DAR Good Citizen Awards presented to local high school students

Contributed Photo/Courtesy DAR: From left, Helen Masten, regent of DAR Gila Valley Chapter presents the Good Citizen Award to Pima High School senior, Jim Schysm; from right, Graciela Ochoa-Gasca, Safford High School senior proudly displays her DAR Good Citizen Award Certificate.

Contributed Photo: DAR Good Citizen Awards for 2022 were presented to high school seniors, from left, Elianna Cazares, Matilda Hilton, Gianna Chavez, Graciela Ochoa-Gasca, Samantha Palmer, Jim Schysm and Jaren McCabe.

Contributed Article/Courtesy Bonnie Briscoe/DAR

The Gila Valley Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution recently presented the 2022 DAR Good Citizen Awards to high schools in Graham and Greenlee Counties.  This year, with restrictions lifted from the pandemic, the awards were presented in person at the school awards assemblies. One student was chosen from each senior class based on the exceptional ways they demonstrated qualities of dependability, service, leadership, and patriotism in their homes, schools, and communities. The process for making the selection varied with each school but included school administrators, teachers, counselors, and students from the senior class. The following are the honored good citizens and the school’s recommendations for this award:

Elianna Cazares

Elianna Cazares, from Morenci High School, has been quite active during her high school years, participating in Varsity Volleyball and Softball, Marching and Concert Band, Academic Decathlon, Knowledge Bowl, National Honor Society, Science Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, Technical Honor Society, CSO, and Student Council.

Outside of school, she has been involved with the Life Teen Program and gift-wrapping sessions at the Catholic Church, highway clean-ups, and Agave plantings, and, since a freshman, participated and volunteered in the annual Suicide Awareness Walk. In addition to all of this, she took EAC college classes for the last two years and graduated with an Associate Degree before graduating from high school. She maintained a 3.7 GPA and ranked in the top fifteen of her high school class.

She has constantly looked for opportunities to serve and help her community and classmates. Many times, she has assisted her peers, when they need help, with classroom concepts.

Her communication and leadership skills are outstanding. Time and again, she mentored young players at softball practice. She is admired and respected by her teammates as well as her classmates.

A special $100 donation was included in this award by the Amie and Danny Savage Family who live in the Morenci area. Amie, a DAR member, wanted to use this opportunity to recognize a deserving Morenci High School graduating senior.

Elianna is the daughter of Monica and Fernando Cazares of Clifton.

Matilda Hilton

Matilda Hilton, from Duncan High School, is devoted to giving her all to whatever task she is faced with.  She often takes on responsibilities that no one else wants to do, has a strong sense of work ethic, and includes others in the work that needs to be done.  Matilda is always helpful to staff and students and has a great work ethic.

As a member of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Club, she traveled to Florida to participate in the International & Southwestern Space Settlement Design Competition.  She worked on the Yearbook Staff and served as Editor for the last 2 years, was involved with Future Business Leaders of America all 4 years of high school; was a member of the Associated Student Body and National Honor Society, and participated in the Knowledge Bowl for 4 years.

She was the recipient of the GIFT Outstanding Student of Merit Award when nominated by the teachers in the Career and Technical Education classes. Matilda also received the Judy White Memorial Scholarship from the Duncan Valley Electric Cooperative.

Outside of school, she was involved in her church as a Young Women’s Leader & Camp Counselor, planning weekly service projects & creative activities for middle and high school girls in the area; performing in the annual Christmas Festivals; helping with the community service projects, such as collecting food drives and Christmas caroling.  She also served as a volunteer at the Duncan Public Library and the Duncan Elementary School.

She has been a helper and friend to all those she has worked with her humble and amazing spirit.

 Matilda is the daughter of Melanie Hilton of Duncan.

Gianna Chavez

Gianna Chavez, from Mt. Graham High School, has always done things out of common courtesy, something that comes naturally to her. She is a hard worker and a fighter. She never quits and takes pride in her work.  There was a time when she didn’t know where she would be but knew she would get there.

Since her freshman year, she has been an active member of the Teen Out Reach Program, which consists of community service, planning school events, and being there to support those events.  She was one of the influential students to have the first dance in years to be held at the school.

She has always been willing to help.  She helped with serving lunch and worked with her assistant teacher, the lunch lady, who she adores.  With her working experience at CMI, she was the perfect person to help the office ladies print school forms for them.

In her work at CMI, with all the technology progressing every day, she helped grandparents with printing images from their phones and sending emails.  No matter the age, she tends to have a lot of patience and understanding for the people who aren’t knowledgeable about such things.  She doesn’t hesitate to lend a hand immediately to someone in need of assistance. Whenever people are ready to receive help, she is always there, ready to give as much as she can.

Gianna is the daughter of Tanya and Andrew Cordova of Thatcher.

Graciela Ochoa-Gasca

Graciela Ochoa-Gasca, from Safford High School, is a hard worker and always willing to make corrections when she makes mistakes.  She is intelligent and creative in every single thing she does. Graciela truly cares about improving, is eager to learn, and pushes herself to do well.

She goes out of her way to help others; always there to lend a helping hand to anyone in need. This is a quality that comes naturally to her. She does not like to see others stressed or worried. She reaches out to help in any way she can, and is never afraid to do more work to help others. She is very dedicated and committed.

Graciela has been involved in the Chef’s Brigade Culinary Club and helped with local banquets.  She was also active with the Bulldog Pantry, serving as an officer and helping to provide food and personal hygiene products for students in need through the backpack program. With her strong sense of thoughtfulness, dedication, and commitment, she put together a small appreciation package for each of the Bulldog Pantry members who consistently showed up after school to prepare and distribute bags from the pantry. She also created a questionnaire to better meet the individual needs of students receiving assistance from the Bulldog Pantry.

She has poise, kindness, integrity, and a sweet demeanor and always has a smile, and treats others with such grace and gentleness.  She is the kind of young person who makes others feel very optimistic about the future of our world because individuals like her will go on to do great things!

Graciela is the daughter of Reanna Ochoa and Fernando Gasca of Thatcher.

Samantha Palmer

Samantha Palmer, from Thatcher High School, was praised by her peers when they were asked about her good citizen qualities. Here is what they said without any hesitation:

“She has a sweet nature all of the time. What I really like about her personality is she doesn’t even make jokes to her friends because it might be a little mean or offensive. She is a great example to look up to.”

“She is in a lot of clubs, and despite the time involved, she is always giving her time and effort. I think she deserves this award in every way.”

“She’s a phenomenal citizen because she is a leader in many organizations. She does not ask others to do things she would not do. She is always kind and understanding of others.”

“She is a great person all around.  She is always willing to help and to do whatever is asked of her.”

At school, Samantha has been involved in Future Business Leaders of America, National Honor Society, Tennis, Cross Country, Student Council, Show Choir, and Orchestra.

Outside of school, through her church, she has been part of the seminary council and has been a young women’s class president.  She works as a bookkeeper for her uncle’s construction company.  Samantha has participated in the county fair by raising, showing, and selling show pigs.

Through all these organizations and activities, she has made many friends and been able to participate in a number of service projects.

In 2020, Samantha wrote an essay entitled “How the sacrifices of the Founding Fathers of our country are relevant to me as a young citizen of the United States of America.”  She wrote, “As a citizen of this country, we have the freedom to chase after every one of our dreams and choose how we will live life. We have the opportunity to freely practice religion, gain an education, be protected by the law and countless other freedoms.”

With the personal traits expressed by her peers and the values she places on the freedoms provided by this country, she reflects the quality of a good citizen. 

Samantha is the daughter of Kristi and Phillip Palmer of Safford.

Jim Schysm

Jim Schysm, from Pima High School, is a team player and gets everyone else excited about participating in whatever event or project needs to be accomplished.  He has the ability to come up with ideas and a plan with an enthusiasm for everything.  Jim is incredibly dependable and goes above and beyond anything expected of him.

Over the years, he has been involved with band, yearbook, Knowledge Bowl, and golf. Here is a quote about his involvement in these activities. “I have found all of them joyful because they’re challenging me to improve myself as a person.”

As a volunteer, he has done babysitting, picked up trash at the school before football games, been involved with a community-based event at Discovery Park, and helped with fundraisers and service projects through the Phi Theta Kappa Chapter at EAC.

One of Jim’s biggest character-building challenges was to do the near impossible. In the aviation class at school, it generally takes three years of study before taking a test to get certified. Being a senior, he would not have that much time, so for two weeks, he pushed himself hard to study. He spent hours each day learning the material so he could take the test on time. He ended up getting 83%, although not within the 90% needed, he was proud of getting a passing grade and doing the near impossible.

He has the same enthusiasm and drives with patriotism; often supporting and promoting the military and respect for his country.

Jim is the son of Leea Schysm of Thatcher.

Jaren McCabe

Jaren McCabe, from Fort Thomas High School, goes out of his way to help his peers with respectful kindness, whether it involves academics or sports.  He works well with his teachers. Whether tasks are big or small, he is pleasant, thoughtful, respectful, and a true gentleman.

Through his church, he helps with community projects.  He has been seen helping people in the community, especially senior citizens. He does yard work and helps someone who is moving from one house to another.

He is kind and generous with his time and hardworking abilities. It is not rare for people to know him.  He is trustworthy and reliable in all that he does. 

Throughout high school, he has been involved with Future Business Leaders of America, and the National Honor Society and participated in football and baseball.

On top of all of his commitments and service projects, he is an outstanding student scholar and youth leader as well as an awesome athlete.  He is seen as a standout student and an upstanding citizen.

In the Boy Scout program, he attained the rank of Eagle Scout.  He is patriotic and grateful that America has the freedom to provide more opportunities than other countries, helping citizens to lead successful lives.

He strongly feels it is important to set an example and help others.

Jaren is the son of Martha and Steve McCabe of Fort Thomas

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