Golden Valley homecoming royalty candidates chosen for character, not popularity

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comSeptember 25, 2013 

— Homecoming is a big deal at Merced’s Golden Valley High School. It includes dress-up contests and games at lunchtime all this week, culminating with the second annual parade Friday afternoon in downtown Merced.

What’s different in this year’s celebration is how homecoming king and queen candidates were chosen.

“We used teachers’ Character Counts nominations for the months of August and September to create our initial ballot,” said Austin Worden, activities director. “I am very excited and proud of the fact that all of our homecoming court representatives are students who demonstrate excellent character on campus.”

There are nearly two dozen entries in the homecoming parade, which begins at 4p.m. Friday at Main Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way and runs along Main past Bob Hart Square between M and Canal streets. Even the alumni have a float this year.

Worden said some of the students have been working on their floats for a couple of weeks. There are parade themes based on Pixar animated movies. Lunchtime attire contests have included tropical outfits, most-mismatched ensembles and western wear.

The parade is a precursor to the annual class dances and skits during halftime of the GV football game against McNair of Stockton where the homecoming king and queen will be crowned.

There is more student involvement this year in extracurricular activities. While some students seem to be holding back, Worden thinks they secretly want to participate.

Associate Principal Julie Rivard said she is very proud of the school’s leadership class, which she says has worked extremely hard to make this homecoming a success.

“I think it is a testament to the character of the entire school that our homecoming court students model the Character Counts traits of responsibility, respect, trustworthiness, caring, fairness and citizenship,” Rivard said.

Principal Constantino Aguilar said GV students demonstrate extraordinary character every day.

“And what is exciting is seeing how students are creating a culture of acceptance and valuing students’ strengths,” Aguilar said.

Mariah Jackson, 18, is a Senior Queen candidate.

“So far this has been a great experience and I appreciate I was nominated by a teacher for Character Counts and not just by a simple popularity contest,” Jackson said.

Ellen Kelly, 17, also a queen candidate, said she is honored to be a part of the contest. Kristen “Kiki” McNamara has a similar outlook.

“This selection process has made the meaning of homecoming and the person who wins the crown that much more significant,” McNamara said.

Andrew Flores, 17, is a Senior King candidate and is excited he will be seen by his peers in a tuxedo. Marquese Jackson, 17, thanks his teachers for nominating him and said the experience has been great.

“It’s an honor to be nominated as a homecoming king candidate because it shows that demonstrating good character on campus goes a long way,” Jorge Manzo, 17, said. “This is also one of those high school memories that will last for a very long time.”

Annette Brown, district coordinator for Character Counts, said it is exciting to see good character become part of homecoming tradition.

“Our hope is that by honoring students for their character (and their good choices) we will help them to understand how their character makes a difference and influences their success,” Brown said.

Jamie Dyra, teacher-librarian, said Golden Valley is the first campus in the high school district to overtly connect Character Counts and campus traditions.

“That makes me really excited for our school’s culture,” Dyra said.

Sun-Star staff writer Doane Yawger can be reached at (209)385-2407 or

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