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12 Nevada students honored at RJ’s Academic Excellence Awards

Twelve students from public, private and charter schools in Southern Nevada were honored Wednesday night for their academic achievements and community involvement.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Academic Excellence Awards dinner recognized students from first through 12th grade, with each of them receiving a $500 scholarship and $500 to go toward a school program of their choice.

The awards were held at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts for its fourth annual ceremony, after two years of being virtual during the pandemic.

Nominations were open to all students in Southern Nevada who demonstrated academic excellence, responsibility, leadership and involvement in extracurriculars. Students could be nominated by a teacher, coach or family member, and winners were chosen by an independent panel of judges.

This year’s judges included stakeholders from educational organizations like the Public Education Foundation and UNLV. More than 100 students were nominated for this year’s awards.

“This is so much more than a dean’s list or an honor roll,” Review-Journal Executive Editor Glenn Cook said at Wednesday’s awards. “We are recognizing outstanding students who, foremost, are outstanding people.”

This year’s winners were:

Booker Fralick

Booker Fralick’s teacher Casey Palermo had never nominated a student for the awards but felt called to do so after Booker exceeded all of his previous beliefs of what a first grader should be able to accomplish.

Booker, who attends Jacobson Elementary School, scores in the 99th percentile in both reading and math and can read 185 words per minute, according to Palermo.

“He is well behaved and has built wonderful relationships with the other students,” Palermo wrote. “It has been an indescribable boon for the kids in my class to see a well-rounded multiracial student who makes everyone around him better.”

Leila Rene Burris

Leila Rene Burris, a second grader at Priest Elementary School, was nominated five times for this year’s award. Her kindness and generous spirit were among the reasons she was nominated.

In addition to helping other students, standing up to bullying at school and helping her younger brother, who has autism, nominators also called attention to Leila’s volunteering and her efforts to donate clothes and food to local organizations.

“She enjoys helping others and is one of the kindest kids I know,” nominator Antoinette Hernandez wrote.

Christian Engleman

Christian Engleman, a third grader at Doral Academy Red Rock Elementary School, consistently scores above his peers in reading, writing and math and is part of his school’s GATE program.

Christian’s father, Christopher Engleman, said that during the pandemic, Christian created an online group for gamers where he unearthed several catfishers and frauds and had them banned from the Roblox gaming platform.

“He is such an unselfish, kind-hearted, intelligent, well-rounded little boy who is already wise beyond his years …” Christopher wrote. “… Sometimes it’s the quiet ones who aren’t seeking recognition and oftentimes go unnoticed, that deserve it the most.”

Alan Powell

Alan Powell, a fourth grader at Wasden Elementary, is a straight-A student with a 4.0 GPA who always seamlessly juggles his school work with his soccer games and tournaments, according to teacher Heather Bartoe.

Alan’s soccer coach Andy Coverstone describes him as an exceptional athlete, leader and teammate.

“Beyond the physical aspects of the game, Alan possesses a remarkable strength of character, level of maturity, and a contagious personality that make him a natural leader to those around him,” Coverstone wrote.

Lindsay Udeh

An environmentally conscious fifth grader at Pinecrest Academy Cadence, Lindsay Udeh is an honor roll student, GATE scholar and a leader in her school’s Climate Committee.

The committee works to reverse climate change through activities like planting trees and cleaning up trash.

“For a 10-year-old in fifth grade, she’s always environmentally conscious that her siblings even model her behaviors as it relates to environmental awareness,” nominator Pauline Williams wrote.

Sophia Villatoro

Sophia Villatoro is a sixth grader at Cram Middle School who was nominated for her intelligence, kindness and responsibility in helping with chores at home and looking after her younger siblings and cousins.

Sophia, who struggled as a younger student with reading, worked during the pandemic to organize her days and manage her time to become a straight-A student with a 4.0 GPA.

“She excels in all things she sets her mind to,” Jennifer Villatoro wrote.

Aiyana Castro

Aiyana Castro, a seventh grader at Somerset Academy Sky Pointe, is an honor student and varsity cheerleader and winner of Miss Nevada Jr. High for 2022.

Aiyana has received several volunteer and community service awards and has logged over 2,600 hours of community service in the last two and a half years, according to nominator Amber Garcia.

“While most 13-year-old girls are hanging out with friends, Aiyana’s schedule is filled with community service,” Garcia wrote. “On so many days she will change out of her school uniform in the car on her way to a community service event.”

Camilla Srinarayana

Camilla Srinarayana, an eighth grader at Hyde Park Middle School, is a ballet dancer and freestyle figure skater and plays the piano.

Camilla has also logged over 100 volunteer hours with nonprofits including the American Heart Association, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Alzheimer’s Association.

Camilla is described by her mother as a “ferocious student” who works “incredibly hard in class” to the level that her science class is nicknamed “Camilla’s class” because of her leadership role in school.

Mischa Abad

A freshman at Green Valley High School, Mischa has a 4.15 GPA, is vice president of the student council and on track to graduate with an international baccalaureate degree.

Mischa is described as thoughtful and self-motivated by her mother, evidenced by her work with Uplifting Deliveries, an organization that Mischa founded, which delivers cards and meals to socially isolated seniors. She has collected over 1,300 cards from more than 21 different organizations since January to deliver to various assisted living homes.

“She says a community could make a larger impact and that the time to take action is right now — as the effects of the pandemic continue to unfold,” Mischa’s mother, Tricia Abad, wrote.

Devika Bhatnagar

A sophomore at Liberty High School, Devika Bhatnagar is involved with her local Indian-American community and has been recognized by the Las Vegas Indian Chamber of Commerce for her community service.

In addition to her honors and AP course load, Devika was selected to represent students as a youth legislator in the Nevada Youth Legislature, according to her nominator.

“During my community interactions, I have noticed Devika as a sedulous volunteer with an ability to work well with others,” nominator Swadeep Nigam wrote.

Amy Choi

Amy Choi, a junior at The Meadows School, was described by her mother as having a “voracious appetite for knowledge outside of her school’s curriculum.

Amy is the president of her school’s Green Club, president-elect of the National Honor Society and a tutor at the school’s writing center.

As a sophomore, Amy also sought out seminars and courses to learn about nonviolent communication, receive advocacy training, and study the chemistry behind molecular gastronomy. She is currently pursuing her interests in environmental advocacy.

Sofia Kelemen

A senior at Las Vegas Academy of the Arts, Sofia Kelemen is her school’s band council president, a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Student of the Year candidate and has helped raise nearly $30,000 for blood cancer research.

Sofia has a 5.0 GPA and has earned a full academic scholarship to the University of Arizona where she will major in nursing in the fall.

“We are all so proud of her accomplishments and await greater success in her future,” her father, Jeffrey Kelemen, wrote.

Contact Lorraine Longhi at 480-243-4086 or [email protected]. Follow her @lolonghi on Twitter.

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