Pictured are the Top 10 students in Hollister High School’s graduating Class of 2023, based on grades and other academic factors. Photo: Courtesy of San Benito High School District

Hollister High School this week announced its top 10 students in the Class of 2023, based on grade point average and other academic factors. 

This year’s Hollister High valedictorian is Ava Thatcher, and the salutatorian is Alejandro Beltran, according to the school’s announcement. The remainder of the Top 10 seniors, in alphabetical order, are Anaceli Arredondo, Cassidy Blomquist, Isabela Fernandez, Morgan Fu, Alejandra Gonzalez, Donnobhain Haertel, Magdalena Ortiz and Kayla Salazar. 

“The academic success of these students is just part of their story,” said San Benito High School District Superintendent Dr. Shawn Tennenbaum. “The Top 10 students not only excel in the classroom, but on the athletic field, in their community and with local clubs and organizations. They are examples that every day is a great day to be a Baler!”

Ava Thatcher: Valedictorian 

Ava will attend the University of Notre Dame in the Fall and major in architecture, according to the district. Ten years from now, she said she sees herself working for a top firm as a licensed architect. 

Her most memorable accomplishment in high school has been receiving 5’s on her Advanced Placement European History and AP Spanish Literature tests. Ava says she will miss being able to see her friends every day and also being part of the track and field and field hockey teams. She would like to thank all of her teachers she has had throughout high school for always supporting her. She would also like to thank her parents who always believed in her and helped her become the person she is today. Ava said she has appreciated her education at Hollister High School and is very grateful to the teachers who were always extremely supportive and worked to give all students the best opportunities. 

Alejandro Beltran: Salutatorian 

Alejandro will attend U.C. Berkeley in the Fall and pursue a double major in computer science and chemical engineering. He said he hopes in 10 years to do something he truly is passionate about. His most memorable accomplishment during his time at Hollister High School was programming the autonomous robot during the 2022-2023 robotics season. 

Alejandro said he will miss his friends the most and would like to thank his parents for everything they have done for him. None of it, he noted, would have been possible without them. Alejandro said he valued his education at Hollister High School and believes that the exceptional staff here are who elevated his education to new heights. 

Anaceli Arredondo 

Anaceli will attend the University of Pennsylvania and major in data science. Ten years from now, she sees herself having a stable job with a flexible schedule, traveling to different countries, owning a dog, and being happy. She said her most memorable accomplishment during high school was serving others throughout her four years on campus, through tutoring as well as student leadership. All of these opportunities, she said, taught her the importance of helping our community. 

She said she will miss the people that she met at Hollister High School, including her friends and the incredible teachers that have supported her through her journey. Anaceli sends thanks to all her family, especially her parents, for always being there and teaching her that there is nothing she can’t do; her friends for always making her laugh and going to concerts with her; AVID teacher Christine Dukes and Migrant Education Program Specialist Liliana Ruiz for their support, especially this past year with her college applications. 

Anaceli said education is like a key that opens many doors to incredible opportunities.

“Education empowers individuals and is one of those things no one can take away from you,” she noted. “We don’t realize the privilege of all the support programs and opportunities offered here at high school. Hollister High School values education offering a variety of tools to reach our goals and grow as a person.”

Cassidy Blomquist 

Cassidy Blomquist will enroll at U.C. San Diego this Fall and major in human biology. In the future, she sees herself as a physician assistant and hopes to do a lot of traveling. Cassidy said she will miss seeing her friends every day and all of the people she has grown up with as she ventures off to San Diego. 

Her most memorable accomplishment during high school is staying motivated and keeping good grades while having a job and playing sports. She is also proud of being among her class’s top 10 for all four years of high school. 

Cassidy would like to thank her friends and parents for always supporting her and pushing her to always do her best. She said that at Hollister High School, the value of the education she received is based on the effort she put into it, and she is very proud of all her accomplishments. 

Isabela Fernandez 

Isabela Fernandez will attend Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, and major in computer science and mathematics. Ten years from now, she hopes to be venturing into the data science field and having a stable job working for a tech company. 

Isabela said she will miss the friendships she has made at Hollister High School, as she has found people here to be “really genuine and remarkable.” Some of Isabela’s most memorable accomplishments at Hollister High are participating with the migrant speech and debate team and winning first place. 

She would like to thank her friends who have endlessly supported her and her family who have pushed her forward in her endeavors. She would also like to thank her teachers who have not only taught her subjects ranging from physics to Spanish but also to believe in herself. 

On her path toward being a first-generation college student, Isabela has always highly valued education. She said Hollister High School has had the resources and staff that have deepened her love for education and allowed her to reach her goal of obtaining a higher education. 

Morgan Fu 

Ten years from now, Morgan Fu sees herself graduating with her master’s degree and being a woman in STEM as a data scientist or product manager at a big tech company. This Fall, she will attend UCLA and major in data theory. 

Morgan’s most memorable accomplishment in high school was becoming president and lieutenant governor for Key Club and helping to spread community service and leadership. She said she values the education she has received at Hollister High School and treasures how the school has taught her to take advantage of all the amazing opportunities made available to her. She has also learned that all the hard work has paid off. 

Next year, Morgan said, she will miss the many student organizations in which she was involved, including Key Club and the Asian American Alliance Club. She was part of Key Club for all four years of high school and helped co-found the Asian American Alliance Club. 

Morgan expresses her gratitude to math teacher Dan Quinn, who was always willing to help in AP Statistics class, and she noted that she will definitely miss his sense of humor. She would also like to thank her parents for supporting her in all of her endeavors. 

Alejandra Gonzalez 

Alejandra will attend Rice University in Houston, Texas and major in civil engineering. She said she hopes to have a stable job 10 years from now, allowing her to own a home and travel a lot. She hopes by then she will have already visited Spain or Italy. 

She said she will miss all the support from her teachers and staff at Hollister High, and hopes she will be able to find the same support system in college. 

Her most memorable accomplishment during her time at Hollister High School has been joining the small percentage of Hispanic women pursuing a degree in STEM, she added. Throughout her years on campus, she has met multiple teachers who want to support their students in any way possible and are willing to go above and beyond. 

“It is evident that these teachers truly want to see their students succeed,” she said. “Most of these teachers love what they do and it’s not simply a job for them!” 

Alejandra specifically thanked AVID teacher Charlene Hernandez for always supporting her. She also thanked AVID teacher Christine Dukes and Liliana Ruiz for helping her throughout her college application process. If it wasn’t for Mrs. Dukes, Alejandra said she doesn’t think she would have had the privilege to attend a university like Rice. She also thanked her mom for all her hard work that has helped Alejandra get to where she is today. 

Donnobhain Haertel 

Donnobhain Haertel will attend UCLA and major in math applied science with a minor in statistics. 

Ten years from now, Donnobhain sees himself becoming the general manager of a major league baseball team. 

His most memorable accomplishment during high school is having the ability to play sports that he loves while also maintaining a spot in the top 10 of his class. Donnobhain will miss his friends and the experiences he was able to have while at Hollister High School. 

He would like to thank his mom and dad for everything they’ve sacrificed and provided to him, and he thanked his teachers, coaches, and close friends who all have been a part of his success in some way. He specifically thanked Jaden and Nathan, who’ve been there with him since before elementary school. 

Donnobhain said that education at Hollister High School has always been student-first, and the school has made it feel like his needs were met and supported. 

Magdalena Ortiz 

Magdalena will attend Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo and major in general engineering. 

Ten years from now, she hopes to be working in a career that makes her very happy. Her most memorable accomplishment during high school is receiving a 5.0 GPA her senior year while working two jobs. 

Magdalena thanks her parents for everything they have done for her in and out of school. She also thanks her sister for always lending her a hand if she ever was struggling in a class her sister had taken. 

Kayla Salazar 

Kayla Salazar will attend UCLA in the fall as a history major on a pre-law track. Ten years from now, Kayla hopes to have finished law school and be working as an attorney in California. 

She also pictures herself creating her own nonprofit to teach kids public speaking skills. She said she will miss the amazing clubs and organizations in which she has been involved, including Speech and Debate and Asian American Alliance. 

Kayla also will especially miss “bugging” her club advisors, Rick and Christine Dukes. 

Kayla’s most memorable accomplishment has been leading after-school programs at local elementary, middle and high schools for the nonprofit Girls Inc. and being able to make a difference in dozens of young girls’ lives. 

She said she is extremely grateful for club advisors Rick and Christine Dukes and how they pushed her to be the best version of herself. She also thanks English teacher Josh Radon and will miss chatting with him about literature. 

Graduation ceremony

Hollister High School’s Class of 2023 graduation ceremony will take place 8:30am June 9 at the multi-purpose field at the school campus. Gates will open at 7:15am. Admission is by ticket only. No more tickets were available as of June 6. For more information, visit the high school’s website at https://tinyurl.com/544nnhca

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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