Three years of memories, admiration

Student of the Year – Valeria Castillo Gonzalez

Valeria made an impact on the staff that nominated her.

Valeria made an impact on the staff that nominated her.

Leila Harper, Beyond the Gates editor

“I found out I was Student of the Year through a Google Meet with our Principal, Ms. Smith and Mr. Burzynski. In the beginning of the Meet, I was a little nervous because I did not know what the meeting was about, but as soon as they told me, my first thought was ‘there’s no way!’ I genuinely could not believe that among so many incredible, outstanding nominees, I was the chosen one. I felt extremely honored and grateful.”

Valeria Castillo Gonzalez is a senior who has been attending Armijo for three years and is graduating on June 9. She has been accepted to UC Davis and plans to major in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Human Behavior in the fall, later enrolling in an accelerated nursing program to get her license master’s. She enjoys reading, watching Netflix shows, hiking, and exploring new places in her free time. When she isn’t running all the school’s extracurricular activities, that is.

For all three years at Armijo, Castillo has been an active member of the student body. This year, she is the Vice President of the Armijo Student Body Panel. Being a part of Leadership and several different clubs, she has had an influential part in many school events over the years. She participated in Skate for Change, College and Career Club, French Club, and Garden Club. In her sophomore year, Castillo was one of the first students to contribute to the creation of Armijo’s garden. “I had class with Mrs. Herrera for my sophomore year and she had this great vision for a garden so we got to work and now we have it!” she said. “It was a great experience for me and some of my friends.”

While Castillo loves the outdoors, and has tried a few sports here and there – even trying out badminton for a while in her junior year, sports have never really been her forte. “Although I wish I could’ve tried harder [in sports], I’ve involved myself with leadership and other clubs. You could say I’ve grown in other areas,” she said. The feeling of community that comes with collaborating with people in order to accomplish a common goal, for her, is unmatched.

When asked about her favorite memory from Armijo, she couldn’t choose just one. Homecoming Week of 2019, though, was her first answer. “We had so much fun going to the football games and finding out winners of the HoCo court!” she said. The Community Holiday Event organized by Leadership, including Leadership Holiday and the Banquet, was also a fond memory. “I feel like I have so many memories and so many many things I’m going to miss. But for now, I’ll keep those as the best memories I have.”

Her advice for any newcomers to high school was simple: Get involved “either with clubs, sports, different programs like leadership and multimedia, etc. The best way to meet new people and adapt is by doing this,” she said. “Also, please be yourself, there’s no one else you have to be but the best version of yourself every day. Have respect for the person you see in the mirror! And try to enjoy the little things.”

Castillo’s own role models are her sisters Jessica and Daniela, who is currently a junior at Armijo, and her parents. “They all are great and caring people who take challenges and advantage of opportunities to grow and be better every day.”

“The one thing I feel like I am going to miss the most is spending time in AG-5 after school, either organizing events for our school or just hanging out with my friends,” she said. “I’m a very sentimental person, so I feel like I’m going to miss everything in general, from the hallways to our Custodian Steve giving us the good mornings, and from the sound of the bell ringing to all of my teachers welcoming me to class.”

Moving on from high school after having dedicated so much to countless passion projects is a complicated transition. The freedom and accomplishment that comes from such an influential ending is a recipe for sentiment. No matter how much strife the years have put you through, the work you’ve put in is something to be proud of. “Everything that I’ve learned, everything I’ve done, all the people that I got the chance to meet, all the memories I’ve created will be cherished forever,” Castillo said. ”Armijo will always have a special place in my heart. I will miss my friends the most, and those afternoons in AG-5 that we spent together working or just hanging out, being able to build those connections while being productive will always be one of the best highlights of my high school experience.”

Valeria Castillo Gonzalez is Class of 2021’s Student of the Year. She has worked hard to get here and she will continue to do great things both in and outside the classroom.

The livestream of the virtual School Board Meeting where Valeria accepted her award (May 13, 2021) is linked here. Her speech lasts from 15:05 – 18:26.

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