Lots of good news about our local youth, community

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By Ralph Damiani

You hear lots of good things about our school district, and much of what you hear is justified.

Our students are top-notch and go on to prestigious universities and careers. And you don’t have to look far for validation of that point.

The medical school at the University of New Mexico has about 300 students from all over the world. Did you know that almost 5 percent of that student body is comprised of Los Alamos students? And they do very well.

David Bear, associate dean of admissions for the medical school, had nothing but praise for our youth.

“Los Alamos students tend to do well in our program,” Bear said. “All the Los Alamos students are in good standing in the school.”

He said that the students from Los Alamos at the medical school give our community a “pretty good representation in the program.”

This year six students were accepted into the program. They are:

James Bennett, Dessislava Ianakieva, Veneta Ianakieva, Anthony Martinez, Sydney Ryan and Miguel Sandoval.

They join eight fellow Los Alamos graduates already in the program. These are:

Michael John Hopson and Jennifer Lee Hunt, who were accepted in 2007; Nicholas William Anast, Meredith Richard Neal and Amy Rebecca Yactor Nixon, who began classes in 2006, and Hannah Joann Fellers, Katherine Crawford Forman and Michelle Rae Longmire, who were accepted in 2005.

Congrats to them all - they make our community proud.

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Not enough good news? How about the students who are working so hard for United Way?

Under the guidance of Morry Pongratz, these young men and women have done such a marvelous job for United Way.

From Dinner Over Diamond to coin collections at the schools, to Monday’s hamburger night at Hill Diner, these young people make our community and our schools proud.

Those who helped and deserve recognition are:

Stephanie Abney with the National Honor Society; Amy Casson, NHS and Key Club; Nuria Clodius, NHS; Keanna Cohen, the United Way Youth Team and Natural Helpers; Nat Gustafson, UWYT and Natural Helpers; Aspen Gutgsell, UWYT and Key Club; Ben Havemann, UWYT; Lindy Jacobs, NHS; Adam Nekimken, UWYT, NHS; Kevin Hemphill, NHS and Key Club, Kyle Honsinger, NHS; Kevin McCurdy, UWYT and Key Club; Kelsey Neal, UWYT; Benigno Sandoval, UWYT and student council; Chelsy Smith, UWYT and NHS; Sara Tuzel, NHS; Andrew Vierra, UWYT and Key Club; Sandy Zerkle, NHS and Key Club.

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Of course, as with our schools and our children, none of this would be possible without the support of parents and the community at large. This was so evident at the hamburger night.

First, there was the folks at Hill Diner. They were the main sponsor of the event, donating all the food, the restaurant (and that night’s normal business), the labor and turned over all the proceeds to the youth team.

This was a tremendous gesture of community good will by Lori Novak and Denise Lane.

And the students who put on the night made almost $4,000 for United Way.

But there are others to thank.

The table sponsors were:

Sue Hofmann State Farm, KRSN Radio, Family Strengths Network, Stover for Council, Son-Shine Art, the Family YMCA, Hope Fellowship, Kims’s Katering + DJ, New Mexico Dance Theater, Blue Window Bristo, Simply Strings, Lou Santoro Agency-State Farm Insurance, Stephanie Archuleta & Family, Marie Marroquin & Family and Morrie and Cheryl Pongratz.

The celebrity waiters were:

Dr. Ben Neal & Amy Neal, Gillian Sutton with KRSN, Morrie Pongratz as Elvis, Gene Mortensen the voice of Los Alamos, Police Chief Torpy, the Fire Department and Sparky the Fire Dog and the United Way Staff, Marie Marroquin, Carla Gray Weiser and Donna G. Schroeder.

Thanks to you all for a wonderful night and for your support of all the work of the United Way.