Governor’s Award honors four county high school students

Years of attaining good grades, participating in extracurricular activities and volunteering are paying off for four San Mateo County students, who will receive a new academic award from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday.

The Governor’s Academic Awards Recognition Program will honor the best of the best from the state’s high schools in a ceremony Tuesday. The award recognizes students for their school rankings, grades and test scores but leaves the selection of students up to each county.

“I think we do not do enough to recognize the really superlative students that we have,” Peter Burchyns of the county’s Office of Education said. “It’s a good thing for us to provide kids that we’d like to hold up as role models to our community.”

One of these role models, Aurora David, 18, of Westmoor High School, immigrated to Daly City from the Philippines her sophomore year and quickly became the school’s top student. David achieved a score of 2260 out of 2400 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test and volunteers with Filipino organizations. She has been accepted to Stanford University but has not decided if she will attend.

Joy Wend Zhang, 17, a senior at Carlmont High School in Belmont, also has been accepted by top schools — Massachusetts Institute of Technology and California Institute of Technology — for her achievements in mathematics, including competing in the prestigious U.S. Math Olympiad. Zhang also keeps busy by playing the piano and performing with the Peninsula Youth Orchestra as a violinist.

“Teenagers waste a lot of time doing nothing — there is a lot of downtime. I just have less downtime,” she said.

Jasmine Nachtigall of Hillsdale High School fills her free time by taking college courses. By May, she will not only graduate from high school, but also receive an associate degree in science from College of San Mateo. Nachtigall has raised money for victims of the 2004 Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina and competed in national tennis tournaments, and she has played the violin for 11 years.

“I’m very lucky to have time to do other things besides academics,” she said.

South San Francisco High School senior Margaret de Larios also pursues after-school programs. De Larios, 17, is rehearsing for a musical, working on the school’s yearbook and participating in Girl Scouts.

“I’m completely flattered that I got this award,” she said. “I’m looking forward to meeting the governor.”

svasilyuk@examiner.com

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