RUSD News June 4, 2024 Senior Spotlight Edition Part 1




For the ninth time, the prestigious Gates Scholarship has been awarded to a Nogales High School senior in the Rowland Unified School District. Juan Fregoso will be attending Harvard University and is one of only 300 students chosen from across the nation for this highly selective scholarship for outstanding low-income, minority students that provides full college funding to the college of their choice. In addition, the scholarship provides mentoring and networking resources for their entire college experience through graduation and the transition to their chosen careers. 

“My dream has been to attend Harvard University and I was pretty scared at opening the email. My heart was bumping and felt like it was going to jump out of my chest! When I saw the word congratulations, the first emotion I felt was relief that all my efforts made it to fruition. It was really amazing and a beautiful experience that my whole family was there,” said Fregoso.“I am most excited about the people I am going to meet at Harvard. They have some of the greatest minds in the country and I am going to be with them!” Fregoso plans to major in economics at Harvard.

Fregoso is an International Baccaulaureate (IB) student at Nogales High School and is involved in the school’s Student Advocacy Union. During his junior year, Fregoso was selected as a Thrive Scholar, another prestigious accolade with admission into the Thrive Summer Academy for two summers at top colleges in the nation. Last summer he was able to live and study on the campus of Amherst College in Massachusetts for six weeks, learning from college professors with intense studies in math and writing and experience college advising support.


While he may be driven in the field of academics, it is his focus on the sports field that sets him apart. To say Fregoso is a soccer enthusiast is an understatement, it is his passion and purpose. His dad, brothers and family love the sport and he has played since he was 5 years old. Fregoso is on the MLS NEXT soccer league where he travels across the country. He is thankful for his involvement in the Yours in Soccer Foundation that has inspired him to give back. Fregoso’s dream is to also start a non-profit with his brother that helps low-income students experience the joy of soccer. Fregoso is thrilled for the opportunity to try out for Harvard’s team.


When asked what inspires him, he smiles. “My faith has always been at the helm of my life because of my parents and gave me the purpose to be a positive impact on others. By being the best version of myself I can be, I can bring out the best in others. This is my responsibility, not a motivation.”

Advice for Future Nobles: "Everything takes work! Never be stressed, live a life of happiness and a life of pupose. Even if you fail a test or if you feel you are in a slump, it will pass. Just keep pushing. Have that drive in you to do great things because we are all meant for something great."

Juan Fregoso was named Valedictorian at the Nogales High School Senior Awards Ceremony and Salutatorian is Soraya Zarazua, who will be attending Harvey Mudd College. Both are pictured with Principal Scott Cavanias.


This year’s Class of 2024 is as impressive as ever and sitting with Rowland High School Raider

Allen Li , it is easy to see why… the words that come to mind are DRIVEN and INVOLVED. 

Li is this year's Valedictorian and has participated in numerous extracurricular activities and these are just to name a few: President of Rowland Math Club, Treasurer of Interact Club, National Honors Society, Science Olympiad, Robotics, Junior State of America club, seven-time medalist for Academic Decathlon team and making it to the nationals with the Future Business Leaders of America. When asked if he ever sleeps he grins, “Actually, I take a lot of naps! For me I work whenever I am motivated so even if I feel the rush at 4 AM, that’s when I work.”

Li is one of a handful of Raiders that will be headed to the Ivy Leagues in the Fall. He was accepted to Cornell University, but when he stepped on the campus of Princeton University it changed his life. “Princeton flew me out to their preview day and it was so amazing! My first impression was I felt like I was in Harry Potter! The gothic architecture of the buildings is incredible. All the students looked so happy and are having fun. When I walked on the campus I knew definitely it was for me. They also have the highest endowment of any school in the world so there was a generous financial aid package.” 

Li has always dreamed of living on the East Coast, especially since he as so many students had his eighth grade East Coast trip cancelled due to the pandemic. Now he beams that Princeton is a perfect East Coast hub, just an hour from New York City.

What Are You Most Proud Of: “I am really proud of my work as an IB student. My proudest achievement was my 4,000 word essay that blended my interest in economics, economics policy and history. I did mine on the New Deal and its impact on New York City and how it played a huge part in modernizing the city and making it what it is today.”

Who Has Made an Impact on You: "All of my IB teachers and Mr. Colt, my Academic Decathlon teacher. Also Mrs. Manookian, she was the reason I joined the Future Business Leaders of America. When I took her Personal Finance class my sophomore year and she saw my competitive streak while playing Kahoot!, that was it! And finally Mr. Ludlam. His class is so interesting and rewarding. He pushes us to be better. He is an amazing person and I appreciate him and will miss him."

Advice for Future Raiders: “What I would suggest for future Raiders is something I tried to live by going into my sophomore year: Try to say yes to as much as you can! It is easier to drop something then to get into something so I joined as many clubs as I could so I could meet people and have new experiences.”


When Rowland Raider Edward Lai started applying for colleges, he never expected to be headed to an ivy league. “For me, my dream school from my sophomore year was UCLA. However, I decided why not try, there were no consequences if I failed and I researched and applied to four ivy leagues that were a fit for me,” said Lai.

What happened next was a unique experience. “I got something called a ‘Likely Letter.' Even my counselor and teachers had never heard of this because they are super rare. The college sends them to only a few hundred students they are very interested in so that you can commit early. My Yale admissions officer called me on Chinese New Year to tell me that they voted for me for likely admission. My family and I were in shock!” Lai can’t wait to live on the East Coast and experience the Yale Magic. “When I visited the campus I saw how many things people were involved in. I met a computer science major who was also singing

a cappella! Everyone was so happy, they were involved in research, sports, music. The vibe of the campus was super happy and I knew I wanted to be there.”

Lai is the Class Salutatorian, a scholar athlete, a National Merit Commended student and while at Rowland High School took both AP and IB courses. He was President of the National Honor Society, Treasurer of the Programming Club, and Chief Financial Officer for the Future Business Leaders of America. But his two major passions are water polo and community service through the Interact Club.

“My sophomore year I found water polo and became obsessed with it! I fell in love with the sport because it is an equalizer, it hides different sizes, different weights and I like how you maneuver through the water,” said Lai. He became Varsity Captain of the team, won the Academic All-League award and the team qualified for CIF for the first time in several years.

“What I am most proud of is that we grew our Interact club to almost 200 members! During quarantine it became very small. We brought it back with events such as ‘Light the Night’ (pictured) which was a charity walk for cancer survivors and patients. We played a big role by spending hours making lanterns. The moment when thousands turned on their lanterns we could see our impact,” said Lai, who is President of the Interact club.

Advice for Future Raiders: “When you come to Rowland, you should try as many things as possible, put yourself out there and find what you like. Invest in who you are and your personality. The things you like and the things you are passionate about will create your story and will define your inspirations and purpose.”

RUSD Newsflash! Administrative Appointments


Rowland Unified welcomes Dinah Felix as the new Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services effective July 1. The Board of Education took action last night. She joins us from Claremont USD where she was responsible for all District business operations, including Nutrition Services, Facilities, Maintenance and Operations and construction projects. Prior to Claremont USD, she was the Director of Business Services in the Placentia-Yorba Linda USD.

"I am so thrilled to join the Rowland Unified Family and to part of this amazing District that focuses on excellence, equity and diversity."


Last night the Board of Education appointed Santana High School's Principal Gregory Perez as the next leader of Rowland High School. Perez will return to where he served as Vice Principal for five years.

"It is a profound privilege and an honor to be selected to lead Rowland High School and I am immensely grateful for your confidence in my abilities. I am eagerly looking forward to collaborating with our dedicated staff to inspire students and our vibrant Rowland community. Together we will continue to nurture a culture of excellence, innovation and inclusivity to make sure every student has the opportunity to thrive and achieve their potential."



Elena Camarillo joins Rowland USD with more than 24 years of leadership and educational expertise. When in Pasadena USD, her experience included English Language Arts and intervention strategies as an instructional coach and resource teacher. Most recently she was Assistant Principal at Workman Ave. Elementary and Mesa Elementary in Covina-Valley USD where she led efforts to increase school safety, parent involvement and implemented school-wide initiatives to improve student achievement and school culture.

Camarillo has a B.A. in Liberal Studies from California State University Los Angeles and an M.S. in Educational Counseling from Azusa Pacific University. She was awarded the ACSA 2024 Promising Principal fo the Year award.

"I am excited to be part of this community and the Rowland Unified School District and look forward to working with families and staff at Villacorta."

Villacorta parents and staff came out to welcome New Principal Elena Camarillo at last night's Board of Education meeting.


It was tricky to catch Dr. Kevin Despard off guard to honor him as the District's Administrator of the Year, especially since he was part of the team that surprised the Classified and Certificated honorees! But surprise him we did! Dr. Despard is truly part of the RUSD family -- beginning as a student at Stanley G. Oswalt Academy and Rincon Intermediate, later to return to lead the school as their Principal! He now serves at the Rowland Unified District Office as Director of Human Resources. His infectious laugh, warm personality, fairness and attentiveness while working to help families and employees of Rowland Unified makes him a hometown hero. Congratulations Dr. Despard and thank you for your leadership and dedication to RUSD.

VIDEO of Rowland Unified School District Administrator of the Year,

Dr. Kevin Despard,

Director of Human Resources

The Board of Education, leadership and District staff (along with his family and dog!) surprised Dr. Kevin Despard with his award.


June 4, 2024 Issue RUSD News Editor

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