Clovis Unified School District students were honored for overcoming significant challenges Wednesday, March 11 at the 2020 Students of Promise ceremony that took place at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District.
The Clovis Foundation of Schools has put on the event for more than 25 years to recognize students who overcame significant life obstacles that most people don’t face until they are well into adulthood, if at all.
“This event is really to honor kids who really are achieving well academically and in sports. This is to recognize kids who have gone through extreme hardships and struggles,” Clovis Foundation of Schools Chair Mike Fennacy said. “These students understand the value of an education and they are pursuing education in spite of some of the obstacles they have.”
A total of 17 students were honored, all of whom shared heartbreaking but inspiring stories of how they overcame struggles such as the death of loved ones, chronic illness, disability and homelessness.
Teachers, councilors and faculty members nominated the students for their perseverance and dedication to achievement, despite their circumstances.
CUSD Chief Information Officer Kelly Avants said, “This recognizes the students who are persevering through life circumstances that would cause a lot of other people to just give up. They might not be the straight A student, they might not be the star athlete, but they may be.”
The ceremony, modeled after the Academy Awards, welcomed students, faculty and other guests with a red carpet and large banners displaying each of the 17 recipients.
All of the students received a $2,000 scholarship.
“There are strings attached,” Fennacy said. “The bottom line is they have to go to a college or a trade school. We are encouraging them not just to graduate, but to go on and pursue education and get a college degree.”
Alyssa Burton, a 16-year-old student at Clovis West, was one of the students that were honored at the event.
She shared her story with the Roundup, “I was four years old when I was diagnosed with Leukemia. I went through two and half years of treatment at Valley Children’s. After that I was cancer free and happy, but there was a point in time where my family was very poor and we were basically homeless and we were forced to live in a hotel room for two years.
“We made the best of it though, and really that is the only thing you can do in a lot of bad situations, just make the best of it.”
Burton also had to overcome the suicide of a close family friend.
“It was very tragic,” Burton said. “But I am getting past it and I am getting through it and I just know he would want me to be happy. I have struggled with a lot of mental health issues and with drug issues in my family, but I’m working to better myself and to give myself a better future.”
She said she was happy to spend the night surrounded by the people who have supported her.
“It feels amazing to be here because you see everyone around you and everyone is being supportive. It is a great feeling and I am honestly very happy,” she said.
After she graduates high school, Burton hopes to become an artist.
“I would love to go into art or animation. I have been drawing my whole life and it has become a hobby and it has become my lifestyle. I would like to make that something that I can enjoy later in life,” Burton said.
McKay Duran, a Fresno State student who was recognized at the event in 2016 when he was attending Clovis North, returned to the ceremony to address this year’s recipients.
“Through high school I had a lot of health struggles and dealt with a lot of things that made it difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel so to speak with finishing high school,” Duran said. “This opportunity let me expand my horizons and look ahead to an opportunity to go to college and stay in college.”
Duran said he hopes to return to the ceremony in the future to continue to spot students who faced difficult challenges.
“I hope to come back here again one day to support it,” he said. “I would encourage all the current students being honored tonight to not lose sight of any goals they have because anything they want to accomplish and think they can, they will be able to, especially with the support system they have here.”