YES Prep Public Schools
YES Prep Public Schools

With a new learning environment, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the Valedictorian and Salutatorian races at YES Prep were closer than ever before. On Tuesday, May 26, 2020, when final grades were posted, campuses were finally able to determine their Valedictorian and Salutatorian.

Val+Sal Banquet on hiatus

In prior years, YES Prep would have hosted its annual “Val+Sal Banquet” to honor and recognize the students for this recognition. However, due to COVID-19, our campuses had to get creative. Each campus had a member of their team -principal, coach, 12th-grade level chair, and college counselor- reach out to the student’s family to see if they could set up a surprise delivery of their Valedictorian/Salutatorian regalia including their stole and/or medal.

Paul Cruz with his Val medal

Special delivery

A campus staff member delivered the medal to the student’s home, work or a place set up with the family. The awards were delivered while maintaining social distancing, by dropping off the award and then announcing the honor to the student and family from a distance when they came outside. The surprise plan for recognition was unique to each campus, authentic to the staff member delivering the award and the relationship they have with the Val and/or Sal. Some of the staff members gave a speech, collected notes from different teachers to include in the bag, organized a drive-by car parade, etc.

The awards were delivered between May 27 and 29 in time for the students to have their regalia for their online graduation ceremony stream. Vals and Sals will receive their academic honors trophies and a backpack from the YES Prep Senior Experience Working Group at the second graduation ceremony which is to take place in-person in August.

For the full list of this year's Valedictorians and Salutatorians, click here

Valedictorian spotlight: Paul Anthony Cruz, Fifth Ward

YES Prep Fifth Ward’s Valedictorian Paul Anthony Cruz took one of the most rigorous course loads the campus has to offer, while also being involved in the social justice club, service club, National Honor Society, Titans Take on Peru, just to name a few. All of his academic courses and extra-curricular activities are impressive, but Fifth Ward staff note that what they’ll miss most is his funny, loud and energetic personality.

It is very fitting that Cruz would be Fifth Ward’s Valedictorian, especially in the current state of the country. 2020 has brought a whole new level of love and appreciation for healthcare professionals, especially nurses. Cruz had the love and admiration for nursing way before COVID-19.

Passion for nursing

Cruz grew up watching his mom studying to become a nurse and knew nursing was his way to impact the world. He never swayed, even when people tried to convince him to become a doctor. He was determined to be a nurse and stayed true to his passion for nursing, refusing to entertain any college that did not have a nursing program.

Working with College Counselor Cierra Sterling, she and Cruz spent hours finding the best nursing programs in the country and creating one of the ambitious college lists she had ever created. While she was nervous, Cruz would remind her of her words that he was going to end up exactly where he was supposed to. And he was right. Cruz found his dream school and found his dream program.

There is no doubt in our mind that Cruz is going to make an amazing nurse! We know he is ready for Emory; we just hope Emory is ready for him!

Class of 2020’s Vals + Sals

Brays Oaks

Co-Valedictorians: Samanta Gonzalez – University of Houston & Jholibet Alvarado – University of Virginia

Salutatorian: Collin Ageyman – Vanderbilt University


East End

Valedictorian: Jennifer Morales – University of Houston

Salutatorian: Andrea Perez – University of Houston



Valedictorian: Jacalya Nelson - Xavier University

Salutatorian: Vanessa Pena - University of Houston


Fifth Ward

Valedictorian: Paul Cruz – Emory University

Salutatorian: Itzel Miranda – University of Houston



Valedictorian: Nathaly Garcia – Colby College

Salutatorian: Paola Gomez Flores – Bates College


North Central

Valedictorian: Mia Mapula – Rice University

Salutatorian: Daisy Crisostomo – The University of Texas at Austin


North Forest

Co-Valedictorians: Diego Hernandez - Wesleyan University in Connecticut & Kallie Cardenas - Trinity University

Salutatorian: Aaleyah Necole Taylor – Trinity University


Northbrook HS

Valedictorian: Jonathan Alejandro Romero – University of Texas at Austin

Salutatorian: Jennifer Octaviano Jimenez – University of Texas at Austin



Co-Valedictorians: Stephanie Requena - The University of Notre Dame & Bryan Lankford - Rice University

Salutatorian: Yasmeen Luna - University of Texas in Austin



Valedictorian: Fabian Luna – Stanford University

Salutatorian: Liliana Araujo – Swarthmore College



Valedictorian: Leslie Flores – Emory University

Salutatorian: Miguel Tlapanco – University of Houston



Valedictorian: Justin Zheng – University of Texas at Austin

Salutatorian: Ehong Sun - Johns Hopkins University


White Oak

Valedictorian: Luis Molina Velasquez - University of Houston

Salutatorian: Aiyana McGrough - University of Houston


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