Brenda Arambula, 7th grade
Woodlake Valley Middle School

Middle school-aged youth often struggle with many mental, physical, and emotional changes in their lives. Couple this with being a middle child and you have a recipe for a student who may display “middle child syndrome” behaviors, such as lack of academic focus, attention-getting or socially aggressive behaviors, and resistance to adult guidance.

Meet Brenda Arambula, a Woodlake Valley Middle School seventh-grader and middle child sibling practicing good character and defying stereotypes. Her conduct, actions, and choices reveal a young lady who is reliable and demonstrates self-discipline to remain motivated to complete tasks. Brenda’s leadership teacher, Courtney Hengst says, “Leadership class is extremely busy and important for setting the pulse for the entire campus. Brenda is at the heart of our success. I know any task assigned to Brenda is one I can immediately dismiss from my head because she takes it and runs with it. For example, if the class is over but posters are not complete for an event, she will come back after school to complete them without being asked. If a committee needs reminding of an upcoming deadline, Brenda will contact students for me and let me know their responses.”

Brenda’s commitment to others proves to be just as consistent. Teacher Charla Phillips says, “Brenda is an amazing young lady to everyone she meets. You can count on Brenda to keep her promises to classmates, teammates, teachers, friends, and family. Brenda exemplifies what having good character should always look like, feel like, and sound like!”

Brenda shares her thoughts on beating the odds of belonging in the stereotypical “middle.” “Being involved in youth leadership builds confidence and teaches you to have responsible habits. As a young leader, I want to do my best work. I care about the opinion of others so that I can learn and grow.”

Beyond the school day, Brenda’s family plays a key role in shaping her character. Brenda says, “My parents have always taught me to be a better person. My older sister is my role model. I see how good grades provide better college opportunities and she shows me fun stuff, too, like style and clothes. I also have a younger brother and I want him to be a great person, so I need to be the best role model for him.”

Joseph Machado, 8th grade
Waukena School

“Do things, get involved, and give back.” Joseph Machado, an eighth-grade student from Waukena School, received this modest advice from his grandfather and he puts it into practice daily.

Joseph does not take the first piece of advice – do things – light-heartedly. He is involved in more than 10 projects, clubs, and sports teams taking place throughout the year. Teacher Melinda Mills describes Joseph as, “an amazingly active young man who helps out in any way asked of him, from getting sports equipment ready to managing a group of his classmates in a class lab. He is a member of the spelling team, Math Superbowl team, every sports team, and the school leadership team. In the past year, he helped his dad build a new backstop for the school. He plays on a travel soccer team and on the Junior Olympic Water Polo team. Somehow, he even finds time to participate in 4-H by raising and showing animals.”

As Joseph reflects back on his commitments, he says, “By getting involved in different projects, I learn about all sides of a community – the strengths and the needs – and I get to know other people.”

Giving back is natural for Joseph, especially when it comes to raising animals. As the current secretary of the Waukena 4-H Club, Joseph is happy to report that the club membership is growing. Then he humbly shares an idea he has developed to help grow the club. Joseph has recently started breeding his sheep in order to provide lambs for other members. Joseph says, “I just felt like the cost of purchasing lambs from outside the area was too high and I knew I could help. I want to see our 4-H club improve, grow, and do well.”

College years will be here for Joseph before he knows it. His plans are to pursue his interests with animals and become a small animal veterinarian. For now, time spent with his grandfather will be used wisely raising chickens and lambs and driving around the countryside. In the coming years, as Joseph continues to follow his grandfather’s sage advice, we will all be anxiously waiting to see the young man Joseph becomes.