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Thank you for helping us celebrate Tulare County Students of Character!

Thanks to your participation, more than 4,800 young people from 148 schools in Tulare County were recognized.

On Saturday, October 23, the Visalia Times-Delta/Tulare Advance-Register will publish a two-page ad highlighting the school representatives (one from each of the 148 schools submitted) chosen during the 2021 Kids of Character Week, October 18-23. View the two-page ad. Descriptions of the 148 students featured in the ad are available by county region.

North County
Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified School District
Dinuba Unified School District
Kings River Union School District
Monson-Sultana Joint Union School District
Stone Corral School District
Traver Joint School District
Three Rivers Union School District
Visalia Unified (Elbow Creek Elementary, Ivanhoe Elementary)
Woodlake Unified School District

Central County
Central Valley Christian School
St. Paul’s School
The Academies Charter Management Organization (Blue Oak Academy, Sycamore Valley Academy)
University Preparatory High School
Visalia Unified School District

East County
Alta Vista School District
Burton School District
Ducor Union School District
Exeter Unified School District
Exeter AcCel – Community Based Instruction Program
Farmersville Unified School District
Hope School District
Lindsay Unified School District
Monarch River Academy
Pleasant View School District
Porterville Unified School District
Richgrove School District
Saucelito School District
Sierra View Junior Academy
Springville Union School District
St. Anne’s School
Strathmore Union School District
Sunnyside Union School District
Woodville School District

South County
Alpaugh Unified School District
Buena Vista School District
Earlimart School District
Liberty School District
Oak Valley Union School District
Palo Verde Union School District
Pixley Union School District
Sundale Union School District
Tipton School District
Tulare City School District
Tulare Joint Union High School District
Waukena Joint Union School District

To view the names of more than 4,800 students nominated by teachers, parents, and community members, click on one of the lists below.

2021 Kids of Character Nominees by Student Name
2021 Kids of Character Nominees by School Site
2021 Kids of Character Nominees by Pillar   

2021 Provident-Salierno Family Foundation Honorees

Of the more than 4,800 students nominated during CHARACTER COUNTS! Week, 30 were selected as honorees for the Provident-Salierno Family Foundation Awards. On October 27, a drive-thru celebration was held to present certificates, scholarships, and other awards to these special honorees. Listed below are the nominations of these exemplary students.


Top Honoree:

Maria Isabel CervantesMaria Isabel Cervantes
Strathmore High School, Strathmore
nominated by Jill Palermo and Renee Ortiz

Jill Palermo says,"I have had Isabel almost all four years of high school, the only year I missed was during distance learning, and so it almost seems like I have had her every year. From the very first year, she has been very sweet, kind, honest, and hard working. I have taught her math, science, and this year, she is in my yearbook class. She has always done her best and is by far one of the most trustworthy students I have had in my 11 years of teaching. I was fortunate to have Isabel change her schedule this year so she would be in my yearbook class, which only has seven students, and so her addition was incredibly valuable to me. She has a passion for photography, so I can trust her to take pictures of after school events this year. She is involved in key club, AVID, president of the Spanish club, and the publicity chair for the class of 2022. She has a job working at Subway Sandwiches and is taking a health course at Porterville College. She is trusted wherever she goes and will be an asset to any type of organization due to her passion to make her community a better place. I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for this young talented student."

Renee Ortiz says, "I am nominating Isabel Cervantes for the caring and respect pillars. Several times when I have been very busy with tasks, carrying too much, working on an event and being overwhelmed by questions, I will hear the question, “Do you need help?” It is Isabel, ready to lend a hand or offer help. Recently, our school held an event and Isabel showed up to ask me if I had any other help with my booth. I did not and Isabel jumped in to help me. She did not have to, but when she sees a need, she is willing to help."
Read the Visalia Times-Delta/Tulare Advance-Register article about Isabel.



Mercedes MontesMercedes Montes
Pleasant View West School, Porterville
nominated by Tashima Irving

Trustworthiness is hard to find at times in students. However, Mercedes is a student I know I can count on to tell the truth and keep her promises. Mercedes is a key member of SQUAD (Students who are Qualified Unique Awesome and Disciplined). If we play games or engage in activities, I can always count on her to help keep everyone on track and participating in the right way. She is so willing to help and step up to the plate when anything is needed, and she is willing to allow others to have the opportunity as well. She is polite, considerate of others’ feelings and looks out for others’ well-being. Just recently I needed students to help water our SQUAD plants so they would not dry out and Mercedes was the first to raise her hand to help. Not only that, but I also didn’t have to remind her to do the job. I looked out one day and saw her watering just like she promised. That’s huge for students who often get distracted and forget what they promised to do. Mercedes is a student who I know I can count on to share and bring balance to our club. If she has already participated in an activity and someone else wants to participate, she will give them her spot so they can have a chance. I just love having her around as a member and leader in SQUAD, also as a role model for Character Counts! at our school.

Aiden SaiseubyatAiden Saiseubyat
Oak Grove Elementary School, Visalia
nominated by Rachel Ray

Aiden is known by his teachers and peers for making great decisions - even when adults are not watching. He leads by example and reminds others to stay on task, pay attention, and choose the best path. I know I can rely on Aiden to be honest and hold his classmates accountable in a very respectful way. Aiden's tablemates have nominated him to be a default leader of the group. This puts extra responsibility onto Aiden's plate, but he handles it well. I trust Aiden to be a good role model and to lead others by example.

Megan SeeMegan See
Goshen Elementary School, Visalia
nominated by Sarah Van Dermyden

Megan is a very quiet and reserved student, but she is also a student who excels in all areas of academics. I can always count on her to follow directions the first time. She has the discipline it takes to be an amazing scholar. Whether it is quietly reminding her tablemates to get back on task, helping another student log onto their computer, or simply doing her work, she just does what needs to be done. Megan understands that success is hard work and I can trust her to always be doing the right thing. She has also begun to come out of her quiet shell and share her thinking with the rest of the class. She amazes me with her insights into learning. Megan is an amazing Student of Character and Goshen School is lucky to have her.

Esmeralda VelascoEsmeralda Velasco
Sunnyside Union School, Strathmore
nominated by Alicia Franco

Esmeralda is an exceptional student of trustworthiness because she is always honest in what she says. For example, if she tells you she will do it, she will make it happen. Given the opportunity to exaggerate the truth, she knows otherwise and makes the correct choice - ALWAYS. She is honest with everyone, even adults. She holds me accountable and reminds me of when I forget to stay true to my word. We need more great and truthful students like her at Sunnyside. Esmeralda is an exemplary role model to other students and to the staff at Sunnyside.


Top Honoree:

Gianni TrujilloGianni Trujillo
Cherry Avenue Middle School, Tulare
nominated by Sherie Altermatt

Gianni Trujillo is a student at Cherry Avenue Middle School. Because of COVID and virtual learning last year, I did not have a chance to meet Gianni. This year, however, I noticed Gianni in the cafeteria and when I substituted for a classroom. He is always polite and respectful. He says hi to me every time he sees me on campus and asks how I am doing. At the middle school age that is often unheard of. When covering a class recently, he was the student who helped me with attendance, stepped up to take some items to the office and held the door open for me when the class exited. Gianni is very respectful and it shows in his everyday interactions with others on campus. I believe Gianni should be recognized for the respectful behaviors that we often do not see at the middle school level.
Read the Visalia Times-Delta/Tulare Advance-Register article about Gianni.


Ashley Sanchez-GarciaAshley Sanchez-Garcia
Tipton School, Tipton
nominated by Janet Uresti

Ashley is in my journalism and PE classes. In journalism, she is informative and helpful as she has taken this class with a different teacher. When I suggested a different way of doing things, she listened to the ideas and shared the ways it had been approached in the past, which I appreciated. In PE, she's very much a leader! I've asked her several times when I was struggling or overwhelmed to help me. Even simple things like setting up the court was so helpful and yet, it helped me A LOT! I do not think Ashley knows how amazing she is and so it is an honor to nominate her for this recognition.

Miguel Toscano SanchezMiguel Toscano Sanchez
Sierra Vista Charter High School, Tulare
nominated by Veronica Covert

Miguel is such a joy to be around! He is polite, friendly and kind to everyone. As a junior on our campus, he is a very responsible student who always works hard. He is not afraid to ask for help and he often gives help to his peers. Miguel's manner of how he treats others is with the utmost respect, thoughtful and genuine. Our campus is a better place because of him. He makes others feel welcome and a part of our student body. Miguel's best asset is his smile! He lights up a room with his smile, which is a glimpse of his heart. I am thankful to know Miguel.

Nathaniel UribeNathaniel Uribe
Valley Life Charter School, Visalia
nominated by Brandi Travis

Nathaniel exemplifies respectfulness to others on a daily basis. Not only is he respectful to adults, but he makes sure he shows respect to his peers while treating them with kindness. He is a proactive leader by being in charge of himself and taking responsibility for his behavior. In doing this, he deals peacefully with anger, insults, or disagreements. Nate uses good manners and always has appropriate language when speaking with others. He is considerate of their feelings. His attitude of respect has helped him build many positive relationships as well as helped him to be successful in school and in his outside life.

Jesus ZamoraJesus Zamora
Alila School, Earlimart
nominated by Kimberly Garcia and Amy Valencia

Omar embodies respect throughout the learning day. He has been a role model for his fellow classmates, showing others how to engage via distance learning, with respect. Perhaps the most impressive thing is the way Omar waits patiently, with his hand up when he has a connection to make. He waits patiently, does not talk out of turn, and enjoys hearing his classmates share as well.


Top Honoree:

Daisy GuzmanDaisy Guzman
Global Learning Charter School, Visalia
nominated by Jennifer Morones

Daisy is an incredibly responsible young lady, in the classroom and at home. Bringing her siblings to school each day, in the morning helping them get ready, and walking them to their teacher has become a daily habit for Daisy. Complaining is never outwardly expressed by Daisy. When her father was hurt at work, she helped to take care of him and filled in doing extra household chores, whether it was washing dishes or helping her siblings with schoolwork. Daisy even talks with her younger sibling's teacher when there are items that need to be discussed. Joyful, caring, responsible, and strong are just a few words I would use to describe this precious young lady!
Read the Visalia Times-Delta/Tulare Advance-Register article about Daisy.


Alessandra AvilaAlessandra Avila
Alice G. Mulcahy Middle School, Tulare
nominated by Reynaldo Carrasco

From the outset of this school year, Alessandra has demonstrated great self-discipline, often asking clarifying questions during independent work time to ensure that she is doing her best. When provided with feedback, Alessandra takes it upon herself to not only amend the portions of assignments, but then proceeds to share this newfound approach with the fellow scholars she is working with in order to help them to do their best. She is one of those students who I know I can trust to complete her work, even if I am occupied with small groups. Alessandra not only completes her own work consistently, but then proceeds to help others with their work and then offers help to myself with different tasks around the classroom. Due to her diligence and work ethic, she has earned herself a job in the class as my teacher’s aide. I feel so fortunate to have her as a scholar this year, and I never cease to be impressed by the level of responsibility and independence that she has achieved at such a young age. When I see her, I see the first inklings of the kind of professionalism that will be an asset to any organization she elects to become a part of.

Amalia De La CruzAmalia De La Cruz
Dinuba High School
nominated by Brice Sandri

Amalia has been a class leader since she started at Dinuba High School. She demonstrates responsibility among many other qualities. Amalia continually puts others before herself. Amalia is apt to help her fellow classmates anytime they are in need of help. When other students are not doing what they are supposed to do, she stays poised and on track. She is very focused and will do her job no matter what the circumstances, whether she’s home sick joining class via Zoom or sitting in class. While at school, Amalia lives by a classroom phrase from a story that we refer to often; “Fill someone’s bucket, not take away.” In other words, even if a student is bugging her, she’s holds herself accountable to stay humble, kind and to fill his or her bucket with nice words. Amalia is an incredibly good person and deserves the proper recognition!

Jorge DiazJorge Diaz
Woodville Union School, Porterville
nominated by Yesenia Martinez

In the four years I have known Jorge, I have seen him blossom into an amazing young man. Last year, I saw how responsible he was with Zoom every day, doing his work in class, and homework. Even though sometimes his mom was not present to help him out, he was able to log in each day and accomplish all of his work. Jorge was responsible enough to log off at 12:00 and then come back at 1:00 for guided reading during small group intervention. I understood the struggle many students faced with logging off and back on, but Jorge made it work. Each day he would show up eager for new strategies in reading. He went from a reading level four to his current reading level of 28! This year, Jorge’s responsibility in the classroom has not faded. On the contrary, he continues being responsible by being engaged in class, following the classroom rules, helping other students during class time, and by being responsible when others are not. Currently at Woodville, the drinking water is not drinkable, therefore, we have jugs and cups outside. Many students drink water and toss the paper cups on the floor. Each day I see Jorge picking up the cups on the floor as well as the mask other students have left on the floor. He does it not to get recognition but to help out and clean the playground. Having Jorge in my classroom has been a true blessing. His responsibility towards his own education has paid off. He has become an excellent student!

Martin GomezMartin Gomez
Accelerated Charter High School, Tulare
nominated by Sara Zakarian

Martin is a responsible young man who has taken control of his education and is set to graduate high school this year. He came to ACHS behind on credits and has done well to pass all of his classes and catch up on credits. Martin is a young father and always takes responsibility for his daughter, who he adores. Sometimes he has to miss school because his daughter always comes first. He always makes it back and spends time in RTI to catch up on his work and bring his grades up. To me, Martin is very deserving of this award and truly demonstrates what it means to be a responsible student and young man.


Top Honoree:

Samuel Diaz
Wilson Elementary School, Dinuba
nominated by Estela Palafox

Have you ever been positively shocked by a student? I was recently positively shocked by Samuel Diaz, a fourth grader at Wilson Elementary School in Dinuba. Samuel was the winner of a backpack giveaway at our school and that is when it all started. One August afternoon, our learning director, Chad Morton, came into our classroom to announce that Samuel had won a backpack. The entire class was excited for him because the backpack was full of school supplies. After we all congratulated him, we thought that was going to be the end of it. No, it was not the end. To my surprise, Samuel started to open his backpack and gave away the supplies to his classmates! Yes, he started approaching students and saying, "Here (student name) you can have this because you don't have any." He continued to do this without hesitation and with much conviction that this was the RIGHT thing to do with supplies he did not need. I stopped him and said, "Samuel those are the supplies you won, you don't have to share them." He replied, "Mrs. Palafox, I already have some and my friends need them so I'm giving them away.” I was shocked to hear his response. Samuel was able to see a need and take action to help others. This is a genuine, kind and fair response for a person to display.
Read the Visalia Times-Delta/Tulare Advance-Register article about Samuel.


Rafael Gomez
Tulare Union High School, Tulare
nominated by Natalie Lew

Rafael recently stood out in a class activity that led to a mini-debate, though a debate was not the intended activity. Rafael had a very open mind with the topic and listened fairly to both sides. He patiently waited for his chance to speak and defend his opinion. When he spoke, I was in awe of his sophistication toward the topic. He acknowledged that others may think differently than him and that was okay, but he spoke so clearly and with such authority that the rest of his classmates became silent and really listened to what he had to say. He defended his position well and made points that none of us could argue with. Perhaps we have a future attorney on our hands!

Colton Griffis
Blue Oak Academy, Visalia
nominated by Mckenzi Brazil

Colton exemplifies each one of the pillars. I chose to honor him with fairness as it is one of the rarest qualities to see in kids Colton's age. Colton is a very quiet student who doesn't talk much, but when it comes to doing something right, he has the strength to speak up because it's fair. Our school motto is ‘Do What is Right, because it is Right’ and Colton takes that to heart. For the last two years I have witnessed fairness shine through Colton’s conduct. I love that I can see improvement in Colton's personality and demeanor and not just his academics. If he feels he didn't earn something, he'll come to me and admit it. If he finds a ‘Brazil Buck’ on the ground, he'll be honest and fair and tell me, instead of keeping it for himself. He goes to the back of the line if that's where he belongs and doesn't just get in where his friends are. Fairness is a difficult trait for young learners to possess but Colton stands out among his peers. He is a role model for all students and even teaches adults to be genuine and fair in certain situations.

Meiah Ledesma
Heritage Elementary School, Tulare
nominated by Jennifer Powers

Meiah was my student last year and I am still impressed by her ability to stand up for what is right and play by the rules. We did not come back to in-person learning until after Character Counts! nominations last year, so I did not get to see her in action. We would play kickball outside against another fifth-grade class and Meiah basically took the role of team coach. She has experience in softball, so she was able to tell students when to run to the bases, when to stay, how to spread out in outfield, and where to aim their kicks. She was encouraging to her teammates, but what shows the Pillar of Fairness is that she was also encouraging to the other team's players. She would clap for them and tell them when they had a good play. If there was any doubt about a play, she would follow the rules even if it hurt her own team. She made a great team captain for those times when we got to play and I'll never forget her for that. She has offered to help me this year with my class and teaching them how to play.

Eddie Sanchez
Stone Corral School, Visalia
nominated by Lenor Roman

Eddie always demonstrates the Pillar of Fairness. He has shown how to be fair during group discussions and participation. He allows others time to express their opinions and participate in tasks. Eddie is often able to provide correct answers, but he will allow his peers the opportunity to share. He has shared that he hopes they will experience the feeling of triumph when participating. He is mindful of the rules we have established in class and positively urges his peers to treat each other fairly. Eddie also never takes advantage of others. He does his fair share of the work. While in or outside of class, Eddie puts in his fair share of effort. Above all else, Eddie promotes a positive and fair school environment while at Stone Corral!


Top Honoree:

Jaymien ColonJaymien Colon
Cottonwood Creek Elementary School, Visalia
nominated by Tina Cortez, Mariah Young, Lori Harding, Richard Dockery, Sonya Joyner

The nominators shared similar thoughts saying, “I have been babysitting Jaymien since he was in third grade. He is the most caring, helpful and generous young man I know. He has a bright future and this makes him the perfect candidate to be acknowledged for a Character Counts award.

Jaymien Colon is a great leader who exemplifies the Pillar of Trustworthiness. As a loyal friend, he will always stand up for what is right and will always be honest with you. Jaymien is someone you can always count on because he keeps promises, he is reliable, and has the courage to speak up and out. His words and actions show what an honest person he is and he would never deceive you. His character is truly astounding and he is incredibly deserving of this award.

Jaymien is a very caring and responsible young man. He ALWAYS opens doors for others and has the best manners I have ever seen in a young man his age. His mother contracted COVID-19 last year when the school was on Zoom learning. He continued to attend his Zoom classes and do all of his homework, at the same time, bringing things to his Mom's bedroom door that she needed. During the school shut down and Zoom learning, Jaymien excelled in school and made the honor roll. He enrolled himself with Student Council and made all of the birthday videos for the school student birthdays. He loves making people happy. Jaymien mows the lawn at the home and he and his Mom do all of the other yard work together. He never complains about doing chores and says, "I need to help my Mom.” Jaymien has a heart of gold and spreads this kind of care and true generosity to his peers. When he comes to my home to visit, he always makes sure to clean up his toys before he leaves without me asking, and all of my friends absolutely love him. He is such a joy to be around and anyone who encounters him adores him. His mannerism is above and beyond!

Jaymien has continued to grow in word and in deed. He shows respect for his peers and superiors. He puts others wants and needs above his own. He has made some mistakes along the way, but has displayed exemplary character and integrity when these shortcomings were brought to his attention. Jaymien is an asset in individual or group settings.

Jaymien has grown into a model student who exhibits maturity and honesty throughout his day. Jaymien used to have a difficult time on the playground or when redirected in the classroom. However, he has now cultivated healthy relationships throughout the campus, treats everyone with respect, accepts responsibility, helps others, and is very well mannered. He is a pleasure to be around, is polite, humble, and gracious. He has grown into an admirable young man.
Read the Visalia Times-Delta/Tulare Advance-Register article about Jaymien.


Juanita AlfaroJuanita Alfaro
Alpaugh School, Alpaugh
nominated by Francisco Hernandez

Juanita is an amazing human being who has a contagious attitude and shines bright by her actions. She is always willing to lend a helping hand to her classmates. Without hesitation, I have seen her take extra time to help one of her group members when others may not think to do so. She is always kind and gives him that helping hand as she reminds him of the page number or the directions that need to be followed. Furthermore, she does this with a lot of patience and is compassionate by treating him with respect and equality. Moreover, Juanita is considerate of others. During recess time, she includes students as they play board games. Similarly, Juanita has pushed through to better understand many math lessons because she has a strong growth mindset; this has helped her to be considerate of her peers who struggle in math and she has shown concern for them. As a result, she has looked for ways to explain her thinking about those math concepts with those students around her who have also struggled.

Izabelle R. FigueroaIzabelle R. Figueroa
Highland Elementary School, Visalia
nominated by Maricel Loya

Izabelle is such a caring young lady. She continuously surprises me with the desire to help other students in the class. I can honestly say she has helped a student in class or myself every single day since school started. She finishes her work and wants to help other students that are struggling in class. Not only does she help them, but she also knows exactly how to help without giving them the answer. My students have commented, ‘Izabelle is going to be a great teacher when she grows up!’ She is helping a student that just arrived from Mexico and doesn't know the language yet, so Izabelle translates for her and helps her understand the assignment. She even helps me by keeping my library and classroom organized! She is quick and thorough. She says to me, ‘I just love to help everyone and one day I want to be a teacher just like you!’ I replied, ‘You will be an amazing teacher, because you already are a great one. You are kind and generous with your time and desire to help others!

Tiffany GarciaTiffany Garcia
Monache High School, Porterville
nominated by Cameron Welker

Tiffany always goes out of her way to show kindness to others, especially students with special needs. This school year, I have a 1:1 student I am assigned to and she is so kind to him each and every morning during their first period class. She always greets him with a smile and even goes out of her way to talk to him and see how he is doing. She knows that my student just wants to belong and be treated like any other student and she makes sure he starts his day positively. In addition, other staff members have observed Tiffany being kind and helpful to several of our students with special needs. While some students may not notice the need, I can count on Tiffany to take initiative to care for others who need it without worrying about what her peers may say. For these reasons, Tiffany should be recognized for her kindness and caring character.

Emily YanezEmily Yanez
Visalia Technical Early College High School, Visalia
nominated by Amanda Boyer

Emily is a shining example of an amazing student. Honestly, it was hard to choose one area to nominate her for because she exemplifies all six pillars every day. She is hardworking, kind, trustworthy, and an outstanding example of what a dedicated student and friend should be. She has led our ASB for the past two years on our campus and is always willing to lend a helping hand. She goes above and beyond in everything she does and will literally do anything to help anyone at any time. In a recent situation, she was running for ASB president again this year against a couple other students. She heard someone saying some unkind things about one of the other people running because of their sexual orientation, and Emily stood up for the other student. She then reported the situation so it could be dealt with and then she went above and beyond to show support for the other student running so that he could win the presidency. Emily just has a heart of gold for all her peers and her teachers. She is truly deserving of this recognition.


Top Honoree:

Toyyon SwaffordToyyon Swafford
Pixley Middle School, Pixley
nominated by Deborah McCaskill

Toyyon Swafford is an amazing young man for many different reasons. First, he is a stellar scholar and always puts his best effort forward. He is conscientious about his schoolwork, making certain that he does whatever it takes to be thorough. Toyyon never does the bare minimum, but rather strives to improve his skills and knowledge with every single task and assignment. This demonstrates a high degree of respect for education. Toyyon states, "I want to do better than I did the year before because my education will help me to decide where I will be in the future." This is especially important because Toyyon has faced some personal struggles in his young life that make him more aware of the need to help others. He wants to be a chef and is very intrigued by the food industry. When he talks about accomplishing this goal, it is not for fame or notoriety, but instead he desires to leverage his skills and opportunities to help feed the homeless and those in need of nutritious food. He sees a need in our own community, and along with his family, has met that need with charitable donations and kindness. He is following in the footsteps of his mother who has been a longstanding member of our community and a very benevolent person. Toyyon is articulate and very focused and to think that people in need will continue to be on his personal radar gives hope that those most at risk will be met with his compassion and motivation. Finally, his personal standards of conduct with others represents the high level of respect he gives to all other areas of his life. He is able to meet a variety of situations with calmness and reflection, always thinking first about what is appropriate in the moment. He is forgiving toward and accepting of others and puts a lot of value in his friendships, understanding that to have a friend is to be a friend first. I am very impressed with this young man's focus, demeanor, and attitude and he definitely is deserving of this recognition. He represents his family, school and community with integrity and more importantly, with the heart of a giant. To say this young man, with his light shining bright to the future, is a Pixley Kid is an honor and he will definitely continue to grow to be a future emissary of good will and service to all.
Read the Visalia Times-Delta/Tulare Advance-Register article about Toyyon.


Nalani GinnNalani Ginn
Mission Oak High School, Tulare
nominated by Oddie Lambert, Matt Jones, Doug Jones, Mike Hazelwood, Diane Reis

Nalani is always prepared for band rehearsals, performances, and fundraisers. It is a pleasure to have such a conscientious student in our program. As a teammate, Nalani genuinely cares for her teammates as people and as players. Nalani is blessed with so much intelligence, skills, and talents yet is extremely humble, kind, giving, and caring. She will no doubt thrive in whatever career or field she chooses, but what's even more apparent is that many, many people will be rooting for her. She never brings attention to herself yet works so efficiently that even the spectacular looks easy. For example, she is a brilliant photographer in our journalism class. At a district-wide staff meeting before the school year – with all staff members from all schools present in one location – one of her photos was projected to the audience. There was an audible appreciation of the photo, which showed Link Crew leaders welcoming new freshmen. Seeing that photo really sent the audience into a positive state and just illustrates the magic that defines Nalani's work.

Joselyn JuarezJoselyn Juarez
Ducor Union School, Ducor
nominated by Louis Smith, Steven McCurry, Infinity Dignam, Lupita Flores

Joselyn is always in class being a leader and helping others by staying on task. Our class had an assignment, and she submitted the following, “I try to never give up and keep trying until I get it done. When somebody doesn't want to try, I am going to say to them - never give up and keep trying. I think that P.E. helps a lot because it teaches me to never give up. I think everyone should be grateful for what you give us Mr. Smith. Thank you for what you do.” Joselyn recognizes the importance of having the right school culture. Not only does this student complete her work with a positive attitude, but she follows all of our school "Valores" which are the Pillars of Character. Joselyn is also a proud member of Kid Power Student Body and, so far, has helped complete one school improvement project since the beginning of the school year. She has also written a list of projects that she would like to work on, such as improving the school garden and decorating different parts of the school. She also would like to improve the grounds at the school because she knows that many parents and students use the school beyond the school day. Joselyn is also a kindhearted girl and she is always willing to help her classmates and her teachers. She is a ‘go to’ for students when they need help in getting any activity done. Academically strong and independent, and a leader in student body as well as the volleyball team, Joselyn has amazing responsibility and is a leader beyond her years. The sky's the limit for Joselyn.

Andre LaraAndre Lara
Castle Rock Elementary, Woodlake
nominated by Kelly Quinn

Andre deserves to be recognized for his great contributions to his home, class, school, and community. He is an upstanding young man who exhibits every Pillar of Character in all parts of his life. At home, Andre helps his family by working hard, pruning trees, harvesting crops, and feeding and caring for the animals. On his sports teams, Andre can be counted on to cheer on his teammates, offer coaching tips and encouragement, and exhibit sportsmanship towards opposing teams whether his team wins or loses. In class and on the playground, Andre works and plays hard, follows the rules, and volunteers to help others. He is the type of upstanding citizen we all hope our students will become. Andre and others like him truly give us hope for our future. For these reasons and so many more, I nominate Andre Lara for recognition because Andre's Character Counts!

Carter MendesCarter Mendes
Tulare Western High School, Tulare
nominated by Jordan Perry

Carter is the kid every teacher/coach dreams about. I have worked with him in both aspects and I have never had a student athlete more apt to success. This is my third year as Carter's cross country/track coach at Tulare Western. It was clear from his freshman year that Carter had some talent in the sport, but most didn't see the painstaking attention he had to give to his body to achieve this. Carter had many problems in his running form which caused him to be very injury prone. I would often tell him that he would have to be patient on how much running he could do and that it would pay off in the future. Carter would put in and still does, hours of his own time working on his strength and mobility. Most athletes finish their run and they are done for the day, Carter always asks for more. There are times I have to tell him he needs to take more time to have fun and be a kid. He is well respected among his peers and has been chosen as team captain for varsity as a sophomore and for this current season. Last year, he led the squad to break our league rival, Monache's, 10-year undefeated streak and bring the title to our school. This season he is training healthy and is one of the top runners in the whole section. Our boys are currently ranked #1 in the Valley for Division Three and first in the league. This achievement has everything to do with the example he has set for what it takes to be a great runner.

For more information about the CHARACTER COUNTS! program, visit www.tcoe.org/CharacterCounts or contact Kelley Petty, Program Coordinator, at kelleyp@tcoe.org or call (559) 740-4303.

CHARACTER COUNTS! is a nationwide initiative which embraces the six core values mentioned above. These values, common in a democratic society, can be taught by teachers, parents and community members to build and develop character in youth. The CHARACTER COUNTS! program is provided to the schools in the 43 districts administered by the Tulare County Office of Education.

CHARACTER COUNTS! is a service mark of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.