Cleveland ISD val and sal reflect on past while looking toward future

Brianna Mattis and Richard Guzman are the two highest-ranking graduates for Cleveland High School this year.

Cleveland High School’s two highest-ranking seniors are already setting their sights on the future with Valedictorian Brianna Mattis heading to the University of Texas at Austin and Salutatorian Richard Guzman going on to Lone Star College in Kingwood this fall.

Mattis, the daughter of Dexter and Christene Mattis and a church member of The Sanctuary of Cleveland, plans to major in biology and minor in Spanish in the hopes of one day becoming a family physician.

The recipient of the Jim Blackshire Award for Royal Braves Band’s Outstanding Musician, Mattis has qualified for the UT award that will cover her tuition for the next four years.

Brianna Mattis is the valedictorian for the Cleveland High School Class of 2019-2020.

“I have had the pleasure of being involved in many student organizations throughout my four years of high school. Alongside serving as the drum major of the Cleveland Royal Braves Band for the last two years, I have gotten to serve as an executive council member on the Student Council for three years, a member of National Honor Society, HOSA, the Student Ambassador Program with the Chamber of Commerce, and the Tribe Theatre Company. Outside of school I am a member of the Texas District Youth Choir where I lead on the frontline,” Mattis said.

She credits Cleveland ISD for giving her the opportunity to be taught by “some of the best teachers on the planet,” including Mrs. Alpha, Mrs. Vandver-Wright, Mrs. Kawelo, Ms. Ivy, Mr. Kettlecamp, Mr. Furlough, Mr. Cattell, Mr. Nuñez and Mrs. Nolan who helped set the foundation for her early days in the district; her high school Biology/Anatomy teacher, Mr. Gregory, for anchoring her decision to pursue an education in biology, Mrs. Guiwa for never doubting her, Mr. Norman for reminding all his students that they are now the ones in charge of writing history, and the Cleveland Band Directors for definitively shaping her into who she is today.

“The best advice I have been given is this: ‘Most of the time the plan that you have for yourself and your future is interrupted by life itself. When this happens, breathe, slow down and remember that there’s never just one route to where you want to go. Always keep your options open and never settle for less than what you deserve.”

She offers her own advice to the future high school students.

“From this point forward, make the choice to take the limits off your mind. You are capable of everything and anything,” Mattis said.

Richard Guzman is the salutatorian for the Cleveland High School Class of 2019-2020.

Salutatorian Richard Guzman is the son of Jorge and Olga Guzman. In the fall, he plans to attend Lone Star College to acquire an Associates of Science before transferring to the Cullen College at the University of Houston.

Guzman is a recipient of the Austin Bank Educational Scholarship and a KPRC Senior Scholarship. He is a member of the National Honor Society, Interact Club and Skills USA.

When asked to identify any teacher or school employee who had the greatest impact on his life, Guzman credited two teachers and his bus driver.

“Karen Steinbach was my culinary teacher and Skills USA Instructor. At first, I was indifferent towards her until I had actually met her for who she was. Her character was unlike any other. Never did she tolerate lies, indolence nor slander. These were the reasons why I disliked her at first, since I was everything that she detested. She never expected mediocrity from me. My character improved to a more respectful and responsible one. Not to mention my work ethic,” he said.

Teacher Micheal Grady Norman encouraged him through his loving and caring attitude toward students.

“He was considerate. He was charismatic. His genuineness was an encouragement for everyone to speak to him about their personal issues. He was loving and caring towards everyone around. Never did I feel out of place in his class,” he said.

“Mrs. Robinson. She was my bus driver for many years. At times, I would arrive late to my bus stop in the mornings due to oversleeping or some other excuse, but she was always there waiting a few extra minutes to make sure I would get to school in time. I’m not sure if she knew the bus was my only way of transport but I appreciate her for always being so caring and especially patient with me. She was a kind and positive woman who always greeted me with a smile as she opened the doors to the bus. She was the reason why I started my days progressively better over the years,” Guzman continued.

Guzman said the best piece of advice he ever received was “Don’t look down at your feet when you are walking. You might miss your opportunities.”

Through his climb to be one of the two highest-ranking students at Cleveland ISD, Guzman said he learned that “mistakes are often made but it’s what you do the next time that actually matters.”

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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