Congrats to our Rising Stars of the Year

Bret Schanzenbach

President & CEO
Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce

In September, 2021 the Carlsbad Chamber launched its third annual Rising Star of the Month program to honor local area high school seniors for demonstrating character, integrity, love of learning, involvement in school and community activities and the ability to overcome challenging life circumstances without compromising their education. Thankfully we were able to return these monthly breakfasts to “in person” this year and we honored 32 high school seniors from five different high schools here in Carlsbad.

The Rising Star of the Month program has established itself in the Carlsbad community for the impact it brings each month. “The opportunity to identify and honor a student as the Rising Star is one of the highlights of my month every time,” shared Jesse Schuveiller, Principal at Sage Creek High School. “The Rising Star’s focus on students who have overcome adversity to impact their school and community is particularly meaningful, because it shows students that we recognize the efforts that it takes to be successful and validates the hard work that these students do.”

JR Phillips, owner of Phillips + Company Real Estate, has been a sponsor of the Rising Star program since it started. When Rising Star started in 2019, JR was also the Chair for the Carlsbad Educational Foundation, which he encouraged to support the program as well. “Hear one persevering story of a Rising Star and you will forever be impacted,” shared JR. “There are kids who are the first in their family to ever go to college, kids who moved here from other countries a few years ago not knowing the culture or language and now are leaders on their campuses, just amazing students. We’re fortunate to have these young leaders in our community and it’s an honor to help them succeed.”

The students who are honored each month are selected by the high schools themselves. The Chamber shares the mission statement of the program and the schools take the initiative from there. Bryan Brocket, Principal at Carlsbad High School shared, “Each month I go back to the mission of the program to see which criteria our candidates meet; I really think that this gives us a diverse group of honorees throughout the year, which only makes the program stronger.”

At the end of the school year, those students who were honored throughout the year as Rising Stars of the Month, are then eligible to apply for the Rising Star of the YEAR scholarship. This year the Carlsbad Chamber was able to honor nine exceptional students. They were all recognized for making a difference in their home, school and community. Each of the nine Rising Stars of the Year were acknowledged in May with a $1,500 scholarship. A short description about each student is listed here to introduce them to you.

Kailani Chung (Carlsbad High School) – Kailani Chung has been a positive force on the Carlsbad High campus for all four years of high school. She has been on the PAL’s Team (Peer Assistance Listeners), which is a group of juniors and seniors who have gone through extensive training to be ready to help fellow students in any way they can. She was literally able to save a life through PAL activities this year. Additionally, Kailani spent the last 7 years in band, and served the last two years as Band President. Her biggest passion, however, is horses. She plans to attend Colorado State University in the fall and study Equine Science. After graduation, Kailani plans to be a large animal vetrenarian.

Rylie McLaren (Sage Creek High School) – Rylie McLaren is described by her Principal as passionate, dedicated and kind. Rylie was named the Scholar-Athlete of the Year at Sage Creek this year due to her academic success and participation on the soccer team. But Rylie’s passion is community building, inclusivity and giving to others. For the past two years, Rylie has been tutoring refugees in our community who need assistance. In the fall Rylie will attend Bowdoin College in Maine where she will continue her soccer career.

Giselle Reyes (La Costa Canyon High School) – Giselle Reyes is determined to be the first member of her family to ever attend college. But her determination goes beyond just herself. At La Costa Canyon she started an Ambassador Program to help Spanish speaking families learn about their school. Giselle is such an advocate for others that, In addition to providing tours for these Spanish speaking families, she joined the PALs Team at her school to help any student with social emotional challenges. In the fall Giselle will attend UC Riverside and study Pre-Med.

Congratulations to our 9 Rising Stars of the Year, (left to right) Kailani Chung, Daniela Yakuta, Wendy Savalza, Giselle Reyes, Ian West, Laura Zhou, Rylie McLaren, Capri Suarez, and (not pictured) Drake Snyder!

Wendy Savalza (Carlsbad High School) – The first word that Dr. Brockett uses to describe Wendy Savalza is “Wow”. Wendy moved here from Mexico as a child and didn’t know the language or culture at all. Now, she is a Carlsbad Unified Champion. Through that program she has visited Magnolia Elementary School several times to connect with and inspire younger students. The experience has been so transformational for her that she has decided to become an elementary school teacher. She will pursue her passion for education at Cal. State San Marcos in the fall.

Drake Snyder (Army and Navy Academy) – Drake Snyder had a decorated high school career at Army and Navy Academy. Drake graduated as the Salutatorian of his class, a Class Officer, an Eagle Scout, and 2nd in Command of the entire campus. The Dean of Academics, Ethan Segovia, described him as character, integrity, grit and resilience. As a freshman, Drake suffered an autoimmune disorder that derailed his career plans of becoming a Naval Aviator. His tenacity and positive attitude, however, have helped him pivot. Now he will study medicine and plans to become a Pediatric Surgeon.

Capri Suarez (Sage Creek High School) – Capri Suarez has done a bit of everything while at Sage Creek High School. She was on Link Crew, is an AP Student, played soccer and ran track. She was also a Carlsbad Unified Champion who visited elementary schools to inspire younger students. Capri also participated in the Youth Leadership Council at the Mitchell Thorp Foundation in Carlsbad. From her Genius Project at Sage Creek, she and a friend started a podcast to help students manage their time and stress. And her volunteer efforts at the Leukemia/ Lymphoma Society led to $50,000 in donations. In the fall Capri plans to attend Purdue University and study Pre-Med.

Ian West (La Costa Canyon High School) – Ian West is described by Reno Median, his Principal, as someone who leads with sincerity and passion. Ian is passionate about music. He led the marching band as Drum Major this year. However, it was through his Eagle Scout project that has truly left a legacy of music at La Costa Canyon. Ian’s Eagle Scout project was focused on created access to music for those who couldn’t afford instruments. Through that project, Ian procured over 100 donated instruments for the band program at La Costa Canyon. In the fall Ian will study Music Education at the University of Oklahoma.

Daniela Yakuta (Carlsbad High School) – Daniela Yakuta is described by her Principal as positive, loyal and humble. She has been a 4-year AVID student. AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. Part of Daniela’s determination is to make her community better and safer. She has assisted those with food insecurity in under served areas. She plans to continue this passion as she attends UCSD in the fall to study public health. Daniela plans to become a Physician’s Assistant and continue her service to her community.

Laura Zhou (Pacific Ridge School) – Laura Zhou moved to the United States from China as a 13-year-old. Despite not knowing the culture or the language, she has now risen in a just a few short years to earn Pacific Ridge School’s highest honor, the Founder’s Award. The Founder’s Award is based on global engagement, academic achievement and ethical standards. Laura is also an expert violinist. She was engaged in Student Council and the Asian American and Pacific Islander student group. But Laura’s biggest passion is art. Laura served as a Teacher’s Assistant in her Art Teacher’s class. She comes from a family of artists. Laura wants to make art more accessible and plans to study Art History in the fall at UC Berkley.

Congratulations to all our Rising Stars of the Year. We look forward to seeing your star shine brightly in the future and we hope you bring your light back to Carlsbad and San Diego North County.