Araceli Meza was valedictorian at the Robert F. Kennedy High School commencement.

Earning summa cum laude honors for a grade-point average of 3.9 and above were: Marisleysis Valdez, Melanie Ayala Ceja, Lissete Valdez, Victoria Lennon, Oscar Bailon, Raul Esquivel, Maria Valdez-Carranza, Felipe Bailon, Dulce Montano, Elizabeth Bernasconi, Dynora Araujo, Gilbert Cortez, Juan Sierra Diaz, Yareli Arroyo Moreno, Cindy Gaeta Paniagua, Emily Ancheta, Maureen Vega, Alan Cazares and Vanessa Garcia.

Achieving magna cum laude for grade-point averages of 3.8 to 3.89 were: Cristina Molina Cortes, Alexsander Madera Ubiedo, Angelica Valdivia, Luis Blanco, Stephanie Natividad, Emmanoelle Aguilar and Jesus Fernandez.

Cum laude honors for 3.5 to 3.79 grade-point averages went to: Esmerelle Arellano, Alondra Martinez, Tannia Mariscal, Karen Gutierrez, Daisy Quismorio, Erick Macario, Alondra Aguilar, Ana Fernandez, Nika Arzaga, Gerardo Arregui, Destiney Kerchner, Luisa Perez Rodriguez, Martin Landa, Ramon Pacheco, Rafael Gutierrez, Alejandro Trujillo, Liliana Arredondo, Leslie Diaz, Aaron Armendariz, Zittialy Renteria, Allyson Ruiz, Denmark Cu, Anjelisa Gutierrez, Parvinder Kaur, Daniela Trujillo Lopez and Jorge Davila.

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About 150 people attended the Delano High Football Hall of Fame dinner and inductions, the 10th annual, at the school cafeteria June 9.

A common message among the 17 inductees was “Once a Tiger, Always a Tiger.” They all pointed to how their experience in football also came from a unity of teamwork, life lessons taught to them by their coaches and an appreciation for what the experience has provided for their lives after high school football. The importance of family support also was a common theme of the acceptance speeches.

Daniel Rodriguez came all the way from Utah to gain his award. Others present to be inducted were Martin Gardea, Arturo Jauregui, Robert Campos, Martin Alejandro, Frank Gonzales, Marke Rodriguez, George Fowler, Brent Peterson, Anthony Gabaldon and Robert Oh. The latter moved from Delano after his senior football season but returned a month prior to graduation to depart high school with his longtime classmates.

Not able to be present but also inducted were Ugo Ledezma, Garrett Henson, Patrick Martinez, Alex Madrid, Merle Bassett and John Fielder.

The only award not announced in advance was the Robert Aguilar Heart of a Champion award presented to Ron Carter.

The selection committee working with Delano High Athletic Director Albino Duran is considering how to incorporate selection of athletes from all sports into the Hall of Fame, rather than exclusively football.

The organizing committee for the Hall of Fame is composed of Monte Marshall, Jerva Winn, Roger Andreas, Roger Gadiano, Henry and Rachel Mendoza, Suzanne Villaruz, Arnold Morrison, Nolan Shaffer, Art Armendariz and Duran.

Head varsity football coach Mario Abundez and assistants Jay Gonzales and Ramon Marquez directed football players in serving and picking up after the dinner, which was prepared by Kern County firefighters. Andrea Popoy, cafeteria manager, and Alex Lopez also aided in the kitchen and serving while Linda Winn and Joyce Andreas worked as cashiers at the door.

Morrison, who doubles as president of the high school district board of trustees, took a group photo of honorees and pictures throughout the night, which were placed on DVDs delivered to all inductees.

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Outstanding athletes for the spring season have been announced for Robert F. Kennedy High by Athletic Director Patrick Snyder.

Ryan Bueno was MVP for boys golf with Amandeep Singh winning the Coach’s Award and Alex Martinez named Most Improved.

For varsity boys tennis, Jonathan Hernandez was chosen the MVP, Alex Irrebaria the Most Improved Player, Gian Beltran and Jerom Buton the Best Doubles Pair, and Angelo Cabrillas the Most Dedicated Player.

For track and field, Christopher Ponce and Rafael Gutierrez were the MVPs for varsity boys with Jonathan Carrillo the Most Improved and Patrick Espinoza the Most Inspirational.

Kevin Medina was MVP for frosh-soph boys track, Francisco Medina the Most Improved and Isaac Villalobos the Most Inspirational.

For varsity girls, Christen Castulo was MVP, Samantha Rodriguez the Most Improved and Castulo the Most Inspirational.

For frosh-soph girls, Maribel Arredondo was named MVP, Natalie Lopez the Most Improved and Kandyce Marin the Most Inspirational.

For varsity softball, the Coach’s Award went to Andrea Jeronimo with Armida Valencia the best Offensive Player, Megan Reyna tops as Defensive Player and Lily Arredondo the Most Improved.

Earning JV girls softball honors were Marisol Gonzalez, Most Valuable; Jocelyn Acosta, Coach’s Award; Alma Garcia, the Most Improved; and Kassandra Rede, the Service Award.

Julianna Gonzales was selected MVP for frosh-soph softball girls with Valerie Rodriguez the Thunderbird of the Year.

Niko Gardea was MVP for varsity baseball; Isaiah Staples, Silver Slugger; Luis Perez, Golden Glove award; and Frankie Ruiz, the Rookie of the Year.

For JV baseball, Pedro Garcia was MVP, Chris Sandoval the Silver Slugger, Eli Gutierrez the Gold Glove winner and Steven Lucas the Most Improved.

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It had been more than a year since I had last seen Estelita Velasco, who for years with her late husband, Delano Mayor Leonard Velasco, had been the “city hostess” to many noted Filipino visitors to the city.

She also has three outstanding daughters. One is Liz Velasco-Ramirez, who for years has been chairperson for Delano’s Distinguished Young Women and Harvest Holidays pageants for young women and everything from chairperson to other positions in Delano’s Philippine Weekend. Back in high school, she was editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, which I advised.

Daughter Elsie (Velasco) Davis was also an editor-in-chief of the same high school newspaper, and I was also her adviser. Even though she is married and lives with family back in Wisconsin, we still exchange Christmas cards.

Though I never had her as a student, daughter Leonora must be an expert in trekking the world with her husband, Teddy Lopez. He was one of five Lopez siblings whom I had in class. Zenaida was a cheerleader when I first began as adviser and a member of the school newspaper staff. Teddy was editor-in-chief of the school yearbook. Sister Grace was editor of the school yearbook. Cynthia was twice editor of the yearbook. Brother Teddy was yearbook sports editor and is now a detective for the Delano Police Department.

If I recall correctly, Teddy has been in the Marines, worked with the FBI and CIA, and, until recently, was assigned to the U.S. embassy in China.

I’ll bet Teddy could write an interesting book about his service to the nation!

Mrs. Velasco, by the way, had stopped by the Chamber of Commerce office to treat Executive Director Janet Rabanal to some homemade soup.

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I don’t want to put on the spot a gentleman whom I know, but he informed me that Delano is now down to two finalists for the position of new police chief.

I am unsure how the four city council members would vote on the position, but a recent health condition affecting Councilman Ruben “Ruby” Hill would leave the council with only three of five regular members since Councilman Rueben Pascual left the community during the spring.

From his early days in high school I have known Ruby as I was writing about Delano sports and he was an outstanding track and football star and was the first-ever Delano Babe Ruth League baseball player to hit a home run over the Frederick Field fence.

I also taught one of his daughters in an English class at Delano High and had the privilege of having the Hills’ son, Ronald, as a student on the school newspaper staff. Ron was not only a star athlete but also was an outstanding person and well-respected and behaved as a student at Delano High.

He entered pro baseball as a catcher out of high school, saw he was not advancing after a couple of seasons and enrolled at Bakersfield College and led the defense in a Junior Rose Bowl football victory. He went on to Cal Berkeley where he also was a standout linebacker and I think the defensive captain for the Bears.

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