Most students picked teachers for their Bell Awards, but salutatorian Mia Rodriguez surprised the audience with the selection of her Bell Award recipient. Rodriguez delivered her speech in Spanish and spoke about a person who always gave her a positive start and end to the day – her bus driver.
Jesus Ortiz, a four-year driver who drives Bus #195, didn't know why he was asked to attend the event by Suzanne Ramirez, Director of Transportation. Ramirez asked Ortiz to be patient throughout the ceremony.
Mia starting her speech in Spanish caught his attention. When she called his name as the recipient of her Bell Award, he was motionless. He didn't know what to do. He didn't know what to say. Ramirez told him to go to the stage to accept his award. When he got to the stage to accept the award and pose for a photo with Mia, he was teary-eyed.
"My day starts out super well," Mia said (English translation). "He gives me a warm welcome and a friendly smile. He never fails to say goodbye to us when leaving the bus. Mr. Ortiz, thank you for your dedication and kindness. I hope you know that your small actions every day improve my tomorrow."
The audience was the loudest for Ortiz when Mia finished her introduction. They were even louder when he stepped off the stage. Some in the crowd of mainly parents gave Orriz a standing ovation.
He was the first bus driver to ever receive a Bell Award since the inception of the award about 15 years ago.
The other Top 10 students and their Bell Award recipients were:
- Valedictorian Kiara Garcia: Teacher Mark Castillo
- #3 student Javier Barron: Teacher Ariel Torres
- #4 student Marvin Prazelini Jr.: Teacher David Rivera
- #5 student Daviana Zamora (absent): Her mother Noela Rodriguez, a paraprofessional at Lopez-Riggins Elementary
- #6 student Isabela Martinez Banda: Teacher Hector Peñaflor
- #7 student Itzel Cruz Alcaraz: Teacher Jesus Garza
- #8 student Josue Jorge Atkinson: His mother Briana Atkinson
- #9 student Matthew Senteno: His father and teacher Alfonso Senteno
- #10 student: Daniela Martinez Banda: Teacher Javier Martinez Garza