Treasure Mountain Junior High teen is named Utah’s Student of the Year
In many ways, Jorge Luis Tlasmanteco Vasquez is a typical student in Park City. He is involved in multiple activities inside and outside of school and hopes to succeed in them all. But in other ways, he is extraordinary, which is why he was named Utah’s Student of the Year.
Vasquez, a ninth-grade student at Treasure Mountain Junior High, was selected for the award out of more than 100 students nominated statewide. A team of educators and education and business leaders in the state chose him. On May 2, he plans to attend an event in Salt Lake City, during which Utah’s Educator of the Year, Administrator of the Year and Partner in Education will also be recognized. Gov. Gary Herbert is expected to present Vasquez’s award, which will include a $5,000 scholarship from the nonprofit Utah’s Partner in Education Foundation, said Randy Shumway, chair of the foundation.
Rick Bleil, a math teacher at Treasure Mountain, and Jeremy Tadros, a social science teacher at the school, were two of the several educators who nominated Vasquez for the award. They both have him in their classes this year.
Bleil said Vasquez has an “incredible work ethic” and is “mature beyond his years.” He said that Vasquez works with his teachers and lets them know if he needs help or accommodations, which is a skill many students do not learn until much later down the road.
“This is a kid who we will see do pretty impressive things in the future,” Bleil said.
Tadros said that Vasquez is a leader many students look up to, especially since he is a member of the student group Latinos in Action.
Both Tadros and Bleil agreed that he is positive and always has a smile on his face.
But one of the things that stood out to them is that Vasquez pushed through many personal challenges this year, but he still made school a priority.
Vasquez said that he understands how important education is, which is why he puts in so much effort.
He was born in Guerrero, Mexico, and moved to Salt Lake City with his family while in elementary school. His family moved to Park City a few years later and he attended Ecker Hill Middle School.
He said that his parents did not have the opportunity to receive an education beyond the equivalent of elementary school, so now he wants to take advantage of his education.
“My parents wished they could go to school but it was very difficult for them growing up,” he said. “Now that I have the opportunity, I want to take it and go as far as I can.”
He hopes to attend college and pursue a career in the architecture or engineering fields, since his favorite subject is math. He said that it can be hard to get homework done when he is balancing it with practice with the Park City High School soccer team and helping his mom at home with his siblings.
“After all that, I manage to do my homework most of the time,” he said with a smile.
Bleil said that one of the other great traits of Vasquez is that he is willing to help other students in class. There are a couple of English-language learners, and Bleil sits them near Vasquez because he explains questions when necessary but does not simply give them the answers.
“He lets them do the work,” he said. “He realizes that you have to teach them how to do it. They have to learn on their own. He provides them support so they don’t feel like a ship adrift in the class.”
Bleil was happy to hear that Vasquez was selected, but also surprised because there was not an organized effort to nominate him. Only after submitting Vasquez’s name did Bleil realize that other teachers had followed suit.
Vasquez said that he is excited and motivated to keep working hard, because he recognizes that being selected for the honor is “very special.” He said his mom is proud, too. She burst into tears when Emily Sutherland, principal of the school, called to tell her the news.
“Anybody putting in extraordinary effort and being told, ‘You know what? We see it,’ is really important,” Bleil said. “To be nominated by your teachers is a big deal.”
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