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West Valley City Journal

Dedicated high-schoolers recognized by WVC leaders

Jun 21, 2018 12:44PM ● By Travis Barton

Students stand with WVC elected officials after being awarded the Mayor’s Star of Excellence. (Travis Barton/City Journals)

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

Dozens of high-schoolers (and their families) filled the city council chambers in May as students were recognized for their academic efforts. 

Fifty-six students from around West Valley City were awarded the Mayor’s Star of Excellence during a May 22 city council meeting. The teenagers attended Hunter, Granger, Cyprus and Taylorsville high schools.

MaryAnna Mendez was one of 14 Cyprus students to receive the honor.

“I was very surprised,” she said of her reaction to the recognition. “I thought it was really cool. I didn’t realize I'd been that high up, and so I thought, 'Wow, all of my hard work has paid off.'” 

Mendez is a 4.0 student who sings in the madrigals choir and will be the student body secretary the coming school year. 

Hunter High student Emily Murray didn’t know the accolade existed until she heard she was being recognized. But that didn’t lower her enthusiasm.

“I was really excited,” she said. “ It’s nothing I would’ve expected so it’s awesome.”

Each student who came to receive their certificate shook hands with each elected official as well.

“It’s nice to meet them all and be able to be acknowledged for (my hard work),” Murray said. 

The awards are given to top juniors in high school based on their GPA and ACT, the admissions index for public colleges and universities.

Lejla Mujic of Granger took top spot among the 56 students with a score of 136. Mendez tied for the third highest score with a 131. 

Mendez credited her academic dedication to her family. 

“They push me to work hard, and I'm always trying to do my best so that I can make them proud,” she said. 

Murray, who is on dance company and madrigals, also said it was her family, notably her parents, who pushed her to work hard. The soon-to-be Hunter senior plans to go on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after high school before possibly pursuing an engineering degree, though she remains undecided on her major just yet. 

The number of students to receive the distinction this year almost matches 2017’s total—59. Of the 2018 students, 20 were from Hunter, five from Taylorsville, 17 from Granger and 14 from Cyprus. 

Among city officials’ priorities is to increase the amount of bachelor degree holders within West Valley City, the Mayor’s Star of Excellence is one program to encourage youth toward that ideal.

That is just like its other program, Opportunity Scholars, where affordable housing near public transportation was granted to 16 WVC residents attending the University of Utah. The program involves one-on-one mentoring and interning with businesses (in this case, only those within West Valley City). City leaders’ goal would be to encourage those students to maintain their connection to the city, living and working in West Valley. 

Other recipients of the Mayor’s Star of Excellence include:


Cameron Bessette, Kimberly Jackson, Landon Ryan Nichols, Alexander Mills and Thanh Le. 


Rachel Dayton, Matthew Horn, Heather House, Miranda Obic, Olivia Olschewski, Jessica Anaya, Erika Bricio, Jordyn Dumas, Gwen Drunwald, Lindsey Arrington, William Crow, Laura Hamlet, Richard Nguyen, Grant Waldrop, Sandra Del Rio Madrigal, Brittany Kuhn, Emma Taylor, Diana Tran and Liliana Cruz Leon.


Jelena Dragicevic, Noah Sorenson, Ammom Hennesy, Mary Newton, Zack Christensen, Anjelus Lettig, Chloe Topacio, Harrison Wynn, Jared Clawson, Michael Edgren, Noel Munguia-Moreno, Madison Young, Cameron Bohn, Meliame Houston, Lwel Gay Htoo and Leonardo Josephs Rivadaneira. 


Melisa Dizdarevic, Elizabeth Smith, Samuel Crowford, Hailey Mishler, Zachary Zito, Melody Christman, Derek Jacketta, Sara Lynne Davis, Baylee Norman, Alijah Caskinette, Elizabeth Divall, Joel Guillen and Jessica Lopez Lugo.