YES Prep honors Valedictorians and Salutatorians at 2019 Val+Sal Banquet 


On Wednesday, May 22, 2019, YES Prep Public Schools honored the Class of 2019 valedictorians and salutatorians at the second annual Val+Sal Banquet. Joined by YES Prep system leaders as well as school directors and directors of college counseling, this year’s valedictorians and salutatorians from 11 YES Prep campuses with 12th grade invited three special guests to join them as they received this special recognition.  

Mark DiBella, CEO, gave welcoming remarks and Philip Wright, Chief Schools Officer, kicked off the ceremony. Starting from the oldest to the youngest campus, each valedictorian and salutatorian was brought up to the podium after a YES Prep teacher or staff member they selected spoke a few words about what makes each senior unique and special.  

(For complete list of this year’s Valedictorians and Salutatorians, scroll down.)Jeevan Moses with student Yonis Amaya 

Gerson Yonis Amaya, Brays Oaks Valedictorian 

Jeevan Moses, Director of College Counseling at YES Prep Brays Oaks, had the privilege of introducing Gerson Yonis Amaya. Moses remarked, “By the time Gerson graduates, I will have worked with him for a total of 7 years. This includes starting with him in his journey at YES Prep Brays Oaks as his middle school math teacher in 6th and 7th grades and then reconnecting with him as his college counselor as he entered high school.” Moses mentioned that Gerson was part of his first cohort of students as an educator and, through Teach for America, he was required to choose one student who had made the most impact on his first year of education, and he chose Gerson.  

Gerson is a soft-spoken young man who has become one of the most highly respected students in his class. Everything he does is for his family. Success for Gerson means being able to financially support his parents so they don’t have to work as hard as they have to raise him and his siblings.  A typical day for Gerson includes working alongside his parents at his uncle’s restaurant, taking care of his younger siblings while his parents work additional jobs for extra income, and consistently maintaining above a 4.0 GPA. He is a young man who is not discouraged by circumstance. Instead, he is more driven and motivated each day to achieve in order to better the quality of life for his family. 

Gerson is a soft-spoken young man who has become one of the most highly respected students in his class.

Among his academic achievements, Gerson currently holds the record at Brays Oaks for being the student to receive the most 5’s on any AP exam. He has also served as a Varsity-level athlete on the track team, helped organize an immigrant advocacy group on campus, served as a member of the RICE DREAM Engineering Club for several years, and participated in state-wide competitions with the first-ever Mathletes Club at Brays Oaks. Additionally, this school year, Gerson was part of the Academic Decathlon pilot group. Having never participated in any such program before, Gerson and his peers had major success and placed 7th in state. Additionally, Gerson won a gold medal in the Regional Texas Academic Decathlon this year for receiving a perfect score of 1000 on the essay section. 

Gerson will be pursuing a degree in Engineering Science as a full-ride IMPACT scholar at Trinity University in San Antonio this Fall. 

Student Cristian Astorga with Natalie GarciaCristian Astorga, Brays Oaks Salutatorian 

Introducing Brays Oaks Salutatorian, Natalie Garcia, Brays Oaks Dean of Students, began by stating that she has known Cristian over the last five years, first meeting him in her 8th grade algebra class and then as his freshman seminar teacher. She recalled when earlier this school year she released the rank information for the Class of 2019 and while she doesn’t remember what rank Cristian was at the time, she knows he wasn’t salutatorian. “As I saw students sizing one another up, I pulled Cristian aside and told him – you are a ninja- you are the silent but deadly kiddo they do not see coming. Keep working like you are working and I am going to watch you climb.” Which he certainly did. 

During his time at Brays Oaks, Cristian has been a member of the Mathletes, the MIT JV IvenTeams and the Rice Engineering club. Cristian has been a member of Brays Oaks’ Gay Straight Alliance and competed on the varsity track teamHe tutored elementary children, worked on a series of projects, and competed across the city.  

Cristian has also made an impact in the Houston communityvolunteering for a variety of community organizations such as the Sunshine Resale Shop, Loaves and Fishes, St. Thomas More Catholic Church, and Texas Children’s Autism Center, to name a few.  

Cristian has found so many ways to help different communities. I am incredibly proud of the work he has done to meet the needs he has seen. He has used his voice at Brays Oaks in different aspects for the better and we are a better school because of Cristian Astorga.    

He has used his voice at Brays Oaks in different aspects for the better and we are a better school because of Cristian Astorga.

This Fall, Cristian will head off to The University of Texas to pursue a Computer Science degree. 

This coming Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the Class of 2019 will celebrate commencement at the Bayou City Event Center, where these students will give their speeches in front of their peers, family and friends.  Once again, congratulations to YES Prep’s Class of 2019 Valedictorians and Salutatorians!  


Class of 2019 Valedictorians & Salutatorians

Campuses listed in alphabetical order. 

YES Prep Brays Oaks  

Valedictorian: Gerson Yonis Amaya 

Salutatorian: Cristian Astorga 

YES Prep East End 

Valedictorian: Ana Guevara 

Salutatorian: Sandra Tayde Camarillo  

YES Prep Fifth Ward  

Valedictorian: Elizabeth Pena 

Salutatorian: Kaiyla Chavez 

YES Prep Gulfton 

Valedictorian: Andrea Hernandez Gonzalez 

Salutatorian: Marixsa Torres 

YES Prep North Central 

Valedictorian: Kaitlee Ornelas  

Salutatorian: Jaelys Gonzales 

YES Prep North Forest  

Valedictorian: Katherine Hernandez 

Salutatorian: Eboni Ja’Nae Thomas  

YES Prep Northbrook High School *inaugural senior class* 

Valedictorian: Dylan Quan Phan 

Salutatorian: Andrea Yvette Grimaldo 

YES Prep Northside  

Valedictorian: Daisy Rodriguez 

Salutatorian: Moncerrath Zavala 

YES Prep Southeast 

Co-Valedictorians: Adrian Regalado & Roberto De Leon  

Co-Salutatorians:  Jocelyn Ruelas & Giovanna Calderon 

(Note: Roberto and Giovanna are not pictured because they were named co-val and co-sal after the event took place.) 

YES Prep Southwest  

Valedictorian: Jacqueline Alcantara 

Salutatorian: Wendy Huerta 

YES Prep West  

Valedictorian: Cindy Kuang 

Salutatorian: Jeanie Wei Fung 

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