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Great students, better people: RJ awards honor outstanding young minds

Updated May 24, 2024 - 4:06 pm

It was an eventful, memorable weekend for Sydney Obispo-Dizon.

The 18-year-old was co-valedictorian when she graduated on Saturday from Bishop Gorman High School, and she was with her proud mom and uncle on Sunday to accept one of the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Academic Excellence awards.

Obispo-Dizon, who achieved a grade-point average of 4.25 at Bishop Gorman, will be attending the University of Arizona in the fall to study biology. Her ultimate goal is to become a pediatrician and open her own clinic in Las Vegas.

“We’ll miss her because she’s not just a great student,” said Sydney’s mother, Michelle Obispo, 51, who teared up while describing her daughter’s accomplishments. “She’s also a great person and a great daughter.”

Obispo-Dizon was also accompanied by her uncle, Rudy Obispo, 63, of Seattle, who traveled to Las Vegas just for Sydney’s graduation.

“It doesn’t feel real,” Obispo-Dizon said of graduating high school. “It hasn’t hit me yet.”

The sixth annual Review-Journal Academic Excellence Awards took place Sunday at the Strip View Pavilion at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

Twelve students from the first through 12th grades were recognized for being outstanding students but also outstanding people, said Glenn Cook, the Review-Journal’s executive editor.

“In addition to scholarship, the Academic Excellence Awards emphasize leadership, service and character,” Cook said.

Hosted by Chet Buchanan, the awards brought together some of the Las Vegas Valley’s most dynamic young minds.

“The future is bright, the future is in really good hands,” said Buchanan, the public-address announcer for the Las Vegas Aces and a 98.5 FM KLUC radio host.

Each winner received $500, while their schools each also received $500.

Award presenters spoke of how the crop of students contradicts some of the negative stereotypes that sometimes are ascribed to younger generations.

“Families, you’re doing an awesome job. This world is not going to hell. It really has some great, bright, shining lights,” said Burton Hughes, general manager of Subaru of Las Vegas.

Hughes presented the Community Commitment Award to Carson Sheridan, a fifth grader at Lamping Elementary School, because of the way he excels academically and because of his contributions to the school community and beyond, Hughes said.

One of the Academic Excellence award winners was Daniela Quintero, a second grader at E. Lewis Rowe Elementary School. Quintero, a deaf student who uses cochlear implants, was called a “rock star” by Buchanan.

Daniela’s mother, Esbeydy Quintero, 38, became emotional when discussing the challenges her daughter has had to overcome. “She’s just an amazing kid, honestly,” her mom said.

“It means a lot because I can see the effort she has made throughout the school year,” Esbeydy Quintero said. “I’m just very proud of her.”

Daniela said she was happy to receive the award but also slightly nervous when she had to get on the stage to accept it.

“I want to be a music teacher,” she added.

Another notable winner: Ethan Cohen, a ninth grader at The Meadows School. It was Cohen’s second Academic Excellence Award. He previously won as a fourth grader in 2019.

Brandon Dai, 14, an eighth grader at Faith Lutheran Middle School, also received an Academic Excellence award.

“I’m proud to represent my family, my friends and my school,” said Dai, who was accompanied by his mom, Kim Dai, 46, and his sister Sophia Dai, 16.

Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com.

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