DINUBA – Three local teens are in the running to be named the 2024 Dinuba Teen Citizen of the Year, an annual honor presented by the Dinuba Women’s Club.
This year, Dinuba High School students Noah Gonzalez, Elizabeth Hernandez and Sukhdeep Kaur are finalists in the competition. All three are current seniors at Dinuba High School and are heavily involved in their communities inside and outside of school.
To apply for the Teen Citizen of the Year award, students must complete a thorough application that requires them to provide transcripts, letters of recommendation, a complete list of extracurricular activities, a description of their community service work and why they should be Teen Citizen of the Year and an explanation of their future goals.
Applicants also write a one-page autobiographical essay. As per tradition, the Mid Valley Times publishes the essays of the finalists.
The time and date of the Teen Citizen of the Year event has not yet been determined.
Noah Gonzalez, 18 years old
Meeting and exceeding the expectations of my family fueled my determination and strength to overcome challenges in life and my education. As the youngest of three siblings, there was a high set standard, and I lived in the shadow of my family’s achievements. Through my struggle to find my own identity, I instilled values that allowed me to overcome the pressure surrounding me.
I learned the importance of competitiveness, perseverance and integrity, challenging myself in advanced and rigorous classes, such as many AP courses: U.S. History, Government, Physics, Language and Composition and Literature and Composition. I developed determination and commitment, dedicating endless hours to memorizing and comprehending concepts in my education, to triumph over the difficulties in the subjects.
I valued never being satisfied and pursuing new goals to conquer. I have accomplished many achievements such as being a member of the principal’s honorary list, obtaining one of the highest GPAs in my class and receiving numerous scholar-athlete awards.
My success in academics was not only a testament to my abilities as a student but created a foundation for my journey as an athlete. I have been a four-year varsity player for my baseball and basketball teams, additionally playing one year of varsity football.
Sports helped me find my identity as an individual, as I became prideful in my capability to balance my sports and education. My self-determination propelled me to become a valuable athlete for my school, receiving recognition for being a 1st Team All-League baseball player, and also being a part of a league champion basketball team.
Challenging and further encouraging myself to overcome the high standard, I became a leader in my community and school. Joining Student Council and ASB, (Associate Student Body), allowed me to be a representative of our students and promote spirit within our campus. Nominated as the high school mascot, Edgar the Emperor, I personified the loyalty, responsibility and humility values embedded in our school’s culture. Elevating the morale of my school through my spirit, I give a sense of belonging and connection to our community.
I also actively participate in sports camps for our youth. Through these camps I was able to coach young athletes on the value of working through diversities, fostering a future generation with a foundation of resilience.
The challenges that I faced growing up led my obstacles to become the root of my success. I aspire to use my education and experiences to become an engineer, creating a path towards a greater society. Despite the challenges I faced as the youngest sibling, I have proved my maturity through my accomplishments and have grown to find my own identity as a successful independent individual.
Elizabeth Hernandez, 17 years old
I am Elizabeth Hernandez. I was born on January 30, 2006, in the town of Reedley. Both of my parents were born and raised in Dinuba and have raised their family in Dinuba as well. I attended Roosevelt Elementary school for seven years, went to Washington Intermediate school for two years, and am finishing my last year of school at Dinuba High School.
Growing up, I lived in a typical middle-class household. I have two older brothers, which makes me the youngest of three children. Growing up with two brothers and being the only girl was definitely a challenge. However, I like to believe that my brothers provided me with the tools needed to resolve conflict and respect the differences of others. They taught me how to be confident and stand up for myself even when it is difficult.
I am currently 17 years old, closely approaching adulthood. I have always enjoyed being a student. My parents raised my brothers and I to value our education and to always give your best effort. My mother, an elementary school teacher, has always supported my brothers and I and encouraged us to reach our best potential. Throughout my middle school and high school years, I have maintained a grade point average of above 4.0.
Since education has always played a major role in my life, I always wanted to become an advocate for those who aren’t given equitable opportunities in education. I realized that I want to go to the real root of the problem which is the laws and policies that are made to create fair educational opportunities for students. I have chosen to major in political science/law and pursue a career as a lawyer.
In addition to education, my parents taught me the value of faith and having a relationship with God. We’ve been attending Living Word Fellowship for fifteen years and my relationship with God is something that I will always prioritize. It has given me comfort in times of stress and anxiety and it is one of the biggest motivating factors that enables me to do my best as well as respect and serve others.
Sukhdeep Kaur, 17 years old
My name is Sukhdeep Kaur, a daughter and a sister. My family is originally from India and my parents migrated here 23 years ago. And in that short amount of time, they have made many sacrifices and worked hard everyday for me to have every opportunity for my future. And for that I owe them everything.
Early on, I showed an interest in sports and clubs. In 7th grade, I joined the tennis team and continued with the sport until my senior year. In High School, I was in varsity and helped my team win WYL League Champions twice in a row and 2nd place in Valley this year. Tennis has been an important aspect in my life and all of the experiences and people I have met through it will always be dear to me.
Starting high school, I also wanted to get involved with leadership and student council. So, I joined student council as the Secretary and have been for the past three years, earning my spot as the ASB Secretary this year.
Student Council has helped me grow as a person and as a leader. Through it and the many leadership workshops I’ve attended, and sometimes organized, I learned that leadership is about serving the people. And that lesson is what I always think about when volunteering and helping others. It is also what prompted me to become President of HOSA this year. I had been an officer for the past two years and wanted to play a higher role in this program.
I have also organized blood drives, food drives, donations during the winter season and participated in the State Leadership Conference each year. My time and dedication towards this program has taught me many valuable skills while also furthering my passion for the medical field.
Outside of school, my religion and my family are something that I always make time for. My family has always been there for me, especially through the hard times. My parents have worked everyday to provide for me and my siblings. They are the ones who I owe everything to and who I continue to work hard for. I need to make their sacrifices count and make them, and myself proud.
Another aspect of my family is our religion of Sikhism. While I have been exposed to different cultures growing up, my parents taught me everything I needed to know about my heritage and my religion. They made sure that I knew my roots and for that I am grateful. I have grown up believing that our religion makes us who we are and staying true to that will always be how I live my life.
Through this, I go to my temple/church every weekend where I volunteer to teach the next generation about our history and religion and where I also learn more about my roots. This is something that I will continue to do and be a part of, because of how much it means to me.
Everything I do in my life is all because I am hungry. Not in the physical sense, but rather in a way where I reach my true potential. Everything I am working towards drives me to continue through challenging times. No matter how many mistakes I made or how many times I wanted to give up, I learned and I grew. I honored my parents’ sacrifices and will continue to do so.
My ambition and aspirations are what drove me in the past and still drives me now. However, my consistency and my dedication is what has allowed me the opportunities I have today. This is also what will help me succeed in college and medical school. It will help me focus on what I truly want: To be the best possible version of myself in order to help others as a neurologist.