February 28, 2023
By Kelli Gile, WVUSD Office of Community Resources
WALNUT, CA—The Walnut Valley USD Board of Trustees spotlighted standout students, parent volunteers, and community members during the February 15 meeting.
C.J. Morris Elementary fifth grader Isaac Torres was honored with the Super Star Student Award for epitomizing the spirit of perseverance and hope. At the beginning of his journey, Isaac found expressing himself a challenge. He gradually found that his voice mattered and needed to be heard. In the fourth grade, he got up the courage to apply for student leadership. “He was selected and he rocked it!” shared Principal Kelly Morris. Isaac has become a school leader and continues to challenge himself to go outside his comfort zone. For Kindness Week, he even delivered a solo morning announcement to the entire school. Now, Isaac’s voice is his greatest strength and gift to the world. “Isaac, your story is going to inspire so many people to be brave and courageous. We are so proud of you!” said Principal Morris.
C.J. Morris Elementary parent Jennifer Lizan received the Partner in Education Award for tireless service to the school community. Jennifer showers everyone with kindness and makes it her mission to exceed the needs of every child, teacher, and parent. Jennifer is dedicated to making lasting memories for students. Whether she’s selling Dippin’ Dots during a windstorm, spearheading spirit wear sales, tossing pasta for a teacher luncheon, raising money to fund field trips, or planning an ice cream social – Jennifer does it all. She is the school’s Community Club Co-Treasurer, serves on the WVUSD Coordinating Council, and Superintendent’s Parent Leadership Development Seminar. “Jennifer’s can-do attitude and selfless acts have left a stamp on all of our hearts,” shared Principal Morris.
Walnut Elementary fifth grader Viviana Giannone received the Super Star Student Award for her kind heart, contagious gift of optimism, and special sparkle. Even back in kindergarten, teacher Kristin Jervis knew that Viviana was a leader with a good heart. “She was a tiny leader with a loud voice and mind of her own, and most importantly that kind heart!” Third grade teacher Kalwant Sandhu described Viviana as often using her “teacher” voice in breakout rooms and bringing a “special sparkle” during distance learning. Viviana’s secret kindness weapon is her handmade cards. She recently encouraged schoolmates to sign a farewell card for a staff member that she hand-delivered. “All of us at Walnut Elementary are definitely better people because Viviana has been a part of our lives,” shared Principal Robert Chang during the tribute.
Walnut Elementary Community Club President Natalie Liu received the Partner in Education Award for selfless service as a nine-year “veteran” school volunteer. Natalie is described as uplifting, sweet, always bringing people together, and a loyal boba enthusiast. Through the years, she has also been a classroom volunteer, room parent, library volunteer, 100 Mile Club coach, Community Club member, and event chairperson. Natalie’s special gift, however, is her ability to bring people together with her welcoming smile, easy going personality, and positive energy. This trifecta is like a secret weapon! She truly loves Walnut Elementary teachers, staff, parent friends, and especially the kids. “Natalie, thank you for all that you have sacrificed to give so much to our school!” shared Principal Chang.
The Family of Rev. G. Mansfield Collins, Ingrid Johnson, and Helen Hall were lauded with WVUSD Awards of Special Recognition in appreciation of contributions and accomplishments, and in conjunction with Black History Month.
Rev. G Mansfield Collins, who passed away on September 22 at the age of 101, had a significant impact on Los Angeles County, the State of California, and the country. He was a key figure in the civil rights movement and had a storied life and career. Collins was a Tuskegee Airman, confidante of Martin Luther King, Jr., and one of the founding members of the Western Christian Leadership Conference – the west coast arm of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. “This legacy of commitment to community service has been passed down to his son, Mansfield Collins, and family who are joining us tonight,” lauded Board Member Layla Abou-Taleb. “We have been very lucky and privileged to have this lovely family here in Walnut.”
Ingrid Johnson is a powerhouse parent and longtime advocate of equity for all students. She launched the Council of African American Parents (CAAP) 32 years ago to ensure African American kids had equal access to the same top-quality educational opportunities as their classmates. The CAAP non-profit organization works to address those barriers and has now served an estimated 15,000 students. Ingrid’s most enduring legacy beyond the ability to invest and motivate students, is the practice of CAAP alumni reaching back to help the next generation. “Ingrid has had an amazing impact on so many people beginning in our community and now throughout the state,” shared Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor.
Helen Hall is truly a beacon of light in Walnut Valley USD. She has faithfully served as a Board of Trustees Member since first being elected in 1985. During her almost four decades of leadership, Helen has demonstrated a steadfast stewardship in maintaining our District’s “Kids First” motto in all aspects of the operation. Helen’s unwavering dedication to service has led county, state, and national discussions on always striving to do what’s best for kids. For the past six years, Helen has used her voice as a California School Boards Association (CSBA) Board of Director representing Region 23. She additionally served as an East San Gabriel Valley ROP Board Member for 20 years. “Helen is a mentor, a confidante, a friend to so many, an advocate, and truly one of my favorite people in the world” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor.
WVUSD Trustees honor C.J. Morris Elementary fifth grader Isaac Torres with the Super Star Student Award during the Feb. 15 meeting.
C.J. Morris Elementary parent Jennifer Lizan receives the Partner in Education Award on Feb. 15.
Walnut Elementary fifth grader Viviana Giannone receives the Super Star Student Award during the February 15 Board Meeting.
Walnut Elementary Community Club President Natalie Liu receives the Partner in Education Award during the February 15 Board Meeting.
Trustees present the Family of the late Rev. G. Mansfield Collins with the WVUSD Award of Special Recognition during the February 15 meeting.
CAAP founder Ingrid Johnson lauded with WVUSD Award of Special Recognition during February 15 Board Meeting.
Board Member Helen Hall honored with WVUSD Awards of Special Recognition during the February 15 meeting. Shown with Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor, Board Member Layla Abou-Taleb, and Board President Cindy Ruiz.