Meet the Students of 2013


Bradley is a remarkable young man not just for what he has achieved both academically and personally, but achieving at a very high level in the face of such daunting odds. You see, Brad was born with an auditory impairment and as he matriculated through school, he found himself having to explain why he wore hearing aids when he wasn’t deaf. Children can be cruel and Brad’s experience was no exception; he was teased and often embarrassed by his “difference” throughout elementary and junior high school. Unfortunately the past three years have been unhappy and challenging for Brad as well. Migraines, now well-controlled and infrequent, caused him to miss several weeks of school in his freshman and sophomore years. Incredibly Brad maintained a 4.0 grade point average during this trying time. Sadly during this same period, Brad’s aunt and grandmother were both diagnosed with cancer and his father with terminal lung disease. In light of these downward turn of events in his family, Brad graduated midterm to enable his family to move to a lower elevation while his dad awaits a double lung transplant.

I believe Brad will realize his career goal as an engineer, having been advanced-placed in math throughout school. He took geometry in eighth grade and will complete AP Calculus this year, taking all the math classes we have to offer. His impressive 790 SAT math score and AP Scholar award also speaks to his intelligence and gifted math ability. Brad is excited about majoring in environmental engineering as he has already been working in the environmental field; he is a member of Generation Green Club on our campus. Benefits of this club allow students to apply to work for the US Forest Service. Brad did so and was accepted to work for the USFS last summer doing back country trail maintenance and stream zone improvements. The life-changing experience has inspired Brad to further his knowledge with the help of the USFS engineers by choosing to do his senior project on environmental engineering.

Brad has many other unique interests as well. He has been actively involved with the American Kennel Club (AKC) Junior Handler Program. This requires many weekend hours to train, groom and care for the safety and well-being of his show dogs. He shows them in the ring which has given him confidence and earned him Grand Champion in 2010. Brad also challenged himself in the field of music. He has been a member of our string orchestra throughout high school, playing the violin since elementary school even with his hearing loss. Brad does not shy away from challenges; he is willing to try new things without fear of failure and accepts disappointments with the same grace as his successes. I believe there is no barrier that Brad cannot surpass; he has been doing it all of his life. He is intelligent, inquisitive, self-motivated and has developed self-confidence that only comes from overcoming extraordinary obstacles. He will be attending Notre Dame University in the fall.


Cody is an amazing young man that has more strength and character than any student I have worked with in my 15 years of high school counseling.  Cody was an accomplished student and competitive athlete prior to a tragic incident in the summer of his junior year.  It is his response to this personal tragedy that makes Cody so amazing.  

Cody experienced a series of life threatening strokes in August of 2011.  His doctors were concerned that Cody would not survive, not to mention recover both physically and mentally.  Cody prided himself on perfect attendance and earning excellent grades.  He was planning to start on our Varsity Basketball and Baseball teams.  Cody was preparing for the rigorous AP courses to maintain his ranking in the top 3% of his graduating class.  When Cody awoke from his final stroke and the medically induced coma, he needed to re-learn to walk, talk, read and write again.  His doctors were amazed by his progress.  Cody was determined to recover and his positive attitude combined with hard work has made a miraculous recovery.

Despite the academic challenges that Cody has had to overcome he has been able to successfully continue rigorous core curriculum.  He now compensates some diminished capacity in the areas of reading, writing and speech through extremely hard work.   Cody gains satisfaction and pleasure from his academic accomplishments and good humor.  No matter what happens he refuses to use his medical challenges as an excuse.  He has earned an unbelievable 4.09 weighted academic cumulative GPA.

Cody possesses the academic integrity and ability to react to setbacks that we want from our future leaders.  He has demonstrated these qualities throughout his life.  The hard work that Cody has exhibited in his studies is also present in his athletic pursuits.  Doctors who had doubts that Cody would ever walk again were astonished by his rehabilitation and cleared him to compete in Varsity Basketball and Baseball within a year.  Again, Cody proved a good attitude, strong personal character and work ethic could help him overcome any limitation. 

Cody will be going to California State University of Long Beach and will be studying business marketing.  The cost of attendance is $27-30K.  The family did not receive any financial assistance from state or federal government.  He has applied for 12 other scholarships and his parents are looking to finance his education through whatever means necessary.  He and his family were devastated by his medical bill and would definitely appreciate any financial assistance that you can provide.

What Liana has accomplished in her short life is miraculous when one considers how her life began.  Before she was born, Liana suffered a stroke in her mother’s womb, so upon birth the right side of her body was functionally compromised.  Doctors believe it occurred because her mother had a severe asthma attack while pregnant, causing lack of oxygen to the growing baby.  It took several years before Liana was able to overcome many of the physical consequences of the stroke, including seizures, which she outgrew at four years old. As a toddler, Liana also had to learn how to grasp things with her right hand when it finally unfolded from its clench.  What were not affected by the stroke are Liana’s attitude, spirit and intelligence.  She has created a life filled with opportunity and views her imperfect right arm as a motivator rather than a limitation. Her greatest strength is courageously overcoming obstacles; she has truly made lemonade from lemons in all areas of her life and gives that lemonade freely to all in need.

As the oldest of five children, Liana is an excellent role model as a daughter, sister and student.  Her family and her religious faith (Church of God) are at the center of her life.  Her family observes Passover, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, requiring her to leave school for two weeks each fall. Liana has chosen to observe the Sabbath with her family from Friday at sunset to Saturday at sunset and does not participate in sports on those days, a decision that has been left up to her by her parents.   Her ability to sacrifice for others is at the core of her being, illustrated by her trip to Panama to help orphans in the spring of 2012 through a church missionary group where only six students in the US were selected.  Liana also applied for a scholarship and was accepted to go to Japan through the Youth for Understanding program last summer independently of her parents.  Liana has experienced many countries in her lifetime; as a small child her family lived in Germany and France for two years and Liana became fluent in German, but it quickly faded as she integrated back into the American culture.  Her family also traveled to her mother’s native country, New Zealand, last spring for six weeks and Liana maintained her grades in her one honors and two AP courses even while having to study independently.

I truly believe there is no challenge that Liana cannot meet.  Academically, she is 9th in her class taking eleven AP and honors classes and thrives as an independent thinker.  She is already an AP scholar and will most likely achieve the status of AP scholar with honors after this year. She is bright, articulate and engaging.  Athletically, Liana has overcome tremendous physical odds to swim and cross country ski on our school teams knowing she will never be the best athlete on the team.  Socially, Liana is drawn to those activities that are “other-person-centered.”  It is her nature to help others in a meaningful way, a desire grounded in her strong moral character and beliefs.  Liana served on the El Dorado County Youth Commission in junior high, representing the youth of South Lake Tahoe on the health and humane society committees.  This required her to travel sixty miles to Placerville monthly as the youngest youth commissioner that has ever served in that capacity. Her service inspired local students to start their own commission on the South Shore of which Liana has served as president for the past two years.  In addition, Liana has done countless hours of community service for the Boys and Girls Club, Tahoe Parents Nursery School, Soroptimist Club, National Honor Society, Generation Green and is a currently a Peer Assistance Mentor of our severely handicapped students.  She is deciding on a college next fall, perhaps Mills College or Moorpark Community College.


Osvaldo is a Hero for many reasons being a first generation, low socio economic, Hispanic boy in our community there are many obstacles to getting an education in high school and going to college.  Osvaldo was born at Barton Memorial Hospital and raised in Lake Tahoe.  His parents were from Mexico and spoke only Spanish.  He was a good student in middle school on track to go to college when he was in 7th grade.  Suddenly, Osvaldo’s life changed when his parents were deported.  He and his sister had to leave Lake Tahoe and only home they have known to return to Mexico with their parents.  Osvaldo life was uprooted and he suddenly had to learn the academic language of Spanish.  He had a working knowledge of Spanish but had never read a textbook or written a formal paper in Spanish.  Osvaldo stayed focused and avoided the trouble in Mexico adjusting to his new home. 

Then, his family decided to send him back to live with his aunt at his home in Lake Tahoe.   Tere Tibbetts an amazing advocate for the local Hispanic community brought Osvaldo to enroll in STHS.  He was behind his peers academically because of the major disruption in his life.  Osvaldo did not make excuses or blame anyone for his circumstances.  He just started working extremely hard to earn the grades that he would need to go to college.  Osvaldo joined our AVID program to achieve his dream of going to college.  He did everything that he could to get back on track.  He needed to remediate in both math and English upon returning to America.  By the end of his senior year, Osvaldo able to complete every requirement except the lab science. 
It hasn’t been easy for Osvaldo since returning.  He received a place to live with relatives and worked to cover most of his own expenses.  Osvaldo was able to get a job working at McDonalds, he is a very conscientious worker.  In addition to his income, Osvaldo received some assistance from his older sister who was deported in 2009.  Unfortunately, she recently lost her job which she was performing online for Barton Memorial Hospital.   Osvaldo was devastated at that point, he was thinking of dropping out of school to work and help his family financially.  Through local encouragement and support he found a way to stay enrolled and cover his expenses.   

Osvaldo looks forward to studying Environmental Engineering at LTCC transferring to UC Davis.  He learned about this career through involvement with Generation Green and summer work with U.S. Forest Service.  Osvaldo was unable to complete all of the A-G University of California requirements for admission due to the deportation.  However, he did earn a very impressive 3.57 weighted academic cumulative GPA and will be eligible for the Foundation for the Future Scholarship.  He has maximum need for financial assistance and the federal and state governments will be providing much needed assistance as well.

Branden has not had it easy throughout his young life due to the disability of his single parent mother.  She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after leaving him alone at a Texas airport in the summer of his eighth grade year.  This act set several consequences in motion.  Branden was taken into foster care and after a year of living in the system and with relatives he was finally reunited with his mother.  Once his mother began treatment, his life became a little more stable, but she remains on disability to this day and life for Branden has been difficult.  Oftentimes he has been the parent rather than the child, yet he is one of the most positive and grateful students I have met.  He takes nothing for granted, is willing to work hard for any achievement that he accomplishes and truly appreciates any and all things that others do for him.

Branden has been a successful student throughout high school, working very hard to achieve his 3.3659 GPA.  AVID has been a major factor in his success throughout high school.  He has received tutoring support, study skills and college preparatory curriculum which have allowed him to succeed in his high school studies and be ready for the rigor of college work.  Since he could not rely on any academic support at home, Branden utilized his AVID resources to the fullest.   Branden feels very prepared to attend Chico State University next fall to study kinesiology and exercise physiology.  He has applied for the Educational Opportunity program at CSUC in the hopes that he will maintain that academic support in college.  There is no doubt that Branden will be successful in his pursuit of a college degree.  He is a true American success story: hard work will get you everywhere!  It takes a village…


John is an incredible young man. John has overcome poverty, the death of his mother and a broken family. John moved back to Tahoe after his mother died of a heart attack when he was a freshman in high school. John states that,   “losing a parent is a challenge that no one can prepare you for, it’s a feat that doesn’t have an end.” John has been a focused student while working to help support his father and younger brother. They have recently moved out of a motel and into a house for the first time since moving back to Tahoe. John plans to attend community college and then transfer to the Art Institute in San Francisco. He plans to get a degree in graphic design and own his own company. John always says that his motivation is his mother. I believe John has the perseverance to be successful at the next level.


Chase came to Mt Tallac High School as a sophomore. Chase was living between his mother and his father and was in chaos. Chase was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was in the eighth grade. He came to us with his diabetes out of control and very sick. When Chase came to Tallac he came with the nickname “Diabetes” His diabetes because it was out of control was his identification.  Chase slowly with the help of adults other than his parent got his diabetes under control. He began to find value in education and began to learn self- responsibility, which is critical for a child with diabetes. Chase has been on his own for the past two years moving between friends and family. Chase will be graduating this year and is planning on attending community college and wants to be a teacher.


Kate is a true Hero!  She is an incredible young lady who has overcome serious physical challenges.  She has earned top academic ranking and in the highest 15% of her class.   Kate is a hard working young lady and has done a remarkably in school despite suffering from Stage-4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the end of 10th grade. 

Kate was diagnosed with cancer the summer of 11th grade after suffering all summer with an enormous amount of pain.  She had to miss the entire first semester of 11th grade to receive aggressive cancer treatment at Stanford University.  Kate had to drive to Palo Alto and stay there for 12 weeks of treatment.  She was very sick and too tired to do anything during that time.  Kate did everything that the doctors recommended and responded very well to the aggressive chemo therapy and radiation treatment.

Kate started to do schoolwork as soon as possible through a home hospital independent study program.  She worked very closely with a teacher that would assist her as she was learning Algebra II and United States History while at home.  At the same time she has always been a dedicated member of the yearbook staff.  Kate continued working to get pictures edited for the award winning 2011-12 school yearbook.  Kate did an amazing job completing school work while she was struggling through treatments.  She was very sick and usually exhausted for several days after treatments.  Kate was able to complete a semester of each course and return to school on track in January 2012.  

Kate is a very involved student and was a cross country runner, Nordic skier and swimmer for STHS prior to her diagnosis.  She missed out on all athletic competition that year, because she was not well enough to return.  Fortunately, this year Kate was able to participate in all three sports again, she was never the most gifted athlete but this ordeal did compromise her lung capacity and made it more difficult to compete.    Since Kate has returned to school full time, she has worked extremely hard.  She has been able to continue taking very challenging AP and Honors courses and has earned an impressive 3.93 weighted cumulative academic GPA.

Kate is excited about the opportunity to attend college.  She has been changed by the illness in many ways.  This life threatening ordeal would make anyone appreciate and honor their life, family and friends more than ever.   Kate has been accepted at UC Davis and plans to study photography.  Kate has applied for one other scholarship through the Girl Scouts for a Gold Award.  This is a very prestigious award equivalent to an Eagle Scout honors.  She has been serving as a loyal Girl Scout since she was 5 years old.  The family will cover the cost regardless and appreciate the recognition of this award and what HERO scholarship stands for. 


Gabe is a survivor. He has lived in poverty most of his life. Struggling to have enough food, a roof over his head and the basics needed to live. He has an incredible attitude and has never blamed anyone for his situation. Since his freshman year he has been living in motel, after motel. He states that when he was attending the high school, “ When I attended the high school I had to keep all my work from school in my pocket because I had no where to keep it.” He is currently living in a motel room at Stateline with three other people. This year Gabe realized that his high school diploma and his chance to go to college are his ticket out of his cycle of poverty. He is currently taking two college classes while finishing his high school credits. Gabe is the poster child for over coming obstacles and taking control of his life to change his situation.

LTCC - Rodolfo

Rodolfo Mendoza grew up in South Lake Tahoe.  He was raised primarily by his mother, who re-entered the workforce when  Rodolfo was in 6th grade, in order to support the family.  Throughout his years in high school, Rodolfo worked more than 20 hours each week, in order to contribute to support of his family.  He graduated from South Tahoe High School in 2010, and has been a full-time student at LTCC since the fall of 2010.  Rodolfo has worked full time the entire time he has been at LTCC, in order to put himself through school and continue to help his family.  While working full time, he has maintained an average class load of between 15 and 20 units per quarter.  As part of his academic program, Rodolfo has completed challenging math and science course sequences in preparation for his transfer program.  He is graduating from LTCC tonight with an A.A. Degree in Natural Science, and transferring to UC-Santa Barbara in the fall to major in microbiology.  Rodolfo has maintained a 3.66 grade point average at LTCC.

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