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Student Recognition

Press Democrat announces Youth Service Award winners

Ten high school seniors from eight Sonoma County high schools were honored Wednesday for their leadership and civic contributions at the 26th annual Community Youth Service Awards.

The event, sponsored by The Press Democrat, recognizes students who go beyond the volunteer commitments sometimes required of high school seniors to create, organize, run and inspire programs that support a community good.

Each category was evaluated independently by a panel of judges. Both Elsie Allen and Maria Carrillo high schools had two winners this year.

The awards were presented in an evening ceremony at the Friedman Center in Santa Rosa. Winners receive $1,000. Winners were selected by 29 judges from 126 nominees.

ENGLISH / FOREIGN LANGUAGE / EDUCATION: Anabel Mata, Elsie Allen High School

anna.jpgAnabel Mata moved to the United States when she was 9 years old and although she now calls the move one of the best choices her mother ever made, she acknowledges the difficulty of being a new kid in elementary school.

Years later, the Elsie Allen High School senior recalled her feelings of isolation as she reached out and guided younger students as a tutor and supervisor in the Migrant Education program.

At Elsie Allen's back to school night in 2013, Mata spearheaded a “Resource Forum,” bringing in 20 area agencies to help families connect with support services.

“Because of Anabel's vision, parents and students had a chance to meet representatives of these organizations and learn about resources for families,” said Lori Chamberlin, Mata's counselor at Elsie Allen.

“I need to fill my community with knowledge about education to give them the opportunity to change their lives the same way that I am changing mine,” Mata said.

Mata, who hopes to become a social worker, is also active with Tomorrow's Leaders Today, Upward Bound, AVID and 10,000 Degrees.

“I know education is my only weapon of survival, and my opportunity to be proud of being the one breaking the cycle in my family to graduate from high school and college and to encourage future dreamers like myself,” she said.

MUSIC: Eduardo Barraza, Elsie Allen High School

eduardo.jpgIf you have been to an event at Elsie Allen High School, you have likely seen or heard the Lobo drum line play. And if you have seen the drum line, you have seen Eduardo Barraza.

Barraza is the Lobos' drum major, as well as a member of concert band, jazz band, honor band and trumpet section leader. The Lobos band plays at school events, community events and in parades, and Barraza is there leading the way.

“His leadership skills are at such a high level that I am able to hand the band over to him to rehearse them by himself,” said Kyle Thompson, music director at Elsie Allen. “He is the most skilled teacher of peers I have ever had in a class.”

In addition to his music, Barraza is president of the Elsie FFA chapter through which he won the Green Hand Award for most involved first-year member. He has participated in California Boys State and was a co-founder of a band camp to help newcomers to Elsie Allen ready themselves for the music program.

“These experiences have taught me how to be a good leader amongst a diverse group of people,” Barraza said. “I have learned how to take many different sections, delegate, and create beautiful music for our community to enjoy.”

Thompson praised Barraza as a true leader.

“Eduardo consistently demonstrates a desire to help others and to raise the level of expectations around him,” Thompson said.