Transitioning from junior high to high school can be a trial, even in the best of circumstances. For students at Mountain Vista School in Oracle it can be even harder with classmates and friends heading to two different schools: Canyon del Oro or San Manuel High School.
This year’s promoting class of 2020 has faced a year like no other in the history of Mountain Vista School.
The traditional school year ended and everyone found new ways to adjust and try to keep the school spirit going.
For the first time, Oracle students didn’t have the traditional promotion ceremony. Teachers, family and friends tried to make it special for students with parades and special signs planted in each of the promoting students’ yards.
For two young ladies, it meant that they weren’t able to give their speeches to classmates, teachers, family and friends. Over the past several years, Mountain Vista has recognized the top two students as valedictorian and salutatorian of their class. This year Avery Jennings and Mariah Villalba have been named valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, for their class.
Avery Jennings is the daughter of Robert and Andrea Jennings. She has three siblings, Ashley, Angel and Aiden.
Avery has been very active at Mountain Vista School. She played volleyball and basketball and was involved in cheerleading. She is also a member of the National Junior Honor Society.
She plans to attend high school at CDO in the fall and is really undecided about any future career plans. She is looking forward to meeting many new people in the next phase of her life and in 10 years, she sees herself in college.
Mariah Nicole Villalba is the daughter of Scott Waltermire and Stephanie Gutierrez. She is the granddaughter of Luis and Edilia Gutierrez, Fred and Rose Molina, and Domingo and Maria Vega. She has four siblings, Joshua, Joseph, Jordan and Anastacia.
Mariah, too, was very involved in sports in junior high. She ran track and cross country, played club and school softball, basketball and volleyball. She is a member of the National Junior Honor Society and was on Student Council.
She plans to attend high school at CDO and wants to be an orthodontist. In 10 years, she sees herself in college realizing her dream of becoming an orthodontist.
COVID-19 changed their end of year plans. Both girls believe that this pandemic will bring out the best in their classmates.
“My promoting class will show people our strengths and to always stay positive through rough times,” Mariah told the Miner. “There will always be obstacles in life but it is how you get through them that matters.”
“I think that we will all make the best out of the worst situations,” she said.
Both girls will miss their favorite teachers.
“I am going to miss all of the teachers and the fun memories I have made with everyone,” Avery said.
“I’m going to miss most about Mountain Vista is the teachers and the short drive there,” Mariah said.
There are also things they WON’T miss about junior high school.
“I am not going to miss is the size of the school and the lunches they serve,” Mariah said.
For Avery, she said, “I will not miss our half days. They made the day seem so much longer.”
Both girls have a vision for their community.
Looking forward 10 years, Avery said she’d like to see the school be updated and the sports fields be improved.
Mariah would like the community to retain its small town atmosphere and attitude.
“In the next 10 years I hope to see people value our community and lives the way they used to,” she explained. “My family is here so this will always be my home.”
The future is bright for these two new high school students and their experiences with COVID-19 has taught them flexibility, patience and understanding – all critical skills for navigating lives challenges.
Editor’s note: Copper Area News – San Manuel Miner congratulates Avery and Mariah and their families for this top academic accomplishment. Due to COVID-19 interviews were conducted remotely via email written replies.