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Bruins Celebrate Trio Of 2020 Class Leaders
Val-Diane Riverbank High School Valedictorian Diane Mabel Murillo was surprised when RHS staff stopped by to deliver her awards. Photo Contributed

The 2019-20 school year has been anything but normal for all students that have had to go from learning in the classroom to learning at home. Normally the Valedictorian and the Salutatorian would give the Class of 2020 a speech during the graduation ceremony. As there were no formal graduation ceremonies as of yet there were also no speeches to be given. The News caught up with the 2020 class leaders prior to the end of the school year and received a few thoughts from them.

RHS Valedictorian Diane Mabel Murillo had a 4.09 GPA and was surprised by Senior Counselor Maritza Alvarez, the Campus Monitor, and RHS Principal Greg Diaz at her home with a balloon and banner for her accomplishment. Although she was caught off guard her parents and two sisters knew all about it as she was at home preparing for her AP econ exam.

“I am happy to have been able to accomplish this, and I felt very flattered that Ms. Alvarez (counselor), Mr. Diaz (principal), Rick (campus monitor) and Ashley (school nurse) surprised me at my home to give me the news,” said Murillo. “My most memorable moments were any time I was at anything relating to cross country my 10th grade year.”

Her favorite subject was math and through her high school career she enjoyed track, basketball, PHAST club, National Honor Society, CSF, and link crew.

“I was okay with them since all the teachers were very patient and willing to help us through this process,” stated Murillo about the changes due to the pandemic.

She will be attending UC Davis and the message she has for her fellow students is “good luck.”

There were two Salutatorians that both had a GPA of 4.07: Juan Carlos Vigil and Brian Camacho Penaloza.

Vigil was also surprised by RHS staff while he was studying for his AP exam and his parents and sister were there to witness him receive the Salutatorian award and Block R Award.

“Holding this honor feels good since it recognizes the hard work that I have dedicated to school all these years,” said Vigil. “Holding this honor has shown me who has supported me and seeing how proud they are makes me happy.”

Ever since he was a kid Vigil’s favorite subject has been math as he explained that it was easy for him to understand and he enjoyed finding ways to solve the problems. All four years of his high school career he played soccer. He also participated in tennis, cross country, Hispanic Youth Leadership Council Club, National Honor Society, CSF, and MJC’s TRIO Upward Bound Program.

“My most memorable moment in high school was making shirts for senior sunrise with friends,” he added.

Vigil plans to attend UC Merced and obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering.

“I wasn’t too happy with the changes since it took time away that I was able to spend with friends before moving on,” expressed Vigil regarding the effects of the pandemic. “Not being able to walk the stage with life-long friends and with friends I have met along the way is one thing I wish that didn’t change.”

His message to his classmates is “to always chase their goals and things may get difficult at times but nothing is impossible. I want my classmates to know that I wish them all the best in the future.”

Penaloza was not home for RHS staff to surprise him but they did catch up with him during the last week of school.

“I feel extremely honored in being salutatorian because I believe I am not the average scholar: I am a terrible procrastinator, hate reading, worked for most of my high school career, and yet managed to pull through and achieve this great honor,” stated Penaloza. “My most memorable moment in high school was getting disciplined for not speaking in a class. Even though I followed along, studied at home, participated, and was not defiant, my action of not speaking caused an uproar that I will remember for a long time.”

His favorite subject was science as questions were encouraged and there were different ways to learn. Although he did not partake in too many extracurricular activities during his high school career he did enjoy being part of the Hispanic Youth Leadership Council (HYLC) Club and volunteering at Doctors Medical Center.

“I respect the changes that we had to undergo to keep us safe during the pandemic,” explained Penaloza. “Even though there was no graduation ceremony for the class of 2020, personally, the memories and time I spent as a high school student are enough to make up for the absence of the ceremony.”

Now that high school is over Penaloza plans to attend UC Davis to pursue a career in the medical field.

To his fellow students Penaloza says, “We are the class that made history, let’s not take that for granted.”

Salutatorian Brian Camacho Penaloza and Senior Counselor Maritza Alvarez are shown taking a photo op during the RHS grad day on campus a few weeks ago. Photo Contributed
RHS staff surprised Salutatorian Juan Vigil at his home to celebrate his accomplishments. Photo Contributed