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Norwalk-La Mirada Student Leaders Recognized for Overcoming Personal Challenges

Corvallis Middle School eighth-grader Aaliyah Robelto maintained high grades while fighting leukemia, and Los Alisos Middle School eighth-grader Daisy Esquivel earned straight A’s while grieving the loss of her mother.

“The ACSA Award means a lot to me,” Esquivel said. “It made me feel like people were there supporting me and that I am not as alone as I think I am.”

Shortly before Esquivel started sixth grade, her mother passed away from a brain aneurysm, and the student moved to Norwalk to live with her great aunt. Esquivel stayed focused on her schoolwork, and was elected Los Alisos’ Associated Student Body (ASB) president for the 2016-17 school year while participating in a variety of school clubs.

“Daisy is a witty, smart and very capable leader,” Los Alisos counselor and ASB adviser Sandy Van Lant said. “She shows maturity beyond her years, and has excellent rapport with our administration staff, office staff, students and teachers.”

Robelto is known for her outstanding attendance, and rarely missed a day while in elementary school. But in the spring of her sixth-grade year at Corvallis, she began battling leukemia. Robelto was immediately taken out of class to begin chemotherapy treatments and missed nearly two years of school.

Robelto returned to campus in fall 2016 for her eighth grade year and established herself as a model student while maneuvering through medical appointments and dealing with the unpredictability of illness.

“Aaliyah is a tremendously positive person who never complains,” Corvallis counselor Cathie Robinson said. “She comes to school, does her work and is very artistically inclined, quilting and playing the flute for her friends at lunch. Her family is so supportive.”

For Robelto, fighting a debilitating illness doesn’t affect her resilience.

“I believe that you should try your best until you get it right,” Robelto said.

ACSA is a public-school advocacy group serving more than 17,000 educators in California. The Every Student Succeeding Award was given to 19 students across California this year. Administrator awards were also given to Norwalk-La Mirada Unified’s Student and Family Services Director Chris Moton and retired Superintendent Ginger Shattuck.

“The determination and maturity exhibited by these two amazing young women should be an inspiration to us all,” NLMUSD Superintendent Dr. Hasmik Danielian said. “They are battling hardships while remaining optimistic about their futures and maintaining high expectations. These are special students and I want to thank ACSA for recognizing their courage and contributions.”