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Meet Our Graduates
Posted 6/3/22


There is no better way to understand the magnitude and value of the investment we make in our students than to learn about our graduates. Over the past few months we put a spotlight on some of our graduates and we encourage you to read about all of their educational journeys and future plans. 


Ilyaz Nathan Alvarez (ACHS)

Alison Watson (NTHS)

Erick Castro Jimenez (NHS)

Sophia Elizabeth Martin (VHS)

Karla Dominguez (NHS)

Yizel Solano Gonzalez and Itzel Solano Gonzalez (VHS)

Kyla Martin (ACHS)


Meet Ilyaz Nathan Alvarez


Nathan found hope for a better future and a path to college through the AVID program at American Canyon High School (ACHS). AVID, an elective program offered at each comprehensive high school in the district, stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. 


Prepared for the Future


Starting his freshman year, Nathan joined the AVID program at ACHS and met a group of students motivated by a common goal.  At the heart of the AVID program are the relationships forged between classmates and the teacher through the common purpose of pursuing success in achieving college and career goals. In reflecting upon her four years as Nathan’s AVID teacher, Katy O’Brien, said, “Nathan has one of the biggest hearts. Since meeting him freshman year he has been invested fully in the AVID program as well as his extracurriculars.” 


This investment included developing key academic skills such writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization, and reading–what AVID refers to as WICOR. As a result of this work Nathan says, “I’m basically primed and ready to go off to college.” He also expressed gratitude for his time at ACHS saying, “the Napa Valley Unified School District gave me an opportunity to become something better and to further my education.”


Post Graduate Plans

As Nathan celebrates graduating from high school, his investment has paid off. In the fall he will attend Sacramento State University to further his education in the field of medical sciences. This will be the next step in his journey of realizing his career goal which he describes as “learning how I can help people as a nurse.” Speaking confidently of his future, Mrs. O’Brien said, “Nathan is going to be an incredible nurse that every patient will look forward to seeing. I cannot wait to see where life takes him.”

Ilyaz Nathan Alvarez

Caption: Ilyaz (Nathan) Alvarez sitting for his graduation photo.

Meet Alison Watson


NVUSD fosters safe and rigorous learning environments for all students – including those with exceptional knowledge and skills. Alison Watson, a Canyon Oaks Elementary alumna and one of New Tech High School’s 2022 valedictorians is one such student. 


Reflecting on his experience with Alison, Jon Southam, a New Tech math teacher, described how she started freshman year in Math 3 (most students start in Math 1) “Alison would ask me questions about our work in class that made me question my own thinking,” recalls Mr. Southam. “That's a good thing, as all of us educators know. Alison has a mind that I haven't seen in a student before and I'm excited to see what she does next."


Prepared for the Future


In Alison’s graduation speech she listed a series of memorable experiences in which she was challenged through inquiry. Among these was “the Trial Project” in which world history teacher Andrew Biggs held “verbal sparring matches” to put Enlightenment Era historical figures on trial for crimes against humanity.  She also recalled the “awesome projects” of senior year including “engineering mind controlled cybernetic limbs, and prototyping satellites for national design competitions.”


Thinking of Alison and the satellite competition, Angelene Warnock, New Tech chemistry, Maker Space and leadership teacher said, “She is curious, hardworking, and always willing to jump into a new adventure. Case in point: I found an opportunity for my students to work with mentors from MIT to design a prototype microsatellite and program it to detect small scale plastics polluting the ocean. At the time, we knew next to nothing about the topic.” According to Ms. Warnock, when she brought the opportunity before the class, Alison said, "I have no idea, but that sounds interesting. I bet we can figure it out!" 


“And we did, '' said Ms. Warnock.“We taught ourselves about satellites, power and imaging systems, orbital mechanics, and the programming language, Python.”


Reflecting on these opportunities and experiences Alison said, “NVUSD has provided me with invaluable life experiences, such as the chance to apply for college, take hard classes in a safe environment, and allowed me to meet such great role models as my teachers.”


Post Graduate Plans


One of Alison’s great role models, New Tech English teacher SuzAnne Regalia, observed that “Alison has jumped into the universe with wide-eyed wonder, eager not only to see everything but to understand it in a deep and meaningful way.” 


No doubt, Alison will jump with that same wide-eyed wonder into her studies at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. It is not hard to draw lines between the experiences she has had as an NVUSD student and her plans to major in math and get more involved in the computer sciences.


Alison Watson delivering her valedictorian speech

Caption: Alison Watson delivers her Valedictorian speech at Memorial Stadium. Watch all of the great speeches in our livestream archive on our YouTube Channel.


Meet Erick Castro Jimenez

Whether you start in our district as a transitional kindergarten student or enroll in high school, our schools are ready to welcome and support you on your journey. Case in point, senior Erick Castro Jimenez immigrated to California from Mexico and took his first class in our district at Napa High School as a sophomore. He remembers that “the teachers and [my] classmates received me in a positive way and supported me at all times, making me feel at home, and happy.”


It is worth noting that Erick gave as much positivity as he received. Speaking of Erick his AP Spanish Language and Culture teacher, Esther Colorado said, “The Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh once said ‘Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy’ that is exactly how I used to feel every day whenever Erick was in my class.” Continuing she said, “He was a source of joy for me and for his classmates. He lives his life without letting obstacles put a frown on his face. He is definitely a joy to be around and I always remember him because of that.”


Prepared for the Future

As an immigrant and English Language Learner, Erick has certainly faced his share of obstacles and he credits his experience with NVUSD staff and programs with his success. He shared with us that “the teachers, NVUSD programs, and counselors always look for a way in which the student has an approach to overcome himself,  motivating me to be a better person who prepares myself for life's obstacles.” Elaborating, he said,   “Upon my arrival at NVUSD, the district gave me the necessary tools to be a successful student, opening ways for me to attend a 4-year university.” 


Post Graduate Plans

In fact, next year, Erick is excited to attend Menlo College in Silicon Valley. He knows it will be a challenge and plans to establish good work habits early because, he said, “I will need to be a mentally strong person to carry out the challenge of university life.” While at Menlo he looks forward to, “experimenting with meeting people from different places which is an incredible way for me to expand my world and get more knowledge about the corporate world.” His social studies teacher, Rosalinda Hurtado, is confident he will meet this next challenge with success saying, “he is such an amazing young man. He has surpassed and succeeded all expectations for a student that has been in the country for such a short period of time. He is kind, intelligent and an amazing friend. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him. I know he will do great things.”


Senior Erick Jimenez Castro with Ana Andrilla

Caption: Erick Castro Jimenez with Napa High Assistant Principal Ana Andrilla at the 11th Annual Every Student Succeeding Awards Ceremony. You can read more about the awards here. 



Meet Sophia Elizabeth Martin 


Recently, Sophia Elizabeth Martin graduated with her associate's degree from Napa Valley College and graduated from Vintage High School on June 15. You read that correctly, she earned her associated degree before graduating from high school. Read more about her story in the Napa Valley Register by clicking here.  


Sophia Martin in NVC graduation cap and gown



Meet Karla Dominguez


The Napa Valley Unified School District provides students the chance to excel in ways meaningful to them. For Class of 2022 senior Karla Dominguez, Napa High provided opportunities to refine her athletic and artistic talents as a Spiritleader. Summing up the experience Karla shared, “I was met with the most supportive and loving coaches and teammates. They not only helped me with dance, but helped me become a leader as a captain of the team, gain confidence, and grow as a person.” 


Hollie Johnson, director of the Napa High Spiritleaders program, continued from a coach's perspective. She remembers Karla as “an absolute joy to teach and coach. Karla pushed herself every day with hard work and a positive attitude to become the best dancer she could be. I also selected Karla as a Dance Officer where she mentors our Jazz 1 students. Karla loves giving back to our beginning dancers. She is an incredible role model for them.”


Karla attended McPherson and Shearer Elementary Schools, Harvest Middle School, and will graduate from Napa High School. 


Prepared for the Future

Looking to the future, Karla expressed confidence, observing that “NVUSD provided me with multiple opportunities to come out of my shell and be involved while staying academically challenged. I have been co-president of a club for three years, in AVID for six years, and a Spiritleader Captain, a Dance Officer, on the Breakers team, and a Girls on the Run junior coach.” Further explaining her preparation she noted, ”I have also presented to the NVUSD Board of Education about Bring Change to Mind and our fight to end the stigma surrounding mental health.” 


Post Graduate Plans

Karla is excited to attend UC Berkeley next year where she plans to double major in Psychology and Sociology and minor in Spanish. Her AVID teacher Brian King believes in her sharing, “Karla has always shown herself to be one hundred percent dedicated to her academics and to changing the paradigm of her family's future.” Elaborating, he said, “Her accomplishments inspire all of us at NHS AVID to reach for goals we might once have thought were unattainable."


It is fitting that upon graduation from Berkeley, Karla plans to pursue a career working for a mental health non-profit.


Karla Dominguez at a Napa High football game

Caption: Karla cheering on the Napa High football team at Memorial Stadium.



Double Feature

Meet Yizel Solano Gonzalez and Itzel Solano Gonzalez


Yizel and Itzel are twins that attended Salvador Elementary School, Redwood Middle School, and will graduate in June from Vintage High School. Summer Search, AVID, Migrant Education and music are programs that shaped their journey throughout their time in our district. According to the sisters, the programs provided an outlet to express themselves, explore their interests, and discover their strengths. 


Both have fond memories of their four years in the Vintage High School band. Yizel vividly recalls her first day of band camp under the hot sun with sweat dripping down her face, singing on bus trips at the top of her lungs, and playing under the Friday night lights in front of what she describes as, “the enormous stadium filled with thunderous crowds.” Yizel also sentimentally remembers “the fierce chanting of ‘We believe we will win, we believe we will win!’ during [marching band] competitions.”  These are but a few of the memories that Yizel shared that she says, “are kept in my heart.”


Itzel’s experience leading the flute section was a cherished memory. “When I walked into Memorial Stadium, all I could hear was the loud rumble of the audience and the stadium lights reflecting on the field,” she said. “Leading the flute section and marching to the cadence of the drum as we walked in with the football team. The crowd went wild…it was surreal.”


Prepared for the Future

Reflecting on her time at NVUSD Yizel said, “The district prepared me for my future by having amazing programs, teachers, and community. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for my teachers who have always encouraged me to strive for more.”


Itzel noted that she has been a student at NVUSD for seventeen years. “[It has] helped me flourish into an adult ready to take on the next chapter of my life,” she said. “It has offered me many opportunities and support during my learning years. I was introduced to the music program in 5th grade, and from there I had opportunities to meet wonderful teachers and counselors that have shaped who I am today.” She continued, “not only that, but the Napa Valley Community has supported me with scholarships and volunteering opportunities.”


While Yizel and Itzel credit their success to their teachers, programs and community, their teachers provide their own lens. Yizel’s band director at Vintage High School, Brendan Galvin, describes her as, “One of the most hard working students in the music program during her four years at Vintage. While seemingly reserved, after talking with Yizel, one without a doubt realizes that she has extremely mindful insights to share with the world.”


Jen LaMonte, an English teacher at Vintage High School, made a similar observation about Itzel. “In person, Itzel carries herself with a quiet gravitas. She is not given to careless chatter in class, but when it is time to speak, people listen,” said Ms. LaMonte. “In January of 2018, Itzel blew us away during the schoolwide Poetry Out Loud recitation contest. On stage, her presence was remarkable and electric. The understanding and emotional depth she communicated through her performance showed compassion, maturity and courage.  Whatever her achievements will be after graduating from Vintage, they are sure to be dazzling.”


Post Graduate Plans 

Discussing her future plans, Yizel says that she was raised by her mother to value education. She remembers her mother saying to her, “Mija tienes que estudiar para tener una carrera y un buen futuro.” This translates to: “Daughter, you have to study to have a career and have a great future.” She hopes to honor her mothers words and her fathers “deep callused hands, from making cement all of his life” by prioritizing her education. 


She is well on her way to fulfilling this commitment, having received a full ride to UC Davis where she plans to major in viticulture and enology. Equipped with this education, Yizel says, “someday, I will own my own winery and provide jobs to many immigrant people who have come to this land for an opportunity to thrive for a better future; as my parents did for me.”


Itzel received a full ride scholarship to Dominican University of California where she plans to study biology in a pre-med program. She looks forward to taking on internships and forming connections that will help her become a doctor. However, like Yizel, her ambition goes beyond a career. She says,  “As a Latina, I want to represent my culture and my native town Oaxaca because that is really where my roots are from. Becoming a doctor is not only for me, it's for my family and siblings who are looking up to me.”

Yizel and Itzel Solano Gonzalez outside Castillo di Amoroso

Caption: Yizel and Itzel Solano Gonzalez outside of Castello di Amorosa




Meet Kyla Martin 


Kyla started as a ninth-grade student at American Canyon High School (ACHS). Over the past four years, she has earned a reputation as a successful multi-sport student-athlete and community leader in the school and surrounding community.


Reflecting on her time as an NVUSD student, the memories she has from playing soccer and track for ACHS stand out most to her. Kyla noted that “the time learning from and growing with my teammates, competing with other NVUSD students, was really an inviting experience in both sports and something I really enjoyed.”


Prepared for the Future

She is grateful for the direct access to people at ACHS who helped her understand how to prepare for college. She specifical referenced access to Napa Valley College which has classrooms located on the ACHS campus. According to her ACHS counselor, Liliana Zmed, “Kyla has the strength of spirit to meet any challenge, the grace and eagerness to change the lives of others, and the intellectual ability to be a leader and agent of positive change in any of her endeavors.”


Post Graduate Plans

Next year, Kyla will attend Howard University in Washington D.C. where she will major in marketing with an emphasis in digital marketing and advertising sales. She is excited by the opportunity at Howard to network and pursue career opportunities. Her goal is to one day build up and market her own business.


When asked about her next phase of life, Kyla said,  “I’m interested in learning more about myself as I grow and enter a new environment with many new, diverse, people who I can build friendships and collaborative networks with.”  She also wants to “take in everything that I can from this point on because this is the start to everything after I graduate and enter a four year college.”


Kyla Martin in her American Canyon High School Letterman Jacket

Caption: Kyla Martin stands on a beach in her American Canyon High School letterman jacket.