Introducing the Class of 2006
Scholars, Athletes and Activists are Ready to Make their Mark
June, 2006 - Issue #20
In 1945 the California State Board of Education approved petitions from five elementary school districts - Newhall, Saugus, Castaic, Mint Canyon and Sulphur Springs - to start a new high school district. Voters approved a bond that same year to build the first high school in Newhall. It was suggested to name the high school and high school district after the Santa Clara River, but when the site was completed in 1946, it was decided to name both after cowboy actor and Newhall resident William S. Hart.

Fast forward 60 years. There are now eight high schools and six junior highs with yet another high school site to be built in the Castaic area. The Class of 2006 found some breathing room on their campuses after several of the new schools were built.

This is also the first year the seniors were required to pass the California High School Exit Exam in order to receive a diploma. And there is a new head administrator in the district office as Jaime Castellanos took over the reins after the retirement of long-time Superintendent Robert Lee.

The Class of 2006 is over 3,000 strong. The Hart District was in the news this school year with a surprise CIF Championship for the Canyon High football team, racism complaints at Valencia High and student uprising in the spring when a walk-out was held over immigration.

Richard Wirthlin<BR>Canyon High School
Richard Wirthlin
Canyon High School
Amanda Keating<BR>Saugus High School
Amanda Keating
Saugus High School

But the Class of 2006 also had its share of scholars, athletes and activists. We asked around and highlighted several from this year's graduates.

Jena Brown wanted to raise the social conscience of her peers and began a Young Democrat Club on her Valencia High School campus. In this valley of Republicans, Jena was certainly leading an uphill crusade. "Students are so apathetic and it is very disappointing," she said. "It bugs me that there is so much going on that affects [young people] and they sit on their butt on My Space. I say get up and do something."

Although she enjoyed her high school years, Jena said she is looking forward to attending school in Santa Barbara in the fall and to eventually enter Berkeley and obtain a law degree. Oh, she also says that if there is no woman president soon, she's throwing her hat into the ring.

Hart Senior Pedro Martinez is looking to break into the world of architecture. Having been a huge Lego fan as a child, Pedro found he liked his drafting classes and the passion took off from there. He is interested in designing residential homes, but you won't find this senior playing Sim City on his X-Box. "Video games bore me. Education is more important," Pedro said. "I do well right now and so can everyone else. I tell them you can be smart, too. Just open a book and go to class."

Pedro Martinez<BR>Hart High School
Pedro Martinez
Hart High School
Mala Tejwani<BR>Academy of the Canyons
Mala Tejwani
Academy of the Canyons

Pedro will be attending College of the Canyons in the fall and then he hopes to enter Woodbury College in Burbank to complete his architectural degree.

Mala Tejwani thought she'd get an early start at college so she enrolled as a senior at Academy of the Canyons, a high school/middle college on the campus of College of the Canyons. She takes regular high school classes in the morning and college courses in the afternoon. She said she enjoys taking college-level courses and that fellow COC students treat her as an equal. Mala eventually would like to transfer to Berkeley to major in History and pre-law. This organized senior doesn't consider herself "smart," but more of a hard worker. "You can have a 4.5 GPA and make it into Stanford, but if you can't talk to people, you're not going to get very far," she said.

Mala is passionate about dancing, particularly the traditional dances of India. She also teaches classes at the Athletic Club in hip hop and salsa. "I do a little of everything," she said.

Canyon High School's football team surprised everyone when it took home the CIF championship this year. Senior Richard Wirthlin was on that team and will be heading to Brigham Young University in the fall to, once again, play a little football. He said he is looking forward to being out on his own, but has reserved any thoughts of a major until he completes his two-year mission. Richard, who earned his Eagle Scout ranking by securing water heaters for the elderly, said his life so far has been an adventure and learning experience.

Jackie Burbank<BR>Valencia High School
Jackie Burbank
Valencia High School
Jena Brown<BR>Valencia High School
Jena Brown
Valencia High School

"I was always so scared when I was a freshman. I wanted to be a sophomore, then a junior," Richard said. "I'd like to tell the new kids to live it up. Make memories and make friends. It goes by so fast."

Valencia Senior Jackie Burbank, who will be heading to San Francisco State on her way to a teaching career, said that high school can be a bit overwhelming. "One step at a time," she advises. "Just get through every year."

Most of the seniors had the same advice to incoming freshmen - find a passion and get involved. High school is just a moment in your life, but how you choose to embrace it will mean the difference of building on your future or just wasting your time. We'll be watching you freshmen and we look forward to seeing a new crop of outstanding seniors in 2010.
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