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The City Journals

Four local students recognized for courage

May 07, 2018 02:47PM ● By Jet Burnham

The students receive $500 scholarships for overcoming challenges to achieve academic excellence. (Reed Scharman/West Jordan Exchange Club)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Israel Granillo had a life-changing experience when he met his hero, Real Madrid soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo, through the Make-a-Wish Foundation. 

“In meeting Cristiano, I feel like anything is possible if you put your mind into it and never give up,” said the senior at Copper Hills High School. Despite his degenerative neuro-muscular disorder, Granillo has decided to do all he can to excel in school and in life. 

The West Jordan Exchange Club recognized Granillo for his academic performance while overcoming his personal challenges by. He was one of four inspirational high school seniors who received the ACE—Accepting the Challenge of Excellence—Award.

“We ask schools to nominate a student who has overcome adversity and has done well in school,” said club President Gwen Knight. The students received a $500 scholarship, funded by Dannon.

Just a few years ago, Granillo was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia. With the support of family and friends, he is determined to live his life as normally as possible. He hopes to inspire others struggling with disabilities.

“I want to show them to not give up and to always move on no matter what,” he said. “Just because you have a disability, it doesn’t mean that you’re less than everyone else.”

Raphael Dos Santos will soon be the first high school graduate and college student in his family. He maintains a 4.0 GPA at Valley High School and plans to be a dentist. But previously, he was struggling emotionally, mentally and academically.

“Despite his rough start in high school, he has consistently received good grades and has done everything possible to improve his academic standing,” said his guidance counselor, Raylene Glover.

Dos Santos focuses on his grades as well as serving others. As president of the service learning activities club at Valley High, Dos Santos organizes service projects four times a year.

“Giving back to my community has always played a major role in my life,” he said. “I hope to influence others to do the same.”

Autumn Gardner said she has been shaped by the difficult circumstances in her life—her mother’s poor health, homelessness and substance abuse. 

“The mistakes and events in my life have turned me inside and out, but have made me a better person today,” she said.

Gardner is a successful student at Itineris Early College High School who has found balance in her life.

“She has become a model student for how to manage the adult world of responsibilities and still do well in school,” said Assistant Principal Jeffery Bossard.

Because of her experience caring for her mother, Gardner has been inspired to become a nurse.

“I just like the idea of helping people,” she said.

West Jordan High School senior Shantel Singleton credits her grandpa for helping her take control of her life after a difficult childhood.

“I learned that no matter the amount you struggle, you can always overcome it,” she said.

Once she realized she could choose to be happy, she overcame her depression and the pain caused by her parents’ drug use. She chose to focus on making others happy.

“I hope to make a difference in the community and to those around me,” said Singleton, who is studying to become a nurse.

She is also a dedicated member of the West Jordan High School basketball team. Because of injuries, she wasn’t able to play in any games this past season, yet she continued to attend every game, practice and team meeting as well as stay on top of her grades.

The four courageous students were awarded their scholarships at a recognition breakfast hosted by the West Jordan Exchange Club. West Jordan Mayor Jim Riding, various city council members, Brad Sorenson from Jordan School District and representatives from Dannon were in attendance to congratulate the students.

Two of the award recipients will be recognized at the district exchange club and have a chance to move on to the national level, where they will have the opportunity to receive a $10,000 scholarship.