Graduation 2013 Rio Mesa High School

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Rio Mesa High School’s Class of 2013 graduates today, June 14.

                   Among the many accomplished seniors in this year’s class are the following standout students.

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Angelina Nguyen
Forget about “The Hunger Games” or any other young adult fiction. Angelina Nguyen prefers to curl up with the best-selling economics book “Freakonomics” and learn about sociology and how it relates to money.

The 17-year-old Rio Mesa High School senior, who has read the book twice, spends her spare time keeping an eye on financial markets and watching investment shows.

Economics is a passion Angelina will pursue at UCLA next year. She will participate in the university’ s joint mathematics and economics program and pursue a minor in cognitive science.

“I think I’m part of a new generation of females being geared towards business and economics,” said Angelina, the daughter of Thanh Nguyen and Mark Schoose.

The Camarillo resident credits her interest in economics to her teacher Chris Moody. The Noontime Optimist Club scholarship award winner said Moody showed her how economics can be applied to any number of subjects.

Angelina, a California Scholarship Federation participant, will graduate with a 4.61 grade-point average. She is one of Rio Mesa’s 11 valedictorians.

She also has an interest in politics. Angelina interned for Tony Strickland during his 2012 congressional bid against Julia Brownley, and the teen wants to use her passion for economics and politics to become an economic advisor in Washington, D.C.

Kim Wang struggled to learn English when she moved to the United States from China at the age of 11.

The 17-year-old Camarillo resident and her mom, Na Lin, moved to Camarillo when Na Lin married Bill Valentine.

When she arrived in Camarillo, Kim attended Monte Vista Middle School and said she only knew how to say a handful of English phrases.

“It was really hard to adjust,” she said. “There was a huge culture shock, and I didn’t know how to interact with my American peers.”

The school enrolled Kim in specialized language classes. She said she immersed herself in the American culture and practiced English with her classmates.

“It was pretty frustrating at times, but I just kept trying,” she said.

By seventh grade, Kim was fluent in English. In high school, she felt confident enough to join service and academic clubs, including a program that helps remove invasive plants from Anacapa Island.

Kim also volunteered at the county’s animal shelter in Camarillo, the homework center at the Camarillo Library and the emergency room at St. John’s Pleasa nt Valley Hospital.

The teen, who will graduate with a 4.53 grade-point average, will attend the UC Berkeley in the fall.

She will study chemical engineering, a degree she wants to apply toward work in the food industry.


Justin Tobey found solace as a member of the Rio Mesa High School marching band following the death of his father, Steve Tobey, last year.

The 18-year-old Oxnard resident became the drum major—the student who conducts the marching band and leads its members— in his senior year. It’s a position Justin enjoys because he’s passionate about music.

The Camarillo Noontime Optimist leadership award winner plays a number of instruments, including French horn, trombone, trumpet and piano.

Justin said he will miss his dad on graduation day, but is thankful he and his father, who died of a heart attack, had a good relationship.

“There were no unresolved feelings, just love between us,” Justin said.

The son of Sheri Tobey, he also participated in the United Spirit Association, a camp for band members, and the high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance Club, for which he is copresident.

Next year, Justin will attend Bard College, a small campus in New York. The teen has plans to earn a doctorate degree in anthropology and become an author.

Sam Birns doesn’t mind calling himself a geek.

The 18- year- old and his friends started an engineering and robotics club at Rio Mesa in October. The Oxnard resident, who is co-founder and co-president of the club, said he likes building machines with his friends, but his real passion is math.

“I like math more because math is purer,” Sam said. “In engineering, you have to deal with a lot of messy applications, and there are already too many engineers out there.”

He will attend UCLA in the fall and major in mathematics. The tennis player said his mom, Olive Birns, is happy he will attend her alma mater.

Sam isn’t sure what career he will pursue but plans to go to graduate school after college.

The math wiz, who will graduate with a 4.54 grade-point average, said the highlight of his high school career was his history class with teacher Jeff Holloway.

“Mr. Holloway is really passionate about his subject,” Sam said. “There’s not a lot of teachers like that, who will make you interested in history by the time you finish his class.”

Sam said in 10 years he hopes to have a job he loves, a family, and a life of service work that gives back to the community.


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