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Sunnyvale School District students recognized at Every Student Succeeding event


Eight Sunnyvale School District students and two Fremont High School Union District students will be recognized at a special ceremony March 9 through the Association of California School Administrators’ (ACSA) brand new 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.

Every student who was nominated will be recognized and receive a certificate as well as a gift card from a local establishment. In addition, one student will advance to Region 8 of ACSA (Santa Clara County) for consideration of recognition at the region level, which would then receive recognition at the state level.

This year’s winners from SSD are Melany Lopez of Vargas Elementary, Jessa Marie Yang of Cumberland Elementary, Zeke Carder of Fairwood Explorer, Giselle Guardado of Bishop, Marcel Wickler of Cherry Chase Elementary, Laila Mitchell Widemon of Lakewood, Nicole Zapata Meza of Columbia Middle, and Emily Zhao of Sunnyvale Middle.

Melany Lopez is a second grade student at Vargas Elementary School, nominated by Annette Grasty, principal, and by Cecilia Mendoza-Torres, assistant principal, as well as Stephanie Malcolm, resource specialist, and Pam Alvarado, teacher. Melany loves school and learning. While health issues have impacted her learning abilities she is making great gains with the support of her parents and the site team.

Jessa Marie Yang is a second grade student at Cumberland Elementary School, nominated by Edy Mourtos, principal as well as Eric Carlson, Adaptive PE teacher, Mary Chew, special education teacher, Victoria Mih, first grade teacher,  Nikki Patel, second grade teacher, and community swim instructors. Jessa was born with spina bifida and a spirit of determination, courage and maturity beyond her age. She is an avid swimmer and is always willing to try new things. Because Jessa is in a wheelchair, she often gets stares and has to answer questions, but she always comes away having made new friends.

Zeke Carder is a fourth grade student at Fairwood Explorer, nominated by his principal, Jeffrey Bryant, and supported by Sarah Tellez, ELA/ELD Coordinator. Zeke was adopted from an orphanage in China by Shara and Mike Carder, which set him on a challenging path to adapt to a new language, new school environment, and life in a family both at home and in school.

Giselle Guardado is a fourth grade student at Bishop Elementary School, nominated by Becky Schmidt, assistant principal, supported by Suzanne Cicala, principal, as well as Mary Jo Anderson, teacher, and Kaitlin Hlinka, psychologist. During her first few years in school Giselle struggled academically and social-emotionally. When she was in second grade her 12th grade brother was killed in a car accident. She worked through her grief with support at school and accepted her brother’s diploma at the high school graduation.

Marcel Wickler is a fourth grade student at Cherry Chase Elementary School, nominated by Anita Lee, principal, who has persevered through challenges and worked to develop relationships with peers and teachers. Now at Cherry Chase, he is excelling academically and socially, becoming a great friend who looks out for his classmates.

Laila Mitchell Widemon is a fifth grade student at Lakewood School, nominated by Pamela Cheng, principal. While Laila has struggled during emotional moments in the past, during this school year her engagement and attitude has made a positive shift resulting in improved attendance and motivation. She has taken on leadership roles, become involved in classroom discussions, and seeks out her teacher to debrief during times when she is feeling upset.

Nicole Zapata Meza is an 8th grade student at Columbia Middle School, nominated by Mary Beth Allmann, principal and supported by Esteban Ybarra, assistant principal, and Gladys Mazariegos, social worker. Nicole entered middle school as a student identified for support academically, behaviorally, and social-emotionally. Staff have guided her through a number of interventions including math and reading intervention and conflict mediation. As her outlook was improved during 7th grade her mother became seriously ill. While she took on additional responsibilities in the home she persevered at school and continued on a positive trajectory. As an 8th grader she is involved in orchestra and was selected to support 6th graders transitioning to middle school as a WEB (Where Everybody Belongs) leader.

Emily Zhao is an eighth grade student at Sunnyvale Middle School, nominated by assistant principal Ron Gantvoort. Emily channeled her struggles with depression and anxiety into a book titled, “Too Young.” While the book is available on Amazon, she has donated copies to the SMS library, counselor’s office, and principal’s office.

The Association of California School Administrators is the largest umbrella organization for school leaders in the United States, serving more than 17,000 California educators. ACSA’s top priority is advocating for public school students in kindergarten through grade 12, as well as adult learners. Its mission is to be the driving force of education in California and beyond.

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