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By June 19, 2014eNews

By Leanne Huebner, June 2014

Recently, our MBEF crew caught up with a number of the most impressive Mira Costa students from the Class of 2014 – the valedictorians. One unique factor about Mira Costa is that any student who receives an “A” in every single class during their four years of high school – no matter what track they embark upon – can aspire to become a class valedictorian. This year, Mira Costa will graduate 22 valedictorians and we tracked down a few before they hit the beach for some well-deserved sun time before college.

Nicole Barman

Nicole Barman

Nicole Barman is a member of National Honor Society and California Scholarship Federation. She is also a member of Mira Costa’s Model United Nations team and has dedicated her time to Sandpiper Juniors. She was also a member of the Mira Costa Swim Team for two years. Nicole is thrilled to be attending the University of California Berkeley in the fall.

MBEF Impact: Whether it be the hands-on labs and experiments we have in our science classes, the small class sizes, or our amazing extracurricular programs, MBEF has never failed to present MBUSD students with endless opportunities–allowing us to gain more from our 12 years of education than the majority of students in the nation.

Nicole’s Teacher Shout-outs: Mr. Fauver, Ms. Shales-Clark, Ms. Sieker. Mr. Westerberg


Brennan Danlasky

Brennan has lived in Hermosa Beach for his entire life and plans on attending UC Davis in the fall to study genetics. His interest in science began in his freshman year at Mira Costa in the CP Biology class. He is a life member of California Scholarship Federation and a member of the National Honor Society. His main involvement in high school was participating in Boy Scouts of America and working toward his Eagle Scout rank, which he is close to completing.

MBEF Impact: MBEF gave me a wonderful selection of classes to choose from and I could discover a lot of areas that I otherwise would not have known; classes like Media Design and Music Theory allowed me to learn so much, that may not be taught at other schools.

Teacher Shout-outs: Daniel Sponaugle, Shannon Vaughan, Bradi Everett, James Hands, and Miguel Kulczycki.


Stephanie Caridad

Stephanie Caridad

Stephanie Caridad is president of the Advanced Women’s Chorale at Mira Costa. She has been a Girl Scout for seven years, is a cellist for the Costa’s spring musicals, and volunteers as a musician at events for senior citizen homes, libraries, and churches. Stephanie will be attending Williams College studying English, Music, and Spanish.

MBEF Impact: So many of my favorite parts of Costa are only possible because of MBEF. MBEF helps funds music, which opens up opportunities to travel around the world and win top awards. The small English classes at Costa have been instrumental and nurtured my passion for literature.

Stephanie’s Teacher Shout Outs: My time in MBUSD has been filled with the caring love and guidance of so many beautiful teachers. Mrs. Schreiner, Mrs. Claypoole, Ms. Hofreiter, Mr. Hayden, and Mr. McCormick are a few of the many, many wonderful people who have touched my life here.


Tyler Kim

Tyler Kim

Tyler Kim is a member of the National Honors Society for two years and a California Scholarship Federation Life Member. He has participated in two 24-hour events led by the Relay for Life Club whose goal is to raise money for cancer research. On the weekends, Tyler would volunteer at the Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance accumulating more than 250 hours of community service. He even had the opportunity to observe a surgery first hand in the operating room while shadowing doctors through the Eve and Gene Black Summer Medical Program. During his senior year, Tyler would often tutor students in AP Biology and AP Chemistry. At the end of his senior year, he was honored to have received the Biological Science Achievement Award. In the fall, Tyler will be attending the University of California Berkeley to study molecular and cell biology with the ultimate goal of becoming a surgeon.

MBEF Impact: The MBEF has probably impacted me the most with its funding for the Science department at Mira Costa. Thanks to our remarkable Science department, I was able to excel and find my calling to the biological sciences. During my four years at Costa, I had the opportunity to take most of the AP science classes and experience the quality of our education.

Tyler’s Teacher Shout-Outs: I would like to thank Mr. Sponaugle, Mrs. Shales-Clark, Mr. Lewis, and Mrs. Manago for the great education I received.


Katherine Scandura

Katherine (Kate) Scandura is a member of the National Honors Society and a life member of the California Scholarship Federation. Kate Scandura was on the Mira Costa Varsity Dance Team for all four years of high school, and she was captain both her junior and senior years. She volunteered for the Mira Costa S Club and was a member of the Mira Costa Friendship Circle, Emusoi Club, and Sign Language Club. Kate enjoys learning foreign languages, having taken both Spanish and Chinese while at Mira Costa. Her plans for the future include attending Duke University where she plans to study political science.

MBEF Impact: “What part of my education has not been impacted by the MBEF? I cannot imagine going through even one day of school without benefiting from the generosity of the MBEF. For example, the help I received from the College and Career Center was invaluable to my making it through the college application process, not to mention the scholarships they helped me to receive. The MBEF also funds the library, which was such a valuable resource to me throughout high school. I appreciate so much all of the support and dedication that the MBEF has put into providing us with a high-quality education.”

Teacher Shout-out: Ms. Gesualdi, Ms. Chang, Mrs. Everett, and Mr. Piorek


Lia Sepanek

Lia Sepanek

Lia Sepanek is an active member of National Honors Society and California Scholarship Federation. She is the president of Friendship Circle and has completed over one thousand volunteer hours with the South Bay Friendship Circle over the past four years. Lia was a member of Mira Costa’s Student Government for three years and served her school as Club Coordinator, Junior Class VP and Commissioner of Campus Morale. Lia was also a four year varsity lacrosse player receiving many award like Most Outstanding Player in the League, All American Academic Athlete, Offensive Player of the Year, and the Coach’s Award. Lia tutored students of all ages during her high school career. Lia will be attending University of California, Los Angeles in the fall where she plans to major in molecular biology.

MBEF Impact: As a student with many interests and a strong drive to succeed, I am extremely grateful for the contributions that MBEF made toward my academic career. The benefits that the science labs received from MBEF created an enriching science experience with the help of lab assistants. I am also extremely thankful for the College and Career counselors that MBEF has provided for high school students. Finally, MBEF often gets overlooked when students have small class sizes. It is their involvement that allows MBUSD students to have a comfortable and effective learning environment.

Lia’s Teacher Shout-outs: Ms. Sieker and Mrs. Jenning for transforming their English classrooms into fun and unique learning forums.


Michelle Tran

Michelle Tran

Michelle Tran conducts stem cell and brain cancer research at the City of Hope Medical Institute, shadows neurosurgeons at the Orange County Brain and Spine Group, volunteers at the Torrance Memorial Hospital, and competes in regional science fairs. She serves as the President of Ecology Club and Music for Life Club and the Vice President of Symphony Orchestra and Science Olympiad. She plays cello in Symphony and Chamber Orchestra as well as participates in Varsity Tennis and Swim. Michelle has a passion for the life sciences and the field of medicine and will be studying Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Rice University. She plans to pursue a M.D./Ph. D. and a career as a physician-scientist with an focus on neurology.

MBEF Impact: As a student who has been part of the district from K-12, I am sincerely grateful for MBEF for enriching my education. Without MBEF, I would not have been able to pick up the cello nine years ago and participate in orchestra throughout the years, which has significantly positively impacted my high school years. Thank you also for funding all of the amazing teachers I have had who have all touched and influenced my life. I would not have had the same wonderful high school experience that I had or be the person I am today without MBEF.

Michelle’s Teacher Shout-outs: Danny Sponaugle, Peter Park, Alan Zeoli, Charlotte Shales-Clark, William Fauver


Matt Wenner

Matt Wenner

Matt Wenner was a National Merit Finalist and was a National Merit Scholarship awardee as well. He was also a member of the National Honors Society and was a California Scholarship Federation Life Member. Matt was an Eagle Scout and used his project as an opportunity to beautify Manhattan Beach by constructing gardens that featured drought tolerant, native plants on the intersection of Manhattan Beach Boulevard and Valley Ardmore. In his spare time, Matt volunteered at the Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance, where he accumulated over 250 hours of community service. Matt was involved in sports as well, and was a part of the high school basketball team his freshman and sophomore year and the track team his junior and senior year. In track, Matt did the high jump and achieved a personal record of 6 feet 4 inches during CIF finals his senior year. Matt will be attending the University of Southern California, where he plans to study business.

MBEF Impact: I found the CCC to be an immeasurably useful tool for college consultation during my years at Mira Costa. MBEF’s funding within the science department, in my opinion, has allowed for a more meaningful experience with its emphasis of hands-on experimentation. The small class sizes permit students to have more personal relationships with their teachers.

Matt Teacher Shout-outs: Mr. Fauver, Ms. Shales-Clark, Mr. Chow, Mr. Hughes, Mr. Heideman

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