YUCCA VALLEY — The Yucca Valley High School community gathered by the hundreds in the Trojan gym Wednesday night for Renaissance Academic Awards Night.

“It’s an honor to be here tonight to recognize you guys,” Principal Justin Monical said. “These are all students who go above and beyond and achieve at incredibly high levels.”

The annual awards ceremony honors students for exceptional academic achievements, including students who excelled in certain subjects or classes, earned high SAT or ACT awards or got the top grades in their year.

Assistant Superintendent of the Morongo Unified School District Dr. Deborah Turner announced the first awards of the night, the Golden State Seal Merit Diploma awards. The Golden State Seal Merit Diploma is awarded jointly by the state board of education and the state superintendent of public education. 

Eligible students must have had a grade of a B plus or higher in six areas of study.

“Tonight we have a very comprehensive list of students who have achieved this honor at YVHS,” Turner said. “Ninety-seven students from this year’s graduating class have earned that diploma.”

The next round of awards was presented by department heads to students who showed exemplary work in areas of study.

Matt Rauch of the social science department awarded Nicolas Luckino.

“I had him for two years straight,” Rauch said. “He’s the first student I’ve known who wanted to challenge (an Advanced Placement history) course for fun.”

Drama teacher Crystal Mason awarded Lillyanna Lopez, who will be moving on to the University of California, Riverside theater department next fall.

“She spent hundreds — actually, thousand of hours involved in theater here,” Mason said. “She builds up others with her incredibly kind heart.”

At the end of the ceremony, the students of the year for each class were awarded, with their parents introducing the winners. Sophomore of the Year was awarded to Trinity Mecham, Junior of the Year was awarded to Nellie Gutierrez and Senior of the Year is the senior class valedictorian, Daniel Goddard.

Goddard was a three-sport athlete in his junior and senior year at YVHS. He received the Citrus Belt Area Athletic Director’s Award, honor roll with a GPA of above a 4.0 and the Masonic Public School Award. He was also recognized for having a top ACT score and a top SAT score in the senior class.

“I’ve watched Daniel work so hard,” said his father, Michael Goddard. “We’re really proud of him for everything he’s accomplished here.”

Goddard was also named the Trojan of the Year, the top student at the school whose name will be engraved into a plaque that permanently sits in the school’s front office.

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