March 3, 2006

Stars Shine at Sweetwater District Alumni Hall of Fame Gala

More than 300 education supporters helped welcome the nine newest inductees into the Sweetwater District Alumni Hall of Fame at a gala held recently in San Diego.

Since opening its doors in 1922, the Sweetwater Union High School District has grown to become California’s largest secondary school system. Generations of South Bay youth have attended the district’s middle, junior and senior high schools, and the Alumni Hall of Fame celebrates and showcases the positive difference its students have made.

“To paraphrase John F. Kennedy and his remarks at the Berlin Wall, ‘When cynics bemoan the lack of initiative, leadership and talent with our young people,’ we respond ‘Let them look to the Sweet-water District,’ ” said Gerald La Russa, Hall of Fame chairman and a former principal. “We have inducted former students who through skill, talent and initiative went on to achieve greatness in their chosen fields. Their message to kids today is that anything is possible.”

The following are the newest members of the Sweet-water District Hall of Fame:

Honored for Outstanding Achievement in Academia:

Stephanie Ludi, Hilltop High 1989

Dr. Stephanie Ludi is a software engineer at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. Dr. Ludi, nearly blind herself, has worked to improve technology to help the legally blind and partially sighted.

Honored for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts:

Francisco Javier (“Frankie J”) Bautista, Southwest High 1995

Frankie J is a popular hip-hop artist who is quickly on his way to becoming one of the top stars of his time. After getting started performing with A.B. Quintanilla’s Kumbia Kings, he set off on a new career venture. His solo albums include “What’s a Man to Do?” and “The One.”

Noah Bernardo, Jr., and Paul Sandoval, Montgomery High 1991

Noah “Wuv” Bernardo, Jr., and Paul “Sonny” Sandoval make up half of the triple platinum-selling rap-metal group P.O.D. that embraces Christian values. P.O.D., which stands for “Payable on Death,” has released several albums, and is about to embark on yet another national tour in November.

Valerie Zavala, Hilltop High 1973

Valerie Zavala is currently the Vice-President of News and Public Affairs for the PBS station KCET in Los Angeles. She anchors the nightly newsmaga-zine “Life & Times” and oversees the station’s news department. Ms. Zavala has earned eight local Emmy Awards, four Golden Mikes, two Imagen Awards for Excellence and a Greater Los Angeles Press Club Award, among others.

Honored for Outstanding Achievement in Business:

Allan J. Camaisa, Bonita Vista High 1977

Allan Camaisa has been a true business leader in San Diego County. His High Technology Solutions, Inc., grew to a worth of more than $44 million and employed more than 400 workers before Camaisa sold it. Camaisa was awarded the 1998 Ernst & Young Regional Entrepreneur of the Year in the Internet & Software category and numerous other awards. Jeff Phair, Hilltop High 1970

Local developer Jeff Phair helped design the City of Chula Vista’s first planned community with the EastLake Development Company. His creation, the Phair Company, has surpassed the $200 million threshold in new construction in commercial, industrial and multifamily developments. He has been a major benefactor for charities, including sponsorship of the Bonita Road Runners 5K to benefit local schools, the funding of the John Rindone Memorial Scholarship at Hilltop High and numerous other contributions.

Honored for Outstanding Achievement in Community Service:

Kile Morgan, Jr., Sweetwater High 1964

Kile Morgan serves as the President and CEO of Ponderosa Homes, Inc., in northern California, but has not forgotten his South Bay roots. He has become an active supporter of numerous charitable organizations across the state. His partnership in the Boys & Girls Clubs of National City has grown exponentially over the years, with a recent contribution of $400,000 as a challenge grant to help the organization start an endowment. His own Morgan Family Foundation is currently assisting 23 students with their college education—all Sweetwater High graduates.

Honored for Outstanding Achievement in Public Service:

Adolfo Gonzales, Montgomery High 1974

Dr. Adolfo Gonzalez is National City’s Police Chief—the only chief in San Diego County with a doctorate degree and the only Latino chief. His 26 years of experience in law enforcement have culminated in a strong form of leadership in National City. While at the top post for just over a year, Dr. Gonzalez has been instrumental in reducing the rate of violent crimes by 19%. Rape incidences are down nearly a third, and homicides have dropped from 11 to 3 in that time. Dr. Gonzalez is also active in regional issues and cross-border relations, serving on a variety of boards and donating his time to numerous organizations.

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