Sanger students shine in science fair, Hmong decathlon

Sanger West High School academic decathletes take home big wins at 4th annual Hmong decathlon, SUSD students place at Fresno County science fair

The Sanger West High School Hmong decathlon team, who placed first for most spirited high school and second place for academic competition at the 4th annual Hmong Academic Decathlon. (Darren Fraser)
The Sanger West High School Hmong decathlon team, who placed first for most spirited high school and second place for academic competition at the 4th annual Hmong Academic Decathlon. (Darren Fraser)
Mid Valley Times Staff
Published April 26, 2024  • 
10:00 am

SANGER – To accommodate the large crowd of proud parents, family members and teachers, the Sanger Unified School District (SUSD) Board relocated its latest meeting to an auditorium at the Sanger Academy Charter School. 

Occurring on April 23, this was to honor SUSD students who excelled at the Fresno County Science Fair and to celebrate the achievements of the Sanger West High School Hmong decathlon team, who clinched first place for most spirited high school and second place for academic competition in the 4th annual Hmong Academic Decathlon.

“I have the honor of recognizing and introducing our Science Fair coaches and our outstanding students who placed at the Fresno County Science Fair, and, in some cases, advanced to the State Competition,” said Thomas Soto, SUSD Director of Educational Services. “These students put in countless hours of hard work.”

A list of teachers, students and their projects and presentations can be found at the bottom of this report.

The 4th annual Hmong Academic Decathlon was held on April 13, at the Fresno City College Gym. This was the first year Sanger West High School (SWHS) – the Hornets – participated in the event. The 21-student team and their coach, SWHS teacher Moua Vang, placed first overall in the most spirited high school category and second place overall in the academic competition category.

Student Gaoyee Xiong was accorded particular recognition after he took home first place in the story writing category.

A list of categories and finishes is also at the bottom of this report.

The Sanger Unified School District students, of various schools and grade levels, who partook in this year’s Fresno County Science Fair. (Darren Fraser)

DISCIPLINE DATA

On a less celebratory note, Johnny Gonzalez, the SUSD supervisor for child welfare and attendance, noted in his presentation to the Board that – for the 2022-2023 school year – the district’s suspension rate increased by .5% over the previous school year.

Gonzalez’s report found that, to date, for the 2023-2024 school year, there have been 355 total student suspensions. This number includes students who have been suspended multiple times. The number of unduplicated suspensions to date is 296. Twenty-two students have been expelled. Gonzalez said the numbers included data from September through March. He noted there has been a slight increase in suspension in April.

The report covers the years 2017 to the present. Total suspensions and expulsion were highest for the 2021-2022 school year – 592 and 38, respectively.

According to Gonzalez, physical force, violence and attempted violence were the top reasons for suspensions. Drug use and/or possession, defiance and possession of a weapon constituted the top three other reasons. Physical force, violence and attempted violence was the main reason for suspensions for every year except 2021-2022; that school year, more students were suspended for drug use and/or suspension.

For the 2022-2023 school year, male student suspensions doubled the number of suspensions for female students. This was also true for the 2021-2022 school year.

Violence without injury was the top category for expulsions, as it was for every year dating back to 2017-2018. Student expulsions reached their peak in the 2021-2022 school year at 38. Since then, expulsions have dropped across the district. This year, 22 SUSD students have been expelled. In the 2022-2023 school year, a total of 30 students were expelled.

The news is not all bad. Universal support for all students has had a significant impact on reducing overall behavior problems. These supports include the use of substance detecting canine and random classroom searches, whether those be by school resource officers, dogs or administration staff.

Gonzalez said youth court, which was introduced to the district 14 years ago as part of the Restorative Justice Practice (RJP), has been an unqualified success with respect to repeat offenders. Since the court’s inception, zero offenders have been expelled or committed another misdemeanor offense. Gonzalez said students who do not act out in school are at significantly less risk for entering the juvenile justice system.

Gonzalez concluded the presentation by showing the positive effects RJP has had across the district. Because of RJP, Washington Academic Middle School (WAMS) reduced the number of total days of suspension by 281. At Sanger High School (SHS), there was a 6% drop in overall suspensions, with a 37% drop in drug-related suspensions. And at SWHS, of the 50 students who participated in RJP, 80% had no repeat offenses.

FRESNO COUNTY SCIENCE FAIR

Three SHS seniors took home one first place and two second place finishes:

  • Isabelle Luna placed first. Luna developed a non synthetic filter to protect against ultraviolet radiation while enhancing wound healing.
  • Haylee Monroy took home second place for her project that compared the effects of food source on beehive strength during the winterization process.
  • Julianne Luna took home second place for her prototype of a thermoelectric generator (TEG) that converts waste heat into electricity by increasing the efficiency of a TEG utilizing various heatsink designs and cooling methods.

Three SWHS seniors took home one first place and two third place finishes:

  • Jaspreet Sahota scored first place with her presentation on chromoplexy rearrangements – utilizing innovative computational analyses to decipher novel oncogenic mechanisms of chromoplexy by analyzing genomic rearrangements and mutations.
  • Mankirat Sahota took home third place for her presentation on evaluating the diagnostic accuracy of an AI-driven chatbot for identifying symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Jessica Vongsouthi placed third with her study on evaluating oxidative stress on CRISPR gene-edited Escherichia Coli growth.

In the junior division, six eighth graders took home awards:

  • Quail Lake’s Olivia Mariscal placed second for her presentation on the possible effect a refrigerator has on the moisture of cookies over a period of time.
  • Bella Estrada, SACS, captured third place with her presentation, “The skinny on moisturizers: which works best to keep skin moist?”

Four WAMS students placed at the fair:

  • Issac Hernandez scored second place for his study on bike tire durability – airless versus normal tires.
  • Diego Gonzalez took home third place. He examined which form of copper best benefits the growth of plants.
  • Anna Sophia Alvarado and Russell Valverde scored third with their investigation into the decomposition of orbeez (gel-like beads).
  • Audrianna Rosas took home third place with her study of daphnia and how long they can survive in polluted water.

Eight seventh graders took home finishes at the fair:

  • Quail Lake’s Colin Moore captured first place with his study of vitamins and nerve regeneration.
  • Isabella Gutierrez, SACS, scored first place for her examination of what medium works best to insulate a frequency: absorption, reflection, or a combination.

Six WAMS students placed:

  • Ava Wood scored first place for her study of the efficacy of home remedy, eco-friendly and mass market pesticides in controlling blaptica dubia (cockroach) populations.
  • Jared Riddle won third place with his study of the effect of LED lights on overall growth of ocimum basilicum (basil).
  • Kyra Wrynne Maraon Maghony pulled in third place with a presentation on the effect of varied carbon dioxide levels of beta vulgaris L (Swiss chard).
  • Alexander Rivas took second place with his study of the effect of silent fidget toys on the productivity of students in a classroom.
  • Third place went to Gabby Polanco for her study of the effect of air pods on one’s ability to accurately accomplish a set of directions.
  • Lastly, Chloe Avalos scored third place for her study of the effect of various energy drinks on the regeneration rate of dugesia dorotocephala (flatworms).

Rounding out the winners were two sixth graders from Sequoia.

  • Dakota Lee won first place by examining which tumbler keeps water cold the longest.
  • Joseph Montalvo took home second place for his study on the effects of different materials blocking a Wi-Fi signal.

HMONG ACADEMIC DECATHLON

The 21-member SWHS team took home five individual awards and five team/school awards, including placing first overall in the most spirited high school category and second place overall in the academic competition category.

  • Melody Lee took home second place in essay writing.
  • Timmy Wang scored second place in interpretation.
  • The marathon relay team – Ethan Vang, Ethan Yang, Pajshib Lee, Katria Moua, Maximus Ly – took home third place.
  • Gaoyee Lee scored first place in story writing/Hmong story writing.
  • Nicholas Yang scored third in the speech category.
  • In the modern talent category, second place went to Gaoyee Xiong, Leslie Her, Gracelynn Vang, Chelsey Moua, Sunnah Vang and Evelynn Vue.
Mid Valley Times Staff