The Kern High School District's annual PEAAK Awards were the hottest ticket in town Wednesday, giving some of Hollywood's most prestigious award shows a run for their money.
Students were given the full Oscars treatment by walking a red carpet and doing interviews as they headed inside Bakersfield High School's packed Harvey Auditorium, which seats around 1,500. Nominees were dressed in their finest looks, and for many, it would be the last time they would get together with their peers before graduating.
"This is one of my last chances to feel like a high schooler," said senior Savanna Lux from East Bakersfield High School, who was a member of the PEAAK Award-winning musical "The Addams Family." "I've formed a bond with so many people because of the musical — so many underclassmen that I wouldn't normally meet, so many new friends and people that I love."
The show, which has been described as KHSD's version of the Grammys and ESPYs, recognizes the best in activities and athletics throughout the district. Among the 36 categories were greatest community supporter, outstanding achievement in theater and best male and female athlete.
"It's exciting to see the kids so excited," said Stan Greene, director of school support services. "That's what's so great about this."
To kick off the night, Mayor Karen Goh presented the Mayor's Trophy, which is awarded each year to a senior for their athletic performance, academic achievement, leadership and community service. This year's recipient was senior Payton Renz from Liberty High School, and as Goh listed off her numerous activities and accomplishments, the audience erupted in applause.
"It's definitely unexpected, I don't feel deserving of this," Renz said. "It goes to show you that what you do in high school, if you work hard and serve your community, there will be a reward in the end."
Renz has been a member of Liberty's soccer, tennis, cross country and track teams, the National Honor Society, Kern County Student Leadership, Bible club and countless other groups.
"My freshman year I played four sports and then I suffered a knee injury and I realized I needed to move my energy into something else, so I thought, 'Why not put it into the community that's given so much back to me.'"
She will be attending the University of Notre Dame in the fall.
Another winner of Wednesday's awards was East Bakersfield High School senior Cindy Pelayo for greatest comeback. The award is given to an individual or team who came from behind to win a contest, season or event. Pelayo dislocated her elbow and tore several muscles, ligaments and tendons to end her wrestling season last year, but she was able to bounce back.
"For someone to acknowledge everything that I had to go through to get back to the top, it means a lot," she said. "I'm glad that they nominated me for this."
When she heard her name called, she said her heart dropped and it took her a moment to process it.
Taking home the PEAAK Award for outstanding leadership was The Three Amigos, which consists of seniors Wesley Gordon, Carson Parks and Tate Turner from Bakersfield High School. The trio is involved in the Associated Student Body, and they each knew if they wanted to have a memorable high school experience they had to stay busy.
"We try to go above and beyond what our duties are at school, and we just try to make it a greater place where people actually want to come to school," Parks said.
Gordon and Parks will be going to Cal State Long Beach in the fall, while Turner will be at UC Davis, but they said they will still remain The Three Amigos.
The final award of the night, the KHSD Superintendent's Ambassador Award, went to the S.W.A.T Team (Students Working Against Tobacco) from Golden Valley High School.
Award winners were determined through a districtwide nomination for every school site. KHSD then compiles a list of nominees and presents them to a selection committee.