Jonathan Ong, Valedictorian, Blair High School

  • Portrait of  Jonathan Ong, Valedictorian, Blair High SchoolBlair High School Valedictorian, Jonathan Ong, is heading to the College of Engineering at the University of Southern California (USC) and is a candidate for the prestigious International Baccalaureate Diploma (IBD).

    Jonathan has always excelled in mathematics, taking AP Calculus in ninth grade and completing several courses at Pasadena City College (PCC) where he began concurrent enrollment classes in the summer before ninth grade. Last summer, Jonathan participated in California Institute of Technology’s Summer Research Connection by working in a lab modeling bacteria metabolism.

    Outside the lab and/or classroom, Jonathan dove into several extracurricular activities. A part of the Blair water polo community since sixth grade, he began practicing with the team before he could compete and was also the manager of the Girls’ Water Polo Team at Blair Middle School. He was the Blair High School Boys’ Team Captain for the last three years and even though a shoulder injury derailed his final season, he did not allow the injury to drag him down. He enjoys playing flute and was a member of the Blair Jazz Band. He was also a member of the Associated Student Body (ASB) throughout high school and rose through the ranks from ASB Freshman Class Secretary to President as a senior.

    Jonathan received his Seal of Biliteracy in Spanish but also speaks Chinese. A member of the National Honor Society, he is also the recipient of several awards, including the IB Learner Profile Award, the Knowledgeable Viking Award, and the IB Outstanding Student Award. He received the PTSA Scholarship ($500), ASB’s Jimmy Cetina Award ($50) and the Joyce Davis Memorial Scholarship ($2500).

    His teachers and peers have commended Jonathan for his energy, positive attitude and time management skills, never missing an IB deadline. Jonathan received a merit scholarship to study Computer Science at USC and he hopes to eventually become an engineer in the field of Artificial Intelligence. Congratulations Jonathan!

Carli Bertonneau, Valedictorian at the Center for Independent Studies Academy (CIS)

  • Portrait of Carli Bertonneau, Valedictorian at the Center for Independent StudiesCarli Bertonneau will study theater at Emerson College this fall after becoming Valedictorian at the Center for Independent Studies Academy (CIS). She began at CIS as a freshman and says the school allowed her to complete all of her coursework in three years and helped her graduate an entire year early.

    “CIS allowed me to spend more time studying and learning about acting and it inspired me to pursue working in entertainment,” Carli said.

    Outside of school, Carli is an avid equestrian and has been riding for 11 years. She enjoys volunteering at the Pasadena Humane Society and working with horses at local barns and equestrian centers.

    Through PUSD’s dual-enrollment program with Pasadena City College, Carli was able to take a total of nine college-level courses including Environmental Science, American Sign Language English, Introduction to Psychology, and Early Film History. At Emerson, she plans to study Theater and Performance with a double major in English. She hopes to work in the entertainment industry someday. Congratulations, Carli!

Kennedy Hackett, John Muir Early College Magnet Valedictorian

  • Portrait of graduate Kennedy HackettPUSD Senior Kennedy Hackett is headed to Harvard University this fall after becoming the first student to graduate from John Muir High School (JMHS) Early College Magnet with a high school diploma and an Associate of Arts degree in Natural Science from Pasadena City College through a joint partnership between the college and Pasadena Unified School District.

    A scholar, leader, and athlete, Kennedy has a 4.2 GPA and is described by teachers and counselors as “persistent, charismatic, and ambitious.” Her academic achievements and involvement in the school and community are extensive.

    “Dual enrollment at John Muir has allowed me to broaden my academic horizons,” said Kennedy. “Through Pasadena City College, I was able to cultivate new interests by taking classes that aren’t traditionally offered at my high school. Due to the rigor that dual enrollment classes provided to me, I now feel prepared to take my knowledge and apply that to my courses at the university level.”

    The partnership puts college courses on the high school campus; John Muir students can simply walk across the quad to a self-contained PCC building and take college-level courses such as Psychology, Humanities, Speech, African-American History, Introduction to American Government and Politics, or Statistics during the school day.

    Extracurricular activities demonstrate her growth mindset, tenacity, and persistence. “She exemplifies what we look for in student leaders,” says Early College Magnet Counselor Alejandra Diaz.

    Kennedy’s involvement in school includes: Associated Student Body Vice President, 2022 Class Treasurer, the pep squad, track and field, and the Black Student Union.

    Outside of school, she volunteers as a tutor for children in kindergarten through 8th grade. Kennedy describes this as the most meaningful experience in her life because she can see younger children’s academic growth and because it makes her proud that they see her as a role model.

    Kennedy has received numerous awards and accolades, from the school Honor Roll to Rotary Youth Leadership Awards. Kennedy was featured in Pasadena Now for her outstanding work and she is the recipient of the Student Spotlight Award through the California Coalition of Early and Middle College.

    The courses that Kennedy has taken at John Muir and at Pasadena City College have propelled her to become an agent of change for social issues that are impacting the John Muir school community. Kennedy was courageous in bringing about issues of social justice and change. She is passionate about helping other students become successful. As a student in John Muir’s Engineering and Environmental Science Academy, Kennedy studied Introduction to Engineering during her Freshman year, Principles of Engineering as a Sophomore, Digital Electronics in her Junior year, and Engineering Design and Development during her Senior year. She also received valuable work-based experience as an intern at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Aspires West Tutoring Center.

    As an Early College Student Ambassador, Kennedy attends community functions to promote on-campus opportunities for fellow students. Because of the commitment of student ambassadors like Kennedy, JMHS has been recognized as an Early College Magnet and named “Best Choice School" by Pasadena Weekly. As a result, the school has seen an increase in enrollment and has become more diverse in terms of race and socioeconomics.

Benjamin Karish, Valedictorian Marshall Fundamental

  • Portrait of Co-Valedictorian Benjamin KarishMarshall Fundamental graduate Benjamin Karish is heading to the University of California, Berkeley, after becoming a Class of 2022 Valedictorian. Ben’s academic career soared as a Marshall Eagle since 9th grade. He attended Willard Elementary for grades K-5.

    At Marshall, Ben has been active in Frisbee Club, Math Club, Chess Club, Jewish Club, and was the Science Bowl Captain his junior and senior years. Ben played Junior Varsity Tennis as a freshman but turned his attention to running after that, participating in cross country his remaining years of high school and Track & Field his sophomore and senior year. Ben placed third in the Mission Valley League Finals in the 800-meter run in April.

    In his spare time, Ben has volunteered in the chess class at the Pasadena Educational Foundation’s Summer Enrichment Program and has worked as a counselor at Tom Sawyer Camp.

    Ben is recognized by the College Board as an AP Scholar with Distinction and is a 2022 National Merit Commended Scholar. He will be studying engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. Congratulations, Ben!

Kareem Shaheen, Valedictorian Marshall Fundamental

  • Portrait of Kareem Shaheen, Co-Valedictorian Marshall Fundamental Class of 2022 Valedictorian Kareem Shaheen is bound for Yale University. His academic career flourished at Sierra Madre Middle School and then at Marshall Fundamental where he became involved in several extracurricular activities including the National Honor Society, the Journalism Club, the Mock Trial Team, the Science Bowl Team, the Astrophysics Club, Math Club, Model United Nations, Science National Honor Society, and the Middle Eastern Club.

    Kareem has received numerous awards and has been recognized by the College Board as an AP Scholar with Distinction. He is also an AP Capstone Diploma Candidate for his research topic, “Atoms in Accounting, Entanglement in Emails, and Qubits in Cryptography: The Danger to the Digital World.”

    Through the Caltech Summer Research Connection, Kareem conducted scientific research at a Caltech lab with a student-teacher group under a professor’s guidance. Kareem represented Marshall as the American Legion California Boys State Delegate and he won the Legal Advocacy Competition. He was also awarded the Alan I. Rothberg Award for Outstanding Student Pretrial Defense as part of the Mock Trial Competition in the fall. He works as a volunteer at Methodist Hospital Arcadia and the Burbank Islamic Center.

    He has received acceptances from Yale University, Cal Poly Pomona, UC Berkeley (Regents’ & Chancellor's Scholar), UCLA (Big Bang Theory Scholar), UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, Emory University, Rice University, and Rochester Institute of Technology. He plans to major in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Yale. Congratulations, Kareem!

Brianna Gaugh, Valedictorian Pasadena High School

  • Portrait of Brianna Gaugh, Valedictorian Pasadena High School
    Multitalented is an understatement when it comes to Pasadena High School (PHS) Valedictorian Brianna Gaughn. An outstanding student, Brianna is also a figure skater, violinist, and dedicated volunteer who also happens to speak Armenian and Russian. She plans to attend UCLA this fall to study chemical engineering.

    Brianna is a member of the National Honor Society, a California Scholarship Federation seal-bearer with the highest honors, a College Board AP Scholar with distinction, and a potential AP National Scholar. Brianna has maintained a GPA of over 4.6 and was in the APP Academy at PHS up until senior year. She served as Vice President and then President of the PHS Astronomy Club.

    Over the course of two summers, Brianna interned at Caltech’s astronomy and physics labs as a part of the Summer Research Connection program. A dedicated STEM student, she has also taken several courses at Pasadena City College, including: precalculus, linear algebra, and multivariable calculus (not to mention four semesters of Russian).

    A violinist since the age of three, Brianna has performed in the string orchestra, symphony and philharmonic ensembles of the Pasadena Youth Symphony Orchestra. She also began figure skating at 15 years old. When life begins to spin out of control, Brianna relies on her support system.

    “PHS taught me that community is the most important thing to get through difficult times. Even when it felt like things would never get better, my classmates and our school spirit have shown me – that's not the case,” she said.

    Brianna also worked to promote STEM education at school through the construction of an observatory on campus. After school, she volunteered at the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens, accumulating over 200 hours of community service.

    At UCLA Brianna hopes to work in a research lab and compete for the university’s figure skating team. She was accepted to UC Irvine, UC Davis, UC San Diego, Northwestern University, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Michigan for chemical engineering. She is not certain of her career plans but is interested in exploring the medical field. Congratulations Brianna!

Tosten Pearson, Valedictorian Pasadena High School

  • Portrait of Tosten Pearson, Valedictorian of Pasadena High SchoolPasadena High School graduate Tosten Pearson is heading to Brown University this fall after becoming a PHS Class of 2022 Valedictorian. A writer for his school newspaper since freshman year, his academic success story will go down in the pages of Bulldog history. For the last year, he has also led the school’s “Pasadena Chronicle” as Editor-in-Chief.

    As a student interested in pursuing an education and career in STEM, he has also served as co-founder and vice president of the PHS Science Olympiad Club/Team for all four years.

    “I cannot begin to express the full extent of my gratitude towards the Bulldog community, including its teachers, counselors, administrators, staff, and students,” Tosten said.

    Tosten was named a National Merit Scholarship winner and was awarded the UC Berkeley Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholarship. He is a recipient of the Pasadena High School Class of 1967 Scholarship and the Pasadena Educational Foundation 2022 Pasadena High School Wark Scholarship.

    Outside of the classroom. Tosten has volunteered at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens for over two-and-half-years, accruing over 170 hours of community service. During his summers, he has interned through the California Institute of Technology’s Summer Research Connection program and has taken multiple classes at Pasadena City College.

    In addition to Brown, Tosten was accepted at UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, Occidental College, Middlebury College, Amherst College, Georgetown University, Lewis and Clark College, and Brown University.

    He will have a concentration in Chemistry. However, he is also interested in exploring various disciplines of engineering through Brown’s Open Curriculum and plans to continue learning Mandarin Chinese. Congratulations Tosten!

Breannah Herrera, Valedictorian Rose City High School

  • Portrait of Breannah Herrera, Valedictorian of Rose City High School

    Breannah enrolled at Rose City High School in the fall of 2020, her junior year, significantly behind in course credits. In a little over 18 months, she caught up and completed almost 180 class credits with a 3.7 GPA. Brianna created and presented her senior defense portfolio, which is required of all graduates of the Pasadena Unified School District, early enough to graduate by March 2022.  

    In her valedictorian speech, Breannah said, “Never give up on your happiness. Follow your heart and you’ll find happiness along the way.” She went on, “At the beginning of my junior year, I didn’t think I’d make it to graduation. For me to be valedictorian feels surreal, especially having to do it all online. During COVID it was hard to stay motivated and I want to say ‘thank you’ to everyone who helped us get here.”