Denair High valedictorian Jazmine Ramirez reflect on quality of education, academic success

Jazmine Ramirez is the Denair High School Class of 2022 valedictorian thanks to her 4.24 grade-point average. The salutatorians will be Cooper Feldman and Preston Roe, who each compiled a 4.02 GPA over four years.

Graduation is set for Friday night at Jack Lytton Stadium. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. and the ceremony begins at 7 p.m. 

Ramirez recently took time to answer some questions about her high school experience.

Question: Obviously, the Class of 2022 has had a much different educational experience because of the pandemic and a year of school held primarily via distance learning. How do you think that will shape you and your classmates? 

Ramirez: When we returned to in person school, my peers and I felt an appreciation for everything involving education, we were so excited to learn in a “normal” setting. Though the pandemic made a lot of us fall behind, the option to cheat was there and it is evident that many chose to do so. Despite the joy expressed upon return, many of my peers are unable to concentrate for long periods of time and oftentimes feel troubled by the amount of homework, regardless of difficulty. Overall, high school students love the social aspect of learning in a classroom environment, stressed out by our previous norms. Still, we are more willing to adapt, understanding why it may be necessary to do things in a new way. 

Q: What are the key things other students should know about your academic success and how you achieved it?

Ramirez:  I think the most important thing I want people to know about my academic success is my view on it. I don’t think titles like valedictorian or salutatorian hold any real value. It isn’t until you, yourself, choose its meaning. For me, being valedictorian represents my ability to achieve long-term goals as well as my determination and willingness. I’d like to add that it is essential to succeed for yourself. I spent a lot of my time worrying about whether I did enough for this title, but it was all for nothing. In the humblest of tones, my GPA was much higher than those I competed with. Feeling secure in your abilities and trusting yourself is all that matters. 

Q: How much time outside of regular class did you spend studying or doing homework?

Ramirez: Although I cannot pinpoint the exact amount of time I spent doing homework and studying, I’d say it was roughly five to six hours a night. 

Q: Which classes and/or teachers at Denair High had the most influence on you? 

Ramirez: Each and every one of the teachers at DHS goes above and beyond for their students. I look up to Ms. North, my AP literature and AP language teacher. She is someone who pushes her students, encouraging them to take pride in their work and expand upon their skills. She always made me feel important in her class and I knew that she would give her all as she taught us. I also have been greatly influenced by Mr. Cumberland, my freshman year health teacher and yearbook advisor. Actually, it was Mr. Cumberland who motivated me to work toward being valedictorian. He never fails to give amazing advice, proving to me and my peers that life is worth enjoying. Mr. Cumberland is the teacher I strive to be for my future students. 

Q: How many Advanced Placement classes were you able to take? Were you challenged?

Ramirez: I took a total of seven AP classes — two my junior year and five my senior year. I never really felt challenged in any of them until I took my AP statistics class; the other courses I selected came naturally to me, though statistics isn’t my strong suit. I chose this course for its difficulty and I became a better student because of it. I finally understood that I didn’t need to excel in everything; doing my best and appreciating the lessons mattered most. 

Q: What kind of culture of learning exists in your home? What has that meant for your success in high school?

Ramirez: I will be the first person in my family to attend college and because of that, I feel the weight of succeeding. In my home, education isn’t really put in first place, which isn’t necessarily wrong. My parents encouraged me to focus on interpersonal relationships and to care for my mental health, while balancing work and leisure. The pressure I put on myself academically was just that, from myself alone. I was never criticized or punished for my grades. This meant that the success I had in high school was because of how hard I pushed myself, how willing I was to do more. I do have to thank my grandparents for helping me to see the privilege in education. I knew that every day I went to school was a day I added to my success. 

Q: What should members of the community know about the quality of education at Denair High?

Ramirez: The teachers at Denair High School do all they possibly can to see their students succeed. They offer a wide variety of resources, especially to seniors. Educators like Ms. North, Mr. Cumberland and Mr. Allen challenge their students and encourage them to try out new things. 

Q: Outside of class, what kinds of teams, organizations or clubs are you involved in? How important are extracurricular activities in preparing you for college and beyond?

Ramirez: Outside of class, I am editor of the yearbook, vice president of the Environmental Club and a California Scholarship Federation member. Extracurricular activities encourage students to not only give back to their community, but to find passions. For instance, some of my fondest memories from high school center around yearbook. I was able to interact with all sorts of people, learning about their interests and values. Yearbook allowed me to feel connected to my school and encouraged me to continue to learn about those around me, appreciating everyone’s differences. 

Q: What is the right balance for teens busy with school, teams or clubs, and even part-time jobs?

Ramirez: As someone who took five AP classes this year, had a part-time job, school, as well as multiple extracurriculars, it was essential to have excellent time management as well as a willingness to compromise. At times, I had to stay up late to work on an assignment or study on the way to games as I took photos for the yearbook. All in all, students need to find what they value the most, understanding that their choices affect their future. 

Q: What are your college and career plans?

Ramirez: My goal is to attend Stanislaus State as a liberal studies major in order to become an elementary school teacher, while also working at Denair High School as a paraeducator. 

Q: What themes are you going to talk about in your graduation speech?Ramirez: I have been planning my graduation speech for quite some time. I want nothing more than to show appreciation for my family, discussing the importance of support systems and role models. I also incorporate my love for education, emphasizing to my peers the privilege it is to attend school and experience learning in a classroom setting. I make mention of the opportunity I have had to observe the personal development of my peers, having a front-row seat to their growth.

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