Before summer heat waves lure students everywhere to beaches and pools, this year’s graduating class will send off its brightest stars with the highest recognitions.

For Oakley’s Freedom High School, those bright stars for the graduating class of 2019 are Zachary Pakin and Audrey Carandang, who were named valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

With a cumulative GPA of 4.42, Zachary has had an active academic tenure, but he has also been an active community member. Throughout his student career, he was involved with local clubs such as STEM, communications, computer science and the Italian Club. He served as the assistant director of the East Bay Saxophone Project, a local nonprofit that provides free, group saxophone lessons to students in fourth to 12th grades. He was a traveler and ambassador for Global Glimpse, an international leadership and volunteer organization, as well as Veterans of Foreign Wars and The Urban Farmers — racking up hundreds of community service hours across the various organizations.

“I feel overjoyed and honored to have been named as the valedictorian of Freedom,” said Zachary. “I credit my success to my mother, as she has always supported my crazy academic endeavors throughout my years in school.”

Zachary will attend UCLA to double major in computer science and international development studies. He said he hopes to minor in Spanish, calling out his Spanish teacher, Sra. Nuño, as his favorite teacher over the years.

“Sra. Nuño is extremely dedicated to not only being an excellent teacher, but also to her students’ success,” Zachary said. “She always finds creative ways to teach new material, and pushes everyone to continue their learning outside the classroom.”

Zachary’s mother, Dawn Pakin, was full of pride for her son.

“I could not be more proud of the hard work and dedication Zack has put in over the four years at school,” Dawn said. “He had a rocky start, losing his father at the beginning of freshman year, but he never let it sway him from the goals he wanted to achieve. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for him.”

Freedom High School Principal Kelly Manke considers Zachary an outstanding student and go-getter.

 “We are very proud of all of his accomplishments and commend him for his hard work over these past four years,” Manke said. “We know he will do great things.”

Freedom’s salutatorian, Audrey Carandang, came in just a hair behind Zachary with a GPA of 4.37. An active athlete, she played junior varsity girls’ tennis during her sophomore year, and has been heavily involved in area clubs and organizations, such as The Urban Farmers, an outpatient clinic in Pittsburg and her local library.

“Being salutatorian is a big honor that makes me feel very proud that all of my hard work has paid off,” Audrey said. “I credit it to all my hours of hard work and determination, along with the support of family and friends around me.”

Even though her favorite subjects were calculus and statistics, she noted Mr. Mark Neely, who teaches English, to be her favorite. This fall, the salutatorian is also heading to UCLA, where she will major in financial actuarial science.

 “Audrey has done exceptional work at Freedom High, and her talents in math and science have certainly set her up for success,” said Manke. “We are so proud of her and know that she will continue to shine as she pursues her dreams at UCLA.”

Audrey’s parents, Lyn and Anthony sent along the following message for their daughter: “You can do anything you set your mind to. Always follow your heart. We’ll always be here to support you. We are so proud of you.”

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