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University-bound seniors from Pioneer Valley, Santa Maria high schools honored for accomplishments
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University-bound seniors from Pioneer Valley, Santa Maria high schools honored for accomplishments

Seniors headed for universities after graduating from Santa Maria and Pioneer Valley high schools were honored for their accomplishments Friday in an online event and a drive-by ceremony prompted by social-distancing orders to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Using the Zoom application, Pioneer Valley High held a “virtual signing day” at 2 p.m. for seniors who went through the AVID program, said PVHS mathematics and AVID teacher Trestina Leornas-Hurtado.

AVID, for Advancement Via Individual Determination, is a nonprofit organization’s program that trains educators to close the opportunity gap and prepare all students for college, careers and life.

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Leornas-Hurtado said all 71 AVID seniors have been accepted to universities, although some chose to attend Hancock College initially because of the uncertain times presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are very proud of all of them,” Leornas-Hurtado said. “All three teachers — Jennifer Ogren, Brett Dodson and I — have had most of the kids for all four years of high school. We are very close like a family. We call ourselves an avid family.”

Universities that accepted the students are Chapman University, Cal Poly, the University of California campuses at Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Diego, Irvine and Santa Cruz and the California State University campuses at Channel Islands, Fresno, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, Fullerton, East Bay and Sonoma.

Later Friday at Santa Maria High, school administrators wearing masks and gloves waited in the staff parking lot off Thornburg Street to honor each Saint for his or her academic dedication.

“The counseling team and faculty feel that it is important to recognize these students that have taken rigorous courses and have made many sacrifices to achieve the privilege of a university acceptance,’’ Assistant Principal Monica Pallan said. “This event will hopefully show the students how proud and how special they are.”

Divided up by last name initials, about half the class went through the event between 5 and 6 p.m., followed by the other half from 6 to 7 p.m.

About 150 students each received a medal from the University of California system, a presidential certificate of achievement and an assortment of school supplies, Santa Maria Joint Union High School District spokesman Kenny Klein said.

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County Reporter/Associate Editor

Lee Central Coast Newspapers associate editor Mike Hodgson covers Santa Barbara County government and events and issues in Santa Ynez Valley. Follow him on Twitter @MHodgsonSYVNews.

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