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Foundation helps support students of character

2014 Kids of Character awards

October is the month that schools across the nation celebrate CHARACTER COUNTS! and the good character students display on a daily basis. In Tulare County, which hosts one of the nation's largest celebrations, the month culminates with the presentation of the Provident-Salierno Family Foundation Awards. On October 26 and 28, family members gathered to celebrate 68 top students as they received special recognition for their good character.

2014 Kids of Character awards For the third consecutive year, the Tulare County CHARACTER COUNTS! office reviewed Kids of Character nominations received from schools and citizens throughout the county to select the honorees and finalists for each of the Pillars of Character - Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship. This year, the office received more than 6,500 student nominations from 143 Tulare County schools. At the awards celebration, the honorees and finalists for each pillar were given cash awards presented by Tony and Mary Salierno on behalf of the foundation they created.

"There are great stories of student character all around us," said Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "After 19 years of holding Tulare County CHARACTER COUNTS! Week celebrations, it's wonderful to see the quality and effort teachers and community members put into recognizing Kids of Character. It just keeps getting better and better."

2014 Kids of Character awards

The student honorees ranged from elementary school students who demonstrated responsibility in the extra duties they perform on campus to the entire Redwood freshman football team, who created a video to support a rival Mt. Whitney High School player who is battling cancer.

Young Chloe Quintana was one of the honorees. She was recognized for the helpful, kind and generous attention she pays to a special needs boy named Ryan Valdez. Chloe and Ryan attend Cutler Elementary and have known each other for four years. Ryan's mother, Melissa Valdez, said, "Throughout this time, they have sometimes been in the same classroom and, if not, Chloe is sure to find him on the playground. She meets him at the gate each morning and she makes sure Ryan is included at recess and that other kids are kind and respectful to him." For her willingness to accept people for their differences and for treating them with dignity and respect, Chloe Quintana was selected as the top honoree for the Pillar of Respect.

2014 Kids of Character awards

In the category of Caring, Porterville High School freshman Shawnee James was honored as a finalist. Her teacher, Vanessa Reilly of Alta Vista shared that over the last five years, Shawnee has dedicated all her free time during break, lunch and PE to assisting fellow student Adriana Aleman who was afflicted with meningitis as a kindergarten student. "She never made Adriana feel like she was disabled," Ms. Reilly said. "Shawnee was there to lean on in case Adriana needed help, not as a crutch, but for support. She never asked for anything, but gained a best friend in the process. To give of oneself and not ask for anything in return is usually not a characteristic of a middle school or high school student. She is a truly caring individual."

For a complete list of Provident-Salierno Family Foundation honorees, visit

Photos above:
~ Chloe Quintana greets her friend Ryan Valdez as Woodlake Unified Superintendent Drew Sorensen (l) and Brian Hollingshead, director of curriculum for Tulare City School District, look on. Chloe, a third-grade student at Cutler Elementary, was a top honoree for the Pillar of Respect for seeing that Ryan is included and treated with respect by his classmates.
~ Attendees at the Provident-Salierno Family Foundation Awards enjoyed a video the Redwood High School freshman football team made for Mt. Whitney freshman Josh Villarreal, who is battling cancer.
~ Shawnee James shakes hands with nominators as her friend Adriana Aleman looks on. Shawnee, a freshman at Porterville High School and a finalist for the Pillar of Caring, has supported Adriana for years as she has fought to regain her mobility after being afflicted with meningitis as a kindergartner.
~ Tony and Mary Salierno congratulate Kings River Union School student Jairo Aguilar, a finalist for the Pillar of Trustworthiness.