Two students from Chula Vista were recognized on Nov.10 as San Diego County’s “25 most remarkable teens”.
The local honorees are Jonathan Eppert, 18, a senior from Hilltop High School and Xiomara Villarreal-Gerardo, a 19-year-old graduate of Eastlake High School. They were selected by San Diego County Public Defender Randy Mize and the San Diego County Public Defender Youth Council and awarded in a ceremony.
The Most Remarkable Teen Program Recognizes San Diego youth ages 13-19 for their contributions and efforts in 25 categories including environmental advocacy, arts and culture, technology, civic involvement, leadership, courage to overcome adversity and other accomplishments.
“Celebrating the contributions of young people is particularly meaningful this year as we are transitioning from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mize in a press release. “We received 159 nominations from all over San Diego County documenting inspiring stories of youth demonstrating courage, spirit and unparalleled tenacity these past 18 months. We plan to share some of those stories from the 25 teens we have selected as the 25 Most Remarkable Teens in San Diego.”
Eppert received an award in the category of Personal Determination. He works to keep up with his course load and currently ranks first of 416 in his class at Hilltop High while recovering from Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
He sits on the junior council for an organization called Oncology for kids and leads a support group called “thirvorship” for teens at Rady’s Children’s Hospital. Eppert raises money and spreads awareness for Cancer Support Programs offered at the hospital. Last summer, he worked as a counselor at a camp for children with cancer.
As a Junior at San Diego State University student and an Eastlake High School alumna, Villarreal-Gerardo earned an award in the category of Journalism. At the age of 16 she attended SWC where she received two A.A. degrees. She was nominated as top teen by SWC professor Dr. Max Branscomb.
Villarreal-Gerardo was the editor-in-chief of SWC’s El Sol Magazine in 2021 and associate editor-in-chief, sports editor, and campus editor of the SWC Sun Newspaper. She won recognition for photo Illustration, editorial cartoon, sports writing, feature photo, and photo story essay at the 2021 Journalism Association of Community Colleges Awards.
She was named one of the top College Media Journalists at the 2021 SPJ journalism Contest. At SDSU, she writes for the Daily Aztec in both English and Spanish and is the Social Media editor of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists SDSU chapter.