One of the long-standing traditions that parallels the history of Rancho Cotate High School, the Academic Achievement Awards, lately better known as the Top Twenty Dinner, took place May 2. The Jesus Christ Church of Latter Day Saints generously donated its hall for the venue that honored twenty Rancho students who have earned the top grade point averages.
This year’s students include Jessica Phillips, Dianna Santorineos, Rylie Klingaman, Lauren Allison, Allison Wild, Melissa Pamatmat, Sofia Franzini, Anjali Lad, Carlos Perez Pacheco, Sury Vega Jaimes, Mason Stalder, Riley Jones, Rita Khoury, Zachary Hendry, Guadalupe Alvarez Tovar, Kaia Holdenried, Cody Nahmens, Jazmin Perez Gonzales, Ty Riveras and Alyiha Hernandez.
The awards dinner really goes back sixty years when it first began with the Petaluma School District. In 1968, Mary Golis, Camilla Gray, James Panttja and Barry Santero were honored as the “Top Four” at the new Rancho Cotate High School. The Top Four became the Top Ten in 1975 and the Top Twenty in 1979. Nearly nine hundred students have been celebrated and awarded scholarships at Rancho since the dinner began fifty-one years ago.
And traditions have evolved within the dinner itself. The keynote speaker has been most often a Rancho graduate such as sportswriter Dan Brown, 911 prosecutor David Feniger, filmmaker Josh Mellars, local dentist Jamie Sahouria and educator Stacie Roberts as well as Assemblyman Charles Cochran. Monica Ohkubo, Class of 1998, was this year’s keynote speaker.
Dr. Ohkubo has worked at Santa Rosa Junior College since 2007. Along with being the Head Athletic Trainer, she is the Sports Medicine and Athletic Training program director and also an instructor in the Kinesiology, Athletics and Dance department. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology at Sonoma State University, a master’s degree from San Jose State University and a doctoral degree at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions.
A volunteer for the Sonoma County Sol Women’s semi-professional soccer team, Dr. Ohkubo was the athletic trainer for the Santa Rosa Scorchers Women’s professional football team for over five years. She has also worked with USA youth volleyball and wrestling, professional rodeo, taekwondo, and other types of athletes. And she volunteers in her community, advocating and supporting the movement to hire athletic trainers in all area high schools.
With modesty, Dr. Ohkubo regards being chosen keynote speaker with highest esteem. “I am extremely honored to be speaking to the Top Twenty Rancho Cotate graduates. It is very humbling and exciting to be asked to come back to my alma mater and share my experience. No matter what path each of these motivated and accomplished students take, I can’t wait to see how 2019’s Top Twenty go out and change the world.”
Prior to the program, the Rancho Cotate Concert Choir, led by Rancho Music Director Tim Decker, performed. Then dinner, catered by Pasta King, consisting of spaghetti, garlic bread and salad, was served by prospective Top Twenty students from the Class of 2020, another Rancho tradition.
A traditional program followed the dinner. Principal Louis Ganzler spoke about the students’ accomplishments. Then Dr. Ohkubo delivered the keynote address recalling her Rancho experience and her collegiate education. As she discussed her career as a trainer and college instructor, she encouraged the students to each find his or her own path, not feel locked in to someone else’s standard for success. She expressed high hopes for the Top Twenty students.
The highlight of the evening followed: the presentation of the Top Twenty students. Teachers, administrators and community members each read a student-written life story, some humorous and some serious, but all meaningful.
The goal of the Top Twenty committee is to present each student with a $250 scholarship. Over the years, many community members, school board members, former students and businesses have donated: Art Hollingsworth Insurance Services, Susan Adams, Aquatic Pools, Blake’s Auto Body, Blue Apple Dental, Leffler and Janice Brown, Anna Bachman Scholarship Fund, Class of 2006, Sanford Bessick, Codding Foundation, the Cunningham Family, Craig Davis, D.D.S., Downtown Auto Body, the Driving Connection, Matthew Fontana, Ed Gilardi, James T. Henley, D.D.S., Kid Cuts, Ricky and Lori Krist, Learning to Learn, Liberty Doors, John D. Mann, D.D.S., Christopher Morita, James and Mary Panttaja, the Pulley Family, R.J. Mechanical, Rogers Management, Carolyn Rich, Rogers Plaza, Rohnert Park Cotati Educators Association, RP/Chapter of Realtors—-Roger Farah, Jamie Sahouria, D.D.S, Meagan Pulley Wilson, Wright Contracting, Donna Yock, D.M.D & Eddie Kuo D.D.S.
If other people would like to donate, they can send checks to Rancho Cotate High School, 5450 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park, CA 94928. Checks should be made out to RCHS/PTSA c/o Top 20. This great tradition of more than a half of a century belongs not just to Rancho Cotate High School but also to the communities of Rohnert Park, Cotati and Penngrove.