Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh has named 27 students as Top Teens. All nominees must reside in Modesto and be "unsung heroes or heroines."
The program honors teens who demonstrate a strong commitment to serving others; have overcome adversity or unique obstacles in life; achieved a significant accomplishment; or serve as positive role models for their peers. The winners will be formally recognized at the Dec. 4 meeting of the City Council.
They are: Alexis Dye, junior, Modesto High; Amanda Hebert, senior, Central Catholic High; Amanda Reth, junior, Enochs High; Austin Butler, sophomore, Big Valley Christian High; Austin Grant, senior, Enochs; Blaine Bockhahn, junior, Central Catholic; Brianna Plummer, senior, Enochs; Brinn Abbate, senior, Central Catholic; Cap Damrell, graduate, Modesto; Cassie Aiello, senior, Central Catholic; Christi Candido, senior, Modesto; Daniel White, sophomore, Central Catholic; Derek Spieker, graduate, Johansen; Erik Jimenez, senior, Johansen; Haylee Osgood, freshman, Downey High; Jacob Marsh, junior, Enochs; John Mundt, senior, Central Catholic; Johnathan Dallas, senior, Modesto; Joseph Alvarez, senior, Gregori High; Katherine Dunn, senior, Central Catholic; Kristin Gazallo, junior, Modesto Virtual Academy-Gregori; Lauren Case, senior, Enochs; Leonardo Yalung, senior, Central Catholic; Nick Huber, junior, Central Catholic; Oscar Diaz, senior, Enochs; Sydney Smith, senior, Gregori; and Violet Tylock, senior, Johansen.
Following are excerpts from bios used in selecting the honorees. Fourteen of the students are featured today, with the remaining 13 honored in next week's Buzzz:
Amanda Hebert, senior, Central Catholic High School
Amanda has a picky palate. But her loving character helped her overcome her particular tastes in short order during her travels abroad. Knowing her host families were often providing her with the last food their cupboards had to offer, she quickly and graciously adapted.
Her journeys have taken her to India with Rotary International and to South Africa with her father, a dentist. While visiting India, she worked with a team of doctors administering polio vaccinations to villagers and also participated in activities with the local women in her work with Village Action Group. Her time in South Africa was spent serving as a dental assistant throughout several townships.
Amanda Reth, junior, Enochs High School
Growing up in a family of six isn't easy, especially when both your parents are unemployed. But instead of giving up, 16-year-old Amanda got going. Even as her family was being evicted from their home, Amanda found the motivation to become a top honor student, an award-winning journalist and most valuable player on her basketball team.
In addition to being a member of the Enochs High School Key Club and FFA, Amanda also is in Pura Vida, a program that assists children with autism; and she volunteers for her church's Bible school and special event programs.
Austin Butler, sophomore, Big Valley Christian High School
Not only has Austin maintained an "A" average in all his classes, he was the only freshman on the varsity golf team and the only freshman to start in the junior varsity basketball team. Austin is a regular part of the Love Modesto program, where he's cleaned parks, put together supply boxes for people overseas and worked at English Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Austin also volunteers at the Modesto Gospel Mission in special programs, and he recently went on a mission trip with Big Valley Grace to Mexico, where he painted churches and ministered to young children.
Austin Grant, senior, Enochs
Austin is president of the Black Student Union at Enochs High, a member of varsity basketball team, a volunteer for the Chamber of Commerce Archives program, an after-school tutor and the winner of both the Top Camp Counselor award and the Enoch's Eagles character award for integrity and compassion. He also headed up the Pencils for Liberia campaign, which collected more than 4,000 pencils for needy children in Liberia. Austin accomplished all of this after losing his most beloved aunt to cancer and finding out that his mom was diagnosed with Grave's disease.
Blaine Bockhahn, junior, Central Catholic
Blaine broke his leg this year, which severely limited his movement. But instead of letting that slow him down, Blaine worked even harder. Blaine is an honor student, a member of the Key Club and Interact, and chairman of the Shadow Program. This summer, he was also chosen as an intern for a superior court judge in Stockton. Last year, Blaine was the winner of the CCHS WE award, which is the most coveted award at Central Catholic and almost never given to a sophomore.
Blaine is a volunteer for the Ripon Rec Soccer League, the Boys and Girls Club, the CYO sports organization and St. Anthony's Church.
Brianna Plummer, senior, Enochs
Brianna has been vice president of the Black Student Union for three years. She volunteers for various community service events, including as a chef for various church events. Brianna is a violinist, a former member of her high school basketball team and a volunteer in organizing the Chamber of Commerce Archive. Brianna has had to deal with the loss of a family patriarch, her great-grandfather, who was a constant figure in her life, with tremendous influence.
Brinn Abbate, senior, Central Catholic
Brinn was always small for her age. In seventh grade, she was only 52 inches tall and weighed just 50 pounds. Brinn was cruelly bullied in school because of her small stature. But instead of cowering and hiding away, she learned to deal head-on with her bullies. And her strength and confidence have made Brinn a role model and source of inspiration. As a Senior Ministry Team member at Central Catholic, Brinn ministers to kids of all ages, helping them learn to cope with their problems. Brinn is president of the CCHS Social Justice League, secretary of the Key Club and a member of the National Honor Society of High School Scholars-Bishop Donohoe Chapter. Her honors include the American Legion Award, the 2012 College Prep English III Award and the CCHS Dance Award. Brinn, an award-winning gymnast, was named a WAC Scholar Athlete for varsity gold and cheerleading. Brinn began receiving growth hormone shots in December of 2007 and finished last May. She is now 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 96 pounds.
Cap Damrell, graduate, Modesto High School
Cap is a full International Baccalaureate student who received the prestigious IB diploma from Modesto High School. He was also 1st Team All-Conference in water polo and a league champion in swimming. He is a natural born leader who knows how to bring out the best in his teammates and classmates. Under Cap's leadership of the club Project Hope, he was instrumental in raising more than $10,000 to build a health clinic in Haiti. Cap is a member of Team Hydro, a charity for hydrocephalus, a condition his sister has. Cap was also the winner of Modesto High's prestigious Panther Award.
Cassie Aiello, senior, Central Catholic
Cassie is more interested in getting things done than getting recognized. Through her volunteer efforts, Cassie began the Cats-on-Campus program, which has addressed the large feral cat population around Central Catholic. The program catches feral cats, which are then sterilized, vaccinated and fed. Cassie's program has prevented the birth of hundreds of kittens that would otherwise have no home and no one to care for them.
She is a member of the Eco Club, vice president of the Interact Club and Associated Student Body secretary. A longtime ballet dancer, she recently has turned her efforts to rowing and has been recruited to be on the UC Berkeley crew team.
Daniel White, sophomore, Central Catholic
Daniel has worked with many service organizations, including World Relief and Adopt-a-Family on food drives that help needy families. This year, he wanted to do even more. So he flew to the Turks and Caicos Islands, where he participated in a Reading Road Trip Charity, helping first-graders learn to read. While he was there, he donated his birthday money, $200, to the local school. He gives generously every year to Oakland's Children's Hospital. Daniel was born with three kidneys, which required surgery and long hospital stays, and that experience helped Daniel realize the difference people can make in one another's lives. Daniel is an honor student, a member of the Beta Club National Honor Society, CSF, the golf team, and the CCHS Student Marketing Team.
Derek Spieker, graduate, Johansen High School
Joining the Cub Scouts at the age of 5, Derek began a journey of great service that has brought him to earn the distinguished rank of Eagle Scout. During his 12 years with Boy Scouts, he has contributed numerous hours to volunteer service. Derek also has worked with Modesto's Paint-Out Graffiti Cleaning Program and Modesto Gospel Mission distributing food to the homeless. Derek produces videos for many school programs, including teacher presentations, special-education talent shows, and the Johansen production of "Every 15 Minutes." Derek was voted most artistic by his peers. He has also been enrolled in AP classes, received three perfect scores on state STAR tests and received two Viking Character Awards.
Erik Jimenez, senior, Johansen High School
A member of a family of nine children, Erik does not view this as a hardship or obstacle, but rather as a blessing. As a member of his youth church group and the student leadership group, Erik has helped organize a blood drive at Johansen. Erik was chosen to attend Boys State camp this summer.
Haylee Osgood, freshman, Downey High School
Haylee is involved in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, attends seminary every morning and volunteers with her church in helping the community. Haylee helps children learn about dance. As a committed dancer, Haylee worked part time to pay for her dance studio tuition. Haylee has excelled in other areas such as cross country, basketball, track and field and school leadership. She is the recipient of the Young Woman Recognition Award through her church, and the recipient of the National Icon Five Year Award from two prestigious dance conventions.
Jacob Marsh, junior, Enochs
Jacob was class president during his freshman and sophomore years and now is ASB president. He stays committed to his cross country and basketball teams, as well as his speech and debate team, which elected him co-captain. All the while, Jacob continues to produce excellent academic work.