Colton Joint Unified School District celebrates Valedictorians and Salutatorians

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Photo CJUSD: Class of 2020 Valedictorians and Salutatorians pictured left to right - top row: Benjamin Walton, Alicia Ayala, Adan Gutierrez, Alejandra Vargas; bottom row: Christopher Briceño, Shumaf Kalut Lukman, and Judith Truitt.
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During this time of school closures, graduations have looked very different for all school districts, including Colton Joint Unified School District. CJUSD has worked hard to honor our graduates even at this difficult time through activities including drive-thru graduation ceremonies, congratulatory signs placed in graduates’ yards, a billboard honoring the Class of 2020, individual congratulatory ads on social media for every graduate who chose to participate and more.

CJUSD also wants to highlight our valedictorians and salutatorians for the Class of 2020.  Let us introduce you to these outstanding young men and women who completed their high school careers at the top of their class.

Bloomington High School:

Benjamin Walton — Valedictorian

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Valedictorian Benjamin Walton, one of two valedictorians at Bloomington High School, has earned a GPA of 4.65. He will attend UC San Diego in the fall, majoring in aerospace engineering.

“I plan to work in the industry as an engineer and hopefully lead a team one day,” he said.

Benjamin has proven his scientific ability already as a gold medal winner in the SIMS Science and Engineering Fair as well as a recipient of the prestigious Professional Engineers in California Government Award.

Benjamin has completed his entire K-12 education in CJUSD schools and attended Cooley Ranch Elementary, Ruth O. Harris Middle School and Bloomington High School.  Benjamin said he always will remember the kindness and support shown by his teachers and friendships he has made.

“I will not only remember the combination of helpful and supportive staff, but also the late nights working on the Science Fair with my friends or hours spent in Robotics. I would like to thank everyone that made this day possible, I could not have done it alone.”

For his fellow Class of 2020 graduates, Benjamin offered this advice:  “In the words of a great band, ‘don’t be surprised when a crack in the ice appears under your feet.’ (Pink Floyd – “The Thin Ice”). COVID-19 has appeared as a crack in the thin ice under our feet. Though we may fall in and struggle to breathe, the foundation will solidify again. When it does, we will work together to build a stronger structure than before. These times have already initiated change in our relationships. I hope we can take what we’ve learned so that in times of struggle, everyone will have someone to be there to get and give a hug, lend a hand, and stand together on solid ground.”

Alicia Ayala – Valedictorian

Bloomington High’s second Valedictorian Alicia Ayala has achieved a GPA of 4.65. She is headed to UC Santa Barbara this fall where she will study biology on a pre-med track. Alicia has earned perfect attendance for all four years of high school as well as Aces (straight A’s) honors for four years. She also has earned the California Seal of Biliteracy (Spanish).

Alicia said she is most grateful for her educational experience.

“I will always remember the teachers who saw the potential in me, and encouraged me to do better. I am forever thankful for the education I was able to receive,” she said.

She offers these words for her fellow graduates:  “Life is what you make it out to be, and doing what makes you happy is the most important thing in life. Always be kind to one another, and remember that everyone’s time is different. Have faith in God, and trust the process.”

Adan Gutierrez – Salutatorian

Bloomington High School Salutatorian Adan Gutierrez graduated with a GPA of 4.6. He enjoys computer coding and programming; skills he will use as he begins a Computer Science major at UC Riverside in the fall.

Adan has fond memories of his K-12 career and said, “From K-12 I will always remember the good times I had with my friends, teachers, and family; memories of simpler days when the weight of adulthood was no more than dreams and intangible responsibilities. Furthermore, it showed me the importance of a little leisure, even in the most strict or pressured of schedules.”

He shared this advice for his fellow members of the Class of 2020: “Today is the beginning of tomorrow. Crises will come and go, as will great successes, but new challenges and fortunes arise as quickly as old ones fall. Do not be afraid, not care-free nor reclusive, of the next chapters of life.”

Colton High School:

Alejandra Vargas – Valedictorian

Colton High School Valedictorian Alejandra Vargas earned a GPA of 4.725 and plans to attend UCLA in the fall. After earning a Bachelor’s degree, Alejandra will enroll in medical school to pursue a career as an anesthesiologist.

Alejandra is a finalist for a Hispanic Scholarship Fund scholarship (a highly-competitive national scholarship program).

In high school, she enjoyed participating in track and her science classes.

“I stayed up very late trying to understand a concept. I spent three hours a day in calculus AB and BC, and I loved every second of it. I also enjoyed all my time in the STEM classes like chemistry and physics,” she said. “Through the good and the bad I learned to never give up. Despite feeling hopeless, I learned to not lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel and persevere.”

Alejandra offered this advice to her fellow Class of 2020 grads:

“I hope we can continue to look forward especially in these tough times. Despite the challenges, never give up!”

Cristopher Briseño García – Salutatorian

Colton High School Salutatorian Cristopher Briseño García graduated with a GPA of 4.4889. He will attend San Bernardino Valley College in the fall. He plans to study cell/molecular and developmental biology and pursue MD and Ph.D. degrees and hopes to become a neurosurgeon.

Cristopher has earned numerous honors and awards during his high school career. He is an AP Scholar with Distinction; was a member of the Honor Guard; and has earned the California Seal of Biliteracy.

Cristopher said he is most grateful to his teachers.

“I’ve learned a lot from all my teachers, all whom I consider to be mentors,” he said. “They’ve not only taught me academic lessons but life lessons as well. I will be forever grateful for everything they’ve done.”

His advice to the Class of 2020: “My advice is to not allow the noise you hear around you to affect you. Success comes from accepting yourself and being passionate in your everyday life.” He also shared this quote from theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking: “However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”

Grand Terrace High School:

Shumaf Kalut Lukman – Valedictorian

Grand Terrace High School Valedictorian Shumaf Kalut Lukman has a 5.0 GPA and will pursue a degree in biology at UCLA. He also is interested in pursuing a career in entertainment.

While at GTHS, Shumaf earned the Principal’s Honor Roll and Aces (straight A’s) awards each year. Last year, he earned a perfect score on the English section of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP).

Shumaf said he will always remember his teachers. He wasn’t too fond of waking up early every day, but said, “The only reason I would wake up at those times for school was because it truly is one of the most important things in this world, and I’m thankful to have it be provided.”

His advice for fellow members of the Class of 2020: “Always stay strong mentally and morally and never get caught up in the midst of small things. As I know from experience, this is easier said than done and is one of the most difficult things to develop. Being able to support yourself and tell yourself that everything will be fine and then truly feel fine is a trait not many people have in this world, which is something I find upsetting. However, this doesn’t mean to bottle yourself up thinking you’re fine when in reality you are not. Be true to yourself and how you feel, and find someone to talk to when the going gets tough.”

Salutatorian – Judith Truitt

Grand Terrace High School Salutatorian Judith Truitt. Judith has achieved a GPA of 4.8. After graduation, she plans to serve in the United States Air Force.

Judith has earned a number of awards during her time at GTHS, including: Perfect Attendance, the Titan Award for Wrestling, and Principal’s Honor Roll.

Thinking of her K-12 experience, Judith said she is grateful for being taught reading, writing, developing ideas, and analysis.

“These gifts are essential and will be viable for years to come,” she said.

She shared these thoughts for her fellow graduates: “I wish for everyone in the graduating class of 2020 the ability to discern and capture their purpose. I would like to share an idea that although you may not be able to do everything, you are able to do something. The ending months of our senior year were unexpected. We assumed we would be given the regular graduation and senior experiences of the past years, yet it is not so. This has served to me as a reminder of gratitude for the many things that have gone right or as planned. I wish the best for all of my fellow’s futures- whether you stay local or venture far.”

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