Cardozo Middle School (CMS) Class of 2020 Valedictorians, Scarlett Freshwater, Katerine Tigert, and Selene Navarro Carrillo had grade point averages (GPA) above 4.0 in honor courses all 12 quarters. Salutatorian Ramon Toribio-Torres had a 4.0 GPA. Normally, these students would have given a speech at their Promotion Ceremony and be honored for their hard work, however they did not have that opportunity, as there was nothing normal about the end of the 2019-20 school year. All four students – as well as being tops in their class – were chosen by a teacher for a CARE night award.
“I think one of my biggest highlights was receiving the CARE night award from my English teacher Ms. Chudoba,” said Tigert. “I got it for academic excellence.”
Tigert enjoyed all her classes at CMS but this past year Leadership class was her favorite class where they planned dances, rallies and other campus events. During her three years at CMS she was part of the drama club and the robotics club.
“Kate is a sweetheart,” said eighth grade English teacher Maggie Chudoba. “She’s genuinely kind. She was also always willing to help out a classmate.”
She plans on attending RHS and cheerleading.
“It (valedictorian honor) feels really good,” added Tigert. “It is extremely rewarding.”
Freshwater had A’s throughout her middle school career and really enjoyed math all three years as it is also her favorite subject. She participated in extracurricular activities including drama for two years and music playing the flute that she began in fifth grade.
“Scarlett has demonstrated the highest level of integrity and maturity in her character, education, and care for those around her,” expressed science teacher Dawn Thurmond. “Having had the honor and privilege of working side by side with Scarlett in our scientific endeavors over the course of the past couple years, I have been blessed with both witnessing and experiencing Scarlett’s positive influence in every area regarding respect, responsibility, and encouraging others to achieve their absolute best. Knowing Scarlett as a student brings a sincere level of hope for our future.”
She will be heading off to Enochs High School and is looking forward to participating in their swimming program.
“I love Scarlett’s creativity and self-confidence,” added Chudoba. “When I would call her to read, I would ask her to read it in a British accent, and she wouldn't hesitate to do so.”
For Carrillo, the Valedictorian honor was an exciting achievement.
“It made me pretty happy so now I know the efforts I put in my classes and classwork it actually did something,” stated Carrillo.
Through her middle school career, Carrillo has exceeded the state standards in English and Math which has been a highlight for her. For her eighth grade year they offered a Mandarin class that she opted to take as an elective and she engaged in several clubs along with sports like basketball, softball and track.
“I have had Selene in my band classes for the last three years,” added band teacher David Howard. “Selene does not brag about herself or seek to build herself up. She does what she is asked to do and does it well. Several times this past year Selene was in the band room after school with friends playing through our music we were working on in band class. Always friendly and upbeat, Selene is one of many bright spots in the music department at Cardozo Middle School.”
Carrillo plans on attending RHS.
“Selene kept me on my toes,” said Chudoba. “She’s so intelligent that it’s a bit intimidating. Selene also had great insight. She would read a story and think of things no one else would think of.”
The COVID-19 pandemic not only cut their school year short but it also affected how students learned. These four Cardozo Eagles managed to adjust to the changes and still keep their grades up even if it caused a few challenges.
“It would be pretty difficult for schools to open up while this is happening,” said Freshwater regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. “So I think it was smart that they had everyone stay home and I am looking forward to seeing how schools adapt to this new situation.”
“It has been a little challenging for me because I feel that I am more productive in a classroom,” explained Tigert. “But I am extremely lucky my teachers made it very easy for us to work independently.”
Carrillo explained that there were a few challenges with learning from home like not being able to ask teachers questions or the ability to see the examples of how the work was supposed to be made it a bit difficult but with help from her sisters she was able to get through it.
CMS staff did not want to end the school year without any type of celebration so they organized an outdoor parade of sorts to spotlight their students that are promoting to high school. This was a festive and well received celebration.
“Cardozo did this parade kind of thing which was really smart and cool idea that they came up with and I feel it was very heartwarming,” stated Freshwater.
“It is a little sad,” expressed Tigert about not having a Promotion ceremony. “I was definitely looking forward to it but I love how they did a drive by promotion because it made me feel special.”
“It is upsetting of course because it was something that you waited for all three years but there is still high school so I am looking forward to that,” added Carrillo. “I did like how every single year they implemented new things for our safety and for students to be more involved like the Eagle Café, the PBIS shop, the lanyards, and the cameras.”
Reminiscing about a couple different presentations that were highlights at CMS, Torres spent most of his time focused on his classes all three years. When asked how he feels about receiving the Salutatorian honor he said, “It feels really good knowing that all my hard work paid off.”
“Ramon is a neat kid who I think got lost in the midst of these strong young ladies,” said Chudoba. “He took great care in his work and always gave 100 percent with everything he did.”
His favorite subject through middle school was math and he plans on attending Riverbank High School.
“Ramon is one of the finest students I’ve ever had,” said math teacher Kevin Smith. “His work ethic and skill level are off the charts. He is always willing to help others. I am honored to have crossed paths with such a talent. Riverbank should be proud of Ramon.”
The Valedictorians left some final messages to their fellow students.
“If you work hard enough just get yourself on time and do your work and pay attention in class then you really can get good grades,” said Freshwater.
“Keep trying and always do your best and push through everything,” said Tigert. “I will definitely miss Cardozo. It was a very good experience for me.”
This past year Carrillo has seen several friends that have struggled with their grades in the past really step it up in eighth grade and she is really proud of that. So to all the students she stated to “keep working hard.”
“Overall, these four individuals are exceptional scholars,” stated Chudoba. “They will go far in life and will make some positive changes to their community and to the world.”