Despite suffering through a family tragedy, Emily Olsen receives good grades, has starred in the leading role of school musicals, serves as the president of her drama club and was even recently accepted into Brigham Young University — all shining examples of why the Hughson High School student is set to be honored during next week’s Every Student Succeeding program.
For the 15th consecutive year, the Association of California School Administrators’ Stanislaus Chapter and the Stanislaus County Office of Education will host the annual breakfast recognition ceremony that honors students who have succeeded despite challenges. The event celebrates students like Olsen, who have exceeded expectations and won the hearts of teachers and staff through their hard work and determination.
“Here, in Emily, is the brightness of hope shining through the darkest of days,” Olsen’s choir and drama teacher, Bradley Thompson, wrote when nominating her for the recognition. “The choices she has made have refined her into a positive, beautiful young woman that is resilient, can see the needs of others, can sacrifice for the needs of others, can lift others and can lead others through example.”
Shortly after moving to the area her sophomore year, Olsen’s aunt was murdered by her husband, leaving Olsen’s three cousins without a mother and with a father in prison. After some deliberation and trying times, the family decided to take the three children into their home. It was a time filled with grief, but two years later, the three children are learning to trust in love again thanks to the compassion of their family — and Emily.
“As I have asked her from time to time how things were going, she has always admitted the difficulty, but has never chosen to complain,” Thompson wrote. “The name of this award is every child succeeding…well, Emily needs an award for helping every child succeed. She is living it.”
Olsen is one of 24 other local students set to be honored at the event, which will take place at 7 a.m. March 10 at the Martin G. Petersen Event Center in Modesto. Also set to be honored are Turlock Unified School District students Charleston “Cash” Goeppert (Julien Elementary School), Bryant Heard (Turlock Junior High School) and Brianna Snow (Turlock High School); Spratling Middle School student Isaac Vega; Fusion Charter student Alexis Villalobos and Hart-Ransom Academic Charter student Timber Willmarth.
Goeppert has thrived academically at Julien despite his spinal muscular atrophy diagnosis, participating with his class in lessons via a VGo robot and working with other students on collaborative projects. He is well-liked by his peers, and when he was able to physically come to school to receive an academic achievement award in November, they were ecstatic to meet him in person.
At TJHS, Heard displays grit and determination in everything he does. He’s a quiet and reserved student who gets good grades, always showing compassion toward his classmates even though he’s gone through difficult times. Since coming to Turlock after moving a lot as a child, Heard has excelled as both an athlete and a pupil.
“Bryant is an example of perseverance that should be revered and shared,” Heard’s English teacher said.
Snow, a senior at THS, will be attending a four-year university in the fall after working to support herself since age 16. She’s incredibly active in the high school’s extracurricular activities, like Relay for Life and FFA, and overcame the obstacles of growing up in foster care to succeed in school.
“Brianna is a hard-working student who excels in my class. She has a great personality and is the type of student who makes teaching fun,” one of Snow’s teachers shared in her nomination. “I have no doubt she will be successful in life because she possesses the necessary characteristics to do so.”
Tickets to the Every Student Succeeding program are $15 and attendees must register and purchase them in advance by calling 209-238-1706. At the end of the program, one student will be selected as the regional nominee and receive a $500 scholarship.