Keily Hernandez of Columbia Middle School, Nicholas and Katherine Grigoryev of Cumberland, Muayyad Aslam of Ellis, Unique of Fairwood, Daijon Walker of Lakewood, Nayeli of San Miguel, Jeremy Ferguson of Sunnyvale Middle School and Melanie Ochoa of Vargas.

We are proud to highlight these students who have overcome great obstacles to succeed. They face life’s challenges head-on. Their stories are remarkable, and their futures are bright!


Azariel Martinez Maya is a 5th-grade student at Bishop Elementary School, nominated by Suzanne Cicala, principal, and Diana Johnson, School Social Worker.  He started school speaking only Spanish and struggled with managing his emotions.  A few short years later, he has shown tremendous growth, regulating his emotions and focusing on learning while developing his communication and leadership skills. Azariel perseveres no matter what life throws at him.  He is an amazing young man, and we are very proud of all that he has accomplished during his time at Bishop.

Cherry Chase:

Thoughtful! Empathetic! Joyful! Gabriel Farmer is a charming 4th grader who was nominated by Principal Anita Lee and has been supported by a broad team of professionals since he first enrolled at Cherry Chase in 1st grade. He has made great strides since his initial years when he struggled to stay on topic and on task. Today, Gabriel is learning new skills, responds to feedback, and is open to learning with a growth mindset. For his consistently positive and enthusiastic attitude that accompanies his perseverance in the face of communication and attention challenges, we are proud to honor Gabe Farmer as our nominee for the Every Student Succeeding Award.

Columbia Middle School:

Keily Hernandez Garcia is an 8th grader at Columbia Middle School who has been faced significant challenges and loss during her middle school tenure. Keily initially responded to these challenges with and has worked hard to adjust her thoughts, actions, and interactions, considering their potential impact.   She has goals for her future. As a result, Keily is now a leader in her classes, an advocate for herself and peers, and has a clear vision for a positive future that we are confident she will achieve.  We are very proud of Keily!


Nicholas (Nic) and Katherine (Kat) Grigoryev are twins attending 5th grade at Cumberland Elementary School.  Throughout their lives, they have both worked hard to thrive while overcoming various academic, social-emotional and social-communication challenges, but faced extreme trauma in April of 2017, when their mother, a teacher at our school, suddenly passed away. This most traumatic of losses turned their lives upside down, but the children, through their hard work and perseverance, and the support of their educational team, have been able to work through their grief and are showing signs of thriving again. We are so proud of who Nic and Kat are becoming and look forward to seeing them grow into young adults.


Muayyad Aslam is a 5th-grade student at Ellis Elementary. Muayyad started at Ellis in second grade after having gone through treatment for a brain tumor at the age of six. The treatment had left him with declines in his memory, hearing, and cognitive abilities, as well as motor impairments that made it difficult for him to participate in many school activities. Through his work with the Ellis staff, he has made great gains in all areas of concern and has matured into a positive young man. His courage and positive attitude in the face of adversity make him a role model for our students.


Unique joined Fairwood as a friendly and kind kindergartner but faced a variety of challenges in her personal life that could have caused some students to withdraw. However, Unique has an extraordinary strength and determination to succeed.  School was not always easy for her, but through perseverance and hard work, she began to gain confidence, and show pride in her success.  Unique’s friendly and outgoing attitude helped her build a strong circle of friendships, which has supported her during challenging times.  She has always been willing to confide in the adults around her when she was struggling, and she has been open to their suggestions and welcomed their support. We are very proud of Unique’s positive attitude, her willingness to seek the support of those around her, and her unfaltering determination, and we are proud to honor Unique Granados with the Every Student Succeeding Award for Fairwood Explorer!


Lakewood’s Daijon Walker is a 4th-grade student who early on struggled with managing his physical energy, culminating in an academically and behaviorally difficult third-grade year. With some guidance, Daijon has channeled his energy and competitive nature in positive and productive ways this year. He carries himself differently these days and is proving to himself and others that he can succeed academically and be a positive influence with his peers as he excels in sports. We are so proud of the change in Daijon’s mindset and actions this year; we know his newfound strengths will serve him well.

San Miguel:

Nayeli is a 5th-grade student at San Miguel Elementary. A first-generation American and English Learner, with learning differences, Nayeli began her school life continuously performing below grade level standards. Given the necessary supports and interventions, Nayeli has embraced a growth mindset and she continuously challenges herself to learn even when it may seem difficult. As Nayeli has developed, she has become a leader and model citizen in and out of the classroom. Nayeli now participates in general education for English Language Arts including reading and writing, English Language Development, Science, and Social Studies. Across all areas of her schooling, Nayeli encourages others to do well and is patient with her learning process as well as with those around her. Overall, Nayeli is an example of striving towards achieving one’s personal best despite the odds.

Sunnyvale Middle School:

Jeremy Ferguson is an 8th-grade student at Sunnyvale Middle School. A student in our Therapeutic Special Day Class (TSDC) program, Jeremy has shown tremendous growth over the past three years. During his 6th grade year at SMS, Jeremy was in a self-contained classroom and was working on self-regulation, the ability for sustained focus in class, and increasing social skills and social awareness. Now in 8th grade, his academic progress has increased to a point where he participates in the general education settings for all of his core classes. We are proud of Jeremy’s progress that shows his increased academic skills and his growing maturity as he heads toward high school next year.


When Melanie Ochoa came to Vargas in 2nd grade, she suffered from anxiety, which impacted her ability to learn in the classroom as well as her attendance. Over time, Melanie worked closely with her teachers and counselors at Vargas to develop a toolbox of resiliency skills. Now thriving both inside and outside of the classroom, Melanie graduated out of her IEP after working hard to improve her math, performed in front of hundreds of people at a dance recital, and she was elected Student Council Vice President for the school. Melanie can’t wait to run for President next year when she gets to Sunnyvale Middle School. We’re incredibly proud of Melanie and the hard work and perseverance she’s shown all these years.

Article compiled by District Principals and District Communications Coordinator Alia Wilson.

2019 Every Student Succeeding Award winners

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