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20 Local Teens Making Their Mark in Folsom, Roseville and the Foothills Area

Mar 29, 2017 01:13PM, Published by Style, Categories: In Print, Today, Community



We asked, and you answered! Drum roll, please…may we introduce you to 20 of the most impressive under-20-year-olds setting the pace—each and every one nominated by Style readers and local school administrators. Don’t be surprised if you reap inspiration from these passionate teens making their mark on the world. 

Violet Joy Hansen, 17

 Violet is a force to be reckoned with. A junior at Visions In Education, this accomplished teen currently takes three honors classes and manages to maintain a 4.57 GPA. She’s also studying sign language at Folsom Lake College and intends on receiving her interpreter certificate when she graduates. “I’ve been volunteering with children [who have] special needs for the past six years, where I use my sign language skills,” she shares. Recently crowned Miss Central California’s Outstanding Teen, Violet has her sights set on competing at Miss California’s Outstanding Teen this June. As part of the program, she’s chosen Ronald McDonald House Charities Northern California as her platform, where she is vice president of the Teen Council. In keeping with her love of the stage, she has also participated in 26 theatrical productions and is a member of the Roseville Theatre Arts Academy’s T5 Troupe, which will be performing at Disneyland this fall. Her love for acting has cast her into 12 films and six commercials thus far. What’s more, Violet has been an en-pointe ballerina for five years and is also a coloratura soprano—having sung the National Anthem for 12,000 people at a Sacramento Republic FC game. She draws inspiration from her two brothers—one’s a youth ministries major and the other studies criminal justice. “They both have servants’ hearts,” she says fondly. Fiercely ambitious, this teen is determined to reach her goals (which includes majoring in musical theatre), while continuing to serve others.—TM

Escape: Shopping at Palladio

Guilty pleasure: Peppermint dark chocolate

Meal in town: Fortune Garden Chinese Restaurant

Local landmark: Painted rocks on El Dorado Hill Boulevard

Movie: Into the Woods

Musician/band: Audra McDonald

Saying: “If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.”—Ellen Johnson Sirleaf


Cassidy Pensa, 17

 Cassidy is a sports fan through and through. Aside from being the captain of the soccer and basketball teams at Ponderosa High School, all of her free time goes to either watching or playing sports. Ask her what her favorite memory is, and she’s likely to tell you it was the time the San Francisco Giants won the World Series in 2010. Her cousins, and especially her brothers, were the ones who introduced Cassidy to the playing field and instilled a sense of competition and camaraderie in her. “My brothers motivate and inspire [me]; I look up to them every day [and] push myself to achieve the things that they did throughout their high school careers,” she says. Cassidy also pushes herself to maintain a GPA of 4.0 or above, and is proud of being in the top one percent of her class. She also earned the National Merit Scholarship Letter of Commendation by scoring in the top 10 percent of the nation on the PSAT exam and is involved in the California Scholarship Federation, Club Med and Link Crew. This ambitious teen also has big dreams of becoming an engineer. “My plan is to attend a four-year university and get a job in a big city,” she says.—TM 

Escape: Kirkwood 

Guilty pleasure: Watching Sheriffs El Dorado County

Meal in town: Grande Meal (10 burritos) at Taco Bell 

Local landmark: The “Cameron Park: A Special Place to Live” sign

Movie: Toy Story

Musician/band: Panic! At the Disco

Saying: “Go Bruins.”



Abbey Hagiwara, 17

 Art is Abbey’s passion. She loves to draw and paint, is involved in art shows, and was chosen by her peers at Folsom High School to design the “Every 15 Minutes” campaign T-shirt, one of her proudest accomplishments. Her portfolio is expansive and ambitious, and showcases her remarkable talent. Those who know her call her an above-average student, artist and citizen. In addition to her artistic talents, she also shows off her skills on the volleyball court as team captain for the varsity squad. What’s more, she has a hidden musical talent and has been playing the piano for 10 years. Abbey hopes to further expand her art portfolio by attending a four-year university and studying animation. She also has dreams of visiting Japan one day. With so many natural talents, Abbey is still able to stay grounded. She challenges herself in school and continually improves her talents with practice.—EP

Escape: Listening to music; watching Netflix

Guilty pleasure: Thai iced tea with boba

Meal in town: Fishology Poke Bar

Local landmark: Folsom’s Historic District

Movie: Howl’s Moving Castle

Musician/band: BTS

Saying: “Don’t be trapped in someone else’s dream“—Kim Taehyung


Ava Monroe Ewing, 13

 Ava is not only an extraordinary equestrian but also a witty writer at Nosy Girls (nosygirlss.com), a lifestyle blog she started when she was 12 years old. Her accomplishments include campaigning across the West Coast for a talented sport horse, Dish, for the legendary Grand Prix show jumper Richard Spooner. She’s also received three official equestrian sponsorships for the sport of show jumping, and has worked as a West Coast reporter for the largest equestrian publication in the world, Noelle Floyd

When she’s not “horsing around,” Ava opines about politics, celebrities and conservation on her website. Her dream is to become a national best-selling author (she’s currently working on a young adult novel). In addition, the honor roll student skipped fourth grade and has traveled to over 10 countries. Her worldly views give her spunk and confidence. “I truly thrive under pressure; whether it’s sports, academics or my business, I play to win,” she says. From handling social media for her blog to maintaining those straight As, Ava does it all, every day. In the near future, she’d like to expand her online business and come out with brand merchandise. “I’m a passionate writer and globally conscious citizen with a lot of things to say,” she says. And we don’t doubt it.—TM

Escape: A good book

Guilty pleasure: Watching The Vampire Diaries

Local landmark: Heavenly Doughnuts  

Movie: Titanic 

Musician/band: Bruno Mars

Saying: “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”—Emily Bronte


Lindsey Hunter, 16

 Folsom High School sophomore Lindsey is known for her viral, award-winning short film, Silent—an eloquent movie about disability and bullying that won first place in the Northern California Media Educator Film Contest’s “Short Film-Live Action” category, gaining the teen national and international recognition. She was also invited to speak in front of the State Advisory Board on special education and has been featured on Good Day Sacramento and EllenTube. The aspiring filmmaker hopes to one day make a movie about her grandmother who grew up in Nazi Germany during World War II. Lindsey’s passion for motion pictures grew when, out of curiosity, she began looking for “behind-the-scenes” shots of movies. After cars hit both her principal and father while riding bikes, she made a bike helmet safety video. Speaking of, Lindsey admires her father greatly. Blinded by a disease that causes the retina to disappear over time, he continues to pursue his passion for running and coordinates the blind athletes participating in the California International Marathon. “My dad shows me daily that you can overcome adversity to follow your dreams and passions,” she says. Lindsey is also grateful for the solid community support she’s received through her endeavors—it propels her forward each day. “I hope to help inspire females to become filmmakers and help get our names up there with Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and Alfred Hitchcock.”—TM

Escape: Singing in the shower

Guilty pleasure: Chocolate chip cookie dough

Meal in town: Fresh Mex Express Mexican Grill; Pieology Pizzeria

Movie: La La Land

Musician/band: Coldplay; Imagine Dragons

Saying: “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”—Mahatma Gandhi


Lleyton and Kyle Rutz, 14

 Twin brothers Lleyton and Kyle run BrickDreams—a charity that collects, cleans and redistributes LEGO bricks to children in need. Lleyton even won the President’s Volunteer Service Award and Certificate of Excellence for his work with the organization. The Rutz brothers took over the charity from founder Bailey Snow and now package the bricks in recycled tennis ball cans (the twins’ dad taught them tennis growing up) and distribute them to children who are victims of domestic violence. Their other claim to fame is that Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, is supposed to have been their great, great, great grandmother! Apart from BrickDreams, the boys have varied interests. Kyle is a ranked junior tennis player, a life rank Boy Scout, and part of 4-H. He hopes to become an Eagle Scout one day and play tennis at the college level. “Everything worth anything takes time and practice,” he says. Lleyton, on the other hand, loves animals—especially rabbits. He’s been a volunteer at Friends of Unwanted Rabbits (FUR) for almost four years, and cherishes the day he became a rabbit owner for the first time. This animal lover is also a talented chef and a reigning California 4-H Cooking Throwdown junior champion. For now, the boys plan on continuing their charity work. “I am inspired by the kids we help through BrickDreams. They need our help,” Lleyton says.—TM

Guilty pleasure: Caramel sandwich cookies from Selland’s Market Café (Lleyton); jelly beans (Kyle)

Meal in town: Sandwiches from Jersey Mike’s Subs (Lleyton); Mod Pizza (Kyle)

Local landmark: Mormon Island (Lleyton); Beal’s Point (Kyle)  

Movie: Sing (Lleyton); Daddy’s Home (Kyle)

Saying: “Don’t forget to be awesome.” (Lleyton); “Believe.” (Kyle)


Tanner Smith, 17

 Tanner will receive a letter in four varsity sports (football, cross country, soccer, and track and field) later this year. He was captain of the varsity football team his senior year and captain of the track and field team his junior year. What’s more, he broke Ponderosa High School’s 40-year-old 4x800 meter record at the Arcadia Invitational with his teammates and has received the Coach’s Award, Sportsmanship Award, Scholar Athlete Award and Second Team All-League Honors. He’s also received an academic letter, three academic pins, and the Life Fitness Department Award. What makes Tanner unique, though, is a five-inch scar that runs across his face. While cutting wood one morning with his father, Tanner received a blow to his face when the chainsaw they were using kicked back. His face was instantly split open, and he needed 60 stitches to patch it up. Luckily, the chainsaw missed his carotid artery by a quarter of an inch and spared him his life. After a year of recovery, Tanner is back on his feet, and more positive than ever. “Every morning when I look in the mirror, I reminisce about how lucky I am to be alive,” he says. “[The chainsaw accident] altered my perspective on life and gave me an opportunity to step back and look at everything that God has blessed me with...my goal is to embrace my unique physical appearance while being myself, and to ensure that everywhere I go, my legacy reflects my true character, not my appearance.”—TM 

Escape: Running

Guilty pleasure: Ice cream

Meal in town: Papa Gianni’s Ristorante

Local landmark: The “El Dorado Hills” sign

Movie: Forrest Gump

Musician/band: Jack Johnson

Saying: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”—Forrest Gump


Cade Posner, 17

 An avid baseball and football player, Cade is also greatly involved in his school and local community. He is the commissioner of clubs at Folsom High School and is active in Global Perspective Studies and the California Scholarship Federation. Outside of school, Cade is part of the El Dorado Hills Fire Department’s Explorer program, which educates young adults about fire service and promotes community involvement. He is hopeful to include fire service in his future. “After graduating from the Fire Academy, I hope to be employed by the Los Angeles City Fire Department,” says the teen—but not before graduating with a degree in recreation administration from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where his parents met. Cade is close with his family and takes pride in the fact that he has been a student for both of them. “I selected to attend Mira Loma High School as a freshman, so I could be part of my dad’s student government class. I [then] returned to Folsom High School and took my mom’s speech and debate 1 course and as a senior I will have her again for speech and debate 2.” What’s more, last summer, Cade traveled to Florida to work on the Korean War Digital History Project where he searched for and transcribed interviews with Korean War veterans as an oral historian. His travels have also taken him throughout Europe, and he hopes to visit Australia one day.—EP

Escape: San Luis Obispo (especially for the Thursday night farmers’ market)

Guilty pleasure: Hanging with “the boys”

Local landmark: Friday Night Lights at Prairie City Stadium

Musician/band: Eric Church

Saying: “Things turn out the best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out.”—John Wooden


Hannah Howard, 18

 Hannah is a budding journalist. As the blogger behind ramblesbyhannah.wordpress.com, she has a keen interest in writing, and is even trying her hand at writing a book. The teen is also the ASB vice president at Oak Ridge High School (a post she holds dear) and plays competitive volleyball where she was deemed “Most Inspirational Player” by her teammates. What’s more, she mentors and coaches girls in grades 4-7 through EDHCSD’s volleyball program and is the captain of her competitive volleyball team, Sierra Vista. Plus, she’s won two medals for finishing in the top 20 in 5K races her junior year. Hannah has also modeled for Colleen Sanders Photography and others. The ball was not always in her court, though. She was cut from the volleyball team her junior year. “I decided that I was not going to let this define me,” she says. After two days of moping around, she joined the cross country team to get in shape, and came back stronger than ever to make the team her senior year. Suffice it to say, Hannah has always been athletic. “I love the team aspect of sports,” she says. But when she’s not playing volleyball, she’s planning club fund-raisers and taking part in ASB leadership projects. Always busy, she warns youngsters not to “overcommit yourself in your senior year…do not let your activities distract you from having fun.” You only go to high school once, after all.—TM 

Escape: Carmel

Guilty pleasure: Chocolate 

Meal in town: Mikuni  

Local landmark: Folsom Lake 

Movie: Jessabelle

Musician/band: Carrie Underwood 

Saying: “Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.”—Princess Diana


Lance Padilla, 16

Lance oozes talent. He’s a section leader and student conductor in the Vista Del Lago High School choir and for the last three years has served as the violin 2 section leader for Vista’s orchestra. He also won the ensemble Rookie of the Year Award and was cast as the Cat in the Hat at this year’s musical, Seussical. Last year, he won the Novice Award in Vista’s Concert Band after learning the baritone horn. He’s also participated in Certificate of Merit and in this year’s CMEA Capitol Section Honor Choir, which included choir students from over 40 Northern California high schools. With a GPA of over 4.0, he serves officer positions in CSF, LEO Club and the Vista Musician’s Social Club. A self-described lover of eclectic music and film, Lance deems learning Debussy’s Clair de Lune to be his most challenging feat yet. “As a musician, I’ve learned that there will always be someone better than you…success isn’t always about being the best—it’s about trying your hardest and being passionate in all your work,” he says. He reckons he’ll eventually land a career in either health care or music education, taking after his beloved music director, Mrs. Carlson.—TM

Escape: Watching movies

Guilty pleasure: Chocolate ice cream

Meal in town: Hisui Sushi

Local landmark: Castle Park

Movie: La La Land

Musician/band: Beyoncé

Saying: “I dream it, I work hard, I grind ‘til I own it.”—Beyoncé


Nicholous “Nico” Mirgoli, 18

 Nico gets his high from roller coasters. Founder of the amusement park news website, themeparkoverload.net, he has amassed over 500,000 views on Facebook and YouTube with his coverage of the latest news and rumors in the amusement park industry and has attended buzz-worthy events in parks across the country. His dream is to combine his interest in business and his love of parks by eventually working at the corporate level for Six Flags or Disney. The sprightly teen also finds time to participate in the El Dorado County Teen Court, where he represents minors in the community who’ve committed first-time misdemeanors in an attempt to rehabilitate them. He’s also an inductee of Oak Ridge High School’s chapter of the Spanish National Honor Society and the National Honor Society, based on his academics and character. After having received the Community Service Recognition Award from the Kiwanis Club of Placerville and the AP Scholar Award from the College Board, things seemed to be going well, until Nico lost his mother to stage 4 terminal appendiceal cancer last year. He’s gotten through the grieving process with help from friends and family, but will always honor her in his own way. “I know that she would be proud of what I’ve done, and I use that as motivation to be the best version of myself that I can be today,” he says. Focusing onward, he’s now inspired to “work harder for the future generation, and make forward-thinking contributions that benefit those who come after me.”—TM 

Escape: Amusement parks

Guilty pleasure: Ice cream sandwiches

Meal in town: Shrimp Tempura Roll from Sky Sushi 

Local landmark: The “El Dorado Hills” sign 

Movie: Fight Club

Musician/band: Kendrick Lamar

Saying: “Forge your own path.”


Tommy Slagle, 18

 Tommy is an Olympian—or, more accurately, a science Olympian. He’s gotten two medals from the Science Olympiad for astronomy and materials science, and he’d like to study chemistry and physics in college. “I have a constant lust for discovering what is unknown to me,” he says. “This is the driving force behind my passion for science.” He’s also vice president of Oak Ridge High School’s Interact Club, and has contributed over 400 volunteer hours toward the club. Volunteering, mountain biking and skateboarding are what he does in his free time. One of his role models is his younger stepbrother, a fearless and skilled mountain biker who got Tommy hooked on the sport. The teen has his whole life planned out: He’d like to get a research-based science job, write a few papers, and eventually join the Rotary. Always eager to better himself, he overcame his fear of public speaking by taking part in Speech and Debate tournaments. His dream is to visit New Zealand and experience its culture and heritage—not to mention, visit the Lord of the Rings filming locations. Tommy’s philosophy is to keep working toward a goal and exceed expectations—even when the going gets tough. “This tells a lot about your character and will make people want to come to you and ask you for help,” he says.—TM

Escape: Hiking in the Tahoe area

Guilty pleasure: Listening to Ariana Grande

Meal in town: Pho from Pho ABC

Local landmark: El Dorado Hills Town Center

Movie: Sucker Punch

Musician/band: Rise Against

Saying: “Not all those who wander are lost.”—Tolkien


Marin Perego, 17

 Fourteen years of dance has propelled Marin to the top, not only as Vista del Lago High School’s dance team captain, but also as a Varsity IT Girl. “Varsity is the premier name in dance and cheer, and its IT Girl teams actively discuss and provide feedback on concepts, products and programs,” she explains. “It’s a prestigious application process, and being selected was an honor.” Another of Marin’s talents is the cello, which she’s been playing for seven years. The gifted musician showcases her skills by performing in Vista’s orchestra. Ever since a school music trip to Disney’s recording studio last year, she has dreamt of playing in a theater pit or recording film scores. “For now, my plan consists of [going to] college and possibly dancing for the San Francisco 49ers,” she says. In addition to her dance and musical talents, Marin has fallen in love with Spanish and plans to take AP Spanish next year, in hopes of being awarded with the Seal of Biliteracy at graduation. Although busy, Marin still finds time to assist her peers as part of Vista del Lago’s School Unity Project (SUP Crew), which mentors freshmen through their first year of high school. She owes her persistence, in part, to her role model, her mom. “She is not only the best mother anyone could ever ask for, but an incredibly accomplished, diligent and successful woman.”—EP

Escape: Music

Guilty pleasure: Law and Order: SVU

Meal in town: The Habit Burger Grill

Local landmark: Sutter Street

Movie: Napoleon Dynamite

Musician/band: Green Day

Saying: “If you stumble, make it part of the dance.”


Colin MacPherson, 17

 Colin has a passion for school and community involvement. His accomplishments include upholding a 4.0 GPA, promoting Hispanic and multicultural awareness as part of Jesuit High School’s La Raza Club, serving meals to the homeless at The Gathering Inn, being on the Youth Leadership Team at Bayside Church, and working with kids at the City of Roseville’s day camps—the achievement he’s most proud of. Colin explains that it was a tough interview process and “having parents and staff put their trust in me to take care of kids was a huge responsibility and honor that I’m grateful for.” In addition to helping kids, Colin also helps his peers through tutoring as part of the California Scholarship Federation, and has assisted senior citizens by helping plan social activities at the Sunrise Assisted Living Facility. The teen is also very active in sports, whether skiing or stand-up paddle boarding, and recently ran his first Spartan Race. Additionally, he’s played water polo and is currently on the varsity volleyball team at Jesuit, where he was awarded MVP and the Leadership Award in previous years. His accomplishments are endless, and he credits his stepfather for being his role model. “He’s fun, responsible and keeps you in check. He has a good attitude and lives a healthy, steady life that revolves around family,” he says. In the future, Colin hopes to explore the world, and specifically wants to visit Denmark, because “it’s the happiest country on Earth.”—EP

Escape: Lake Tahoe

Guilty pleasure: Watching The Walking Dead

Movie: Captain Fantastic

Musician/band: Florida Georgia Line; Coldplay

Saying: “Don’t look back, that’s not where you’re going.”


Ian Henry Lightfoot, 16

 Singing and playing the piano and volleyball are part of Ian’s repertoire. He’s currently a starter for the varsity volleyball team and was awarded “Best Sportsmanship” by his team during his freshman and sophomore years, and even received the Coach’s Award for his dedication to the sport. His grades are on point too, having been awarded the California State Senate Academic Excellence Award for maintaining a high GPA for an entire year. Because of his PSAT score, he also qualified as a National Merit Scholar last year. But this happy teen has also seen some dark days. He was bullied during sophomore year and told his life was not worth living. Soon, his mental health deteriorated and he attempted to take his own life. As a result, he developed paranoia and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and needed to be hospitalized. “When I got home, my brothers had made me a welcome home card, my mom rented movies for us, and we had the family night of my life. [Those acts of kindness] made me feel truly loved and appreciated…I will never be able to repay that,” he says. He’s since transferred to EDUHSD Virtual Academy High School, where all is well again. “Let go of the little things and make memories, no matter where you are or who you are with. Create a life for yourself that you will look back on in 60 or 70 years and say ‘I wouldn’t change a thing,’” he advises. “Also, use your blinker!”—TM

Escape: Playing volleyball

Guilty pleasure: Listening to One Direction

Meal in town: Shoestring

Local landmark: Downtown Placerville’s Bell Tower

Movie: The Giver; The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Musician/band: Troye Sivan

Saying: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”—Henry Ford


Teresa Rexin, 16

 Teresa is an extremely active student at Vista del Lago High School. She plays the flute in the school’s Concert Band and is a member of multiple clubs, including National Honor Society, California Scholarship Federation, Kickin’ Cancer and SAFE, an allergy awareness club that she herself co-founded with friends. After school, she tutors students, often rearranging her schedule to fit around their needs. “It means the world to me when I see the light bulb turn on in their head, and they understand what I taught them. It’s gratifying to show them that all of their hard work pays off in the long run, and they can achieve anything they set their mind to,” says the teen. In addition to tutoring, she also makes a difference in the lives of locals through volunteering at elementary schools and community events. She has her hopes set on attending a UC to earn a degree in the realm of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) so she can partake in a profession that makes a difference in the world. She also hopes to travel throughout Europe “to experience the different cultures, taste the delicious cuisines and visit all the famous landmarks.”—EP

Escape: Playing mahjong with my grandparents

Guilty pleasure: My uncle Tony’s homemade butter crunch

Meal in town: Linguini alla Italiana at Visconti’s Ristorante

Local landmark: Folsom Lake

Movie: The Harry Potter series (but the books are even better!)

Musician/band: Imagine Dragons; Twenty One Pilots

Saying: “Working hard is important. But there is something that matters even more: Believing in yourself.”—Harry Potter


Emily Cook, 14

 Due to rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Emily can have trouble completing seemingly simple tasks—from getting dressed to walking. However, she hasn’t let RA interfere with her motivation to live a full life. The teen’s spirit and drive allow her to balance daily tasks and excel in school, serving the community, and in her personal life. Attending Rocklin High School, Emily is most proud of “getting straight As during the first semester of high school, despite having health challenges.” At school, she’s involved in Science Olympiad and also enjoys art and reading. Since her diagnosis at six years old, Emily has been creating awareness about RA and raising funds for the Arthritis Foundation. “I am very proud to have been the Youth Honoree for the Arthritis Foundation last year,” she says. “I hope in my lifetime I can know that I was there to contribute to the success of curing arthritis.” She hopes to not only raise awareness and funds surrounding the disease, but also to help people by working as a doctor or in medical research. Her motivation to assist others—when she herself faces her own medical challenges—proves that age and ability don’t always come first…generosity and a strong desire for change are key to making a lasting difference.—EP

Escape: Going to the beach, reading or creating art

Guilty pleasure: Donuts

Meal in town: Old Spaghetti Factory

Local landmark: Downtown Grass Valley

Movie: Men in Black

Musician/band: Anthem Lights

Saying: “There are no accidents, only some purpose we have not yet understood.”


Jay Tapadiya, 18

 Jay is currently a senior at Woodcreek High School and already has many notable accomplishments under his belt. As an Eagle Scout, he raised $1,500 in order to build computers for Roseville Home Start, an organization that provides support services to homeless families. “I delivered the computers to [the nonprofit], enabling their residents to use them for individual development and career search purposes,” explains the teen. In school, he is part of many clubs, but enjoys his time spent in Spanish Storytime—a group that reads books to underprivileged Spanish and English-speaking students—the most. “I often sense pride in the native Spanish-speaking students when they can actively participate in the conversation. For the English-speaking students, we translate the stories for their enjoyment. For me, it’s inspiring to see these young minds so eager to learn and grow despite the hardships they face,” he says. Not only does Jay assist homeless families and underprivileged students, he also helps his fellow peers with tutoring and even started his own tutoring service called Placer Tutors, which helps to improve grades and offers SAT/ACT prep. Jay plans to earn a degree in computer science while abiding by his parents’ effective message about education and hard work. “Both my parents have always been my inspiration. They inculcated in me the importance of education and the value of hard work. I hope to follow their path.”—EP

Escape: Spending quality time with friends and family

Guilty pleasure: Playing computer games

Meal in town: Chick-fil-A

Movie: Sci-fi/action movies

Musician/band: The Beatles

Saying: “Be together. Not the same.”—Android slogan 


Morgan Mena, 19

 Morgan dreams of becoming an actress and is already on the path to achieving that dream. In fact, she considers her proudest accomplishment to be staying true to herself by choosing theater arts as her major at William Jessup University. “It is a statement to myself and those around me that this is a part of me and whether I ‘make it’ or not, I am being freely me and standing up for an art form that has the power to move and shake a culture,” she explains. Her hopes are to establish herself as an actress locally—to earn professional credits for her resume—and then head to New York. “That is where I will begin the task of auditioning, learning, and growing more in my craft.” Morgan has had acting coaches whose guidance toward excellence has motivated her in her career and in her personal life. She also claims her parents as inspirations, for instilling in her hard work, passion and a desire for a faith in God. “I hope I can be half as inspirational and caring as these people have been in my life,” she says. Currently, Morgan is active in the University Choir and Orchestra, performing for local churches and even touring parts of Northern California. When she finds free time, the teen enjoys reading historical fiction novels, and is eager to visit Switzerland and Greece.—EP

Escape: Writing in my journal; running

Guilty Pleasures: YouTube

Local landmark: William Jessup University is a landmark in itself!

Movie: Anything with a compelling story that moves me, makes me laugh, or makes me think

Saying: “The one thing you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live only as you can.”


Sarah Murphy, 17

 Don’t be surprised if you see Sarah on the nightly news—she’s greatly involved in Whitney High School’s broadcast program and intends to go to Utah State University where she’ll study to become a broadcast journalist. Currently, she’s a senior editor and anchor in the program and is proudest of the impact she has made on younger students. “Seeing them go from having little knowledge of broadcast to winning contests, and knowing I played a small role in their development, is probably my proudest accomplishment,” she says. In addition to helping students in the program, she’s also a senior mentor who helps freshmen ease into their first year of high school, and teaches piano—an instrument she’s been playing since she was four years old—to children. Sarah has a diverse list of accomplishments, in part, due to her parents. “They’ve taught me to work hard and stand up for what I believe in,” says the teen. When not anchoring the news, mentoring students or playing piano, Sarah loves to travel. “Right now, if I could go anywhere, I would love to visit Australia.”—EP

Escape: Piano

Meal in town: Costa Vida Fresh Mexican Grill

Local landmark: My school’s broadcast room

Movie: Tangled

Musician/band: Ed Sheeran

Saying: “Work hard until your idols become your rivals.”

By Tara Mendanha And Emily Peter // Photos by Dante Fontana © Style Media Group


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