The organization — which supports the state’s educational leaders — gave Every Student Succeeding awards to Eric Chaverri of West High School, Heidi Vasquez of Stein High School and Ivan Blanco-Martinez of Wicklund Elementary School.
Eight other students were also celebrated during a breakfast at the San Joaquin County Office of Education building.
The award recognizes personal achievement by students who have faced extreme adversity in their lives.
One of the 11 students will be selected at a later date to represent ACSA’s Region 7 at a similar statewide event, with the statewide winner earning a scholarship for school.
Region 7 includes San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Amador, Calaveras and Tuolomne counties.
Mick Founts, superintendent of schools for San Joaquin County, said every student who received a plaque on Wednesday had an “amazing” story of resiliency, with many of them being “real tear-jerkers.”
“You hear so often that kids don’t care about school and they don’t want to learn,” Founts said. “It makes you look at the bright side of education.”
The 17-year-old senior has battled leukemia since he was diagnosed in 2009, weeks after he began to play football for West High.
According to San Joaquin ACSA President-elect Khushwinder Gill, who introduced Chaverri, the West High student has “flat-lined multiple times” during his battle against the cancer that attacks bone marrow and blood cells.
Despite undergoing monthly treatment, Chaverri “always makes up his work,” said Gill, who is also the Lammersville Unified School District assistant superintendent.
Chaverri has faced other challenges, Gill said. His father died from drug use
when Chaverri was young, and his mother lost her job while caring for Chaverri during his cancer fight.
But the senior has his mind set firmly on the future and said he wants to attend a junior college for two years before trying to get into an Ivy League university.
“If I ever think of giving up, I think of kids who can’t do it, physically and mentally,” he said after the awards ceremony. “I do it for them, not just for me.”
Vasquez was sent to Stein High, Gill said during her introduction, because she “had lost faith in the school system and wanted to cut (class) all the time.”
But when the 17-year-old got involved in an art class at the credit-recovery school, everything changed.
Vasquez said she had always liked to draw, but the encouragement of teacher Roger Casillas and the availability of new materials sparked something in her.
“It was the first time I did painting, that I did mosaics,” she said. “When I started doing art, I decided to do it as a career. It’s not something I had to do — it was something I wanted to do.”
Some of her works, three of which were on display at the breakfast, have been nominated for a countywide art show at the Haggin Museum in Stockton and the Tracy Unified School District art show.
She plans to attend Long Beach Community College to study art after graduating Stein High.
The youngest award-winner at Wednesday’s breakfast has made “tremendous strides” to overcome a difficult childhood and home situation, according to Sierra High School Vice Principal and ASCA officer Greg Leland, who introduced him.
Ivan, a 14-year-old seventh-grader at Wicklund School in Mountain House, used to get in trouble often at school, Leland said. But he now receives top marks and is known as someone who “motivates others to do better.”
Wicklund Principal Chantell Tarver said Ivan is “used to being let down,” since he was separated from his parents at a young age. He gained needed stability when he moved in with the family of one of his closest friends.
She said Ivan has become more thoughtful and careful with his decision-making.
“I’ve been at Wicklund three years, and I’ve seen the changes with him, and it’s amazing,” Tarver said. “A child, you don’t expect them to be as resilient, but Ivan’s showing that they are.”
• Contact Jon Mendelson at 830-4231 or firstname.lastname@example.org.