This month, Woodrow Wilson High School will graduate about 200 seniors.

These students live in the same neighborhood and are graduating from the same school, but they come from diverse backgrounds and have a variety of interests – from singing to law enforcement to volleyball.

We thought you might like to meet some of our neighborhood’s best students.

These eight students were selected based upon recommendations from Principal Eduardo Torres and Assistant Principal Brent Vidrine.

You may be familiar with some of these students. Some, you’ve never heard about.

But one thing that is certain about them, as well as their classmates – each has worked hard for an education, not only in the classroom, but in life.

Exploring the Law: Darian Loera

Darian Loera, 19, already works for the Dallas Police Department.

At age 15, he became a Dallas Police Explorer, a teenage cadet trained by police officers in law enforcement.

Loera is now chief of the Explorers for the Police Department’s Central Division, which patrols East Dallas and the Downtown area.

As an Explorer, Loera was taught CPR and how to handle criminal situations. He attends neighborhood crime watch meetings and does community service projects, such as cleaning graffiti off walls. All of his work is non-paid.

When he was 17, Loera began working patrol two nights a month with police officers.

“My greatest quality is that I can talk to the guy with the college degree and to the guy with the sixth grade education,” Loera says. “That’s the way it is on the streets.”

Loera plans to pursue law enforcement as a career and wants to work for the federal government, perhaps for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he says.

He will attend Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, where he will study criminal justice in a pre-law track. He will be the first person in his family to attend a four-year college.

“Once you are a first-generation student, you come back home and people see you,” says Loera, whose father moved to Texas from Mexico in the 1960s.

“My younger sisters will see that I’m making a better life for myself, and when I have kids, they will go to college. Hopefully, what I am doing will make the big change for my family.”

Loera also plays goalie for Woodrow’s varsity soccer team and has played year-round club soccer for 11 years. He works at Minyard’s at Gaston and Abrams on the weekends.

Most Valuable Player: Mavis Webb

Mavis Webb says she is competitive.

And her competitive nature has paid off.

She has participated in varsity volleyball and varsity track all four years at Woodrow and has four letters in each sport.

A varsity cheerleader as well, Webb says athletics take up most of her time.

During volleyball season, she stays at school until 6 p.m. or later practicing. Track has her practicing weekdays and Saturdays, and on days when there are pep rallies, she arrives at Woodrow at 7 a.m. for cheerleading.

“I’ve loved athletics since I was little,” Webb says. “It has taught me discipline, how to be a team member, and it has me in shape.”

This year, Webb was captain of her volleyball team and named the district’s Most Valuable Player. Her junior year, she made first-team All-District.

In track, Webb has been one of the district’s top three discus throwers for the past three years, and last year, she placed third in the district for the triple jump.

When not practicing, Webb studies or works at the New York Bagel Shop in Oak Lawn. She is in the National Honor Society and ranked among in the top 20 of her class.

She is also president of the art club; a student council senior class officer; a member of Young Life, a non-denominational Christian youth group; and a member of Woodrow’s Key Club, a community service organization.

“It’s all here for you (at Woodrow),” Webb says. “Each student needs to make the most of it. I feel like academically, I am ready for college. I’ve had a lot of fun.”

Webb will attend Texas A&M University. She is considering majoring in psychology, she says, but plans to explore other fields.

Hoop Dreams: Jerry Odhams

Jerry Odhams’ mother works as a housekeeper for a nursing home.

Watching her come home tired every day from that job has encouraged Odhams to push himself, he says.

“There’s so many people around me who I’ve seen drop out,” Odhams says. “Once you’ve got to high school, that’s too many years of school to drop out.”

Odhams plays forward for Woodrow’s varsity basketball team. He has seen some of his friends kicked off sports teams for not passing their classes, he says, but he has maintained a “B” average in school while working 20 hours a week for the Little Caesars Pizza counter in Kmart at Buckner Boulevard and Interstate 30.

Basketball has taught him discipline and never to give up, says Odhams, who plans to play the sport in college.

He hopes to play for the National Basketball Association someday, but he is realistic about his chances.

“It (the NBA) is a long shot,” Odhams says. “If I could make it into the NBA, it’s something I would like to do, but I will have something to fall back on.”

Odhams has applied to universities throughout Texas and is waiting for responses, he says. He plans to study business, and says someday, he may open a barber shop. As a self-taught barber, he cuts many of his friends’ hair.

In his free time, Odhams draws. Art has always been a part of his life, he says.

“You’ve got to have art to fly,” he says. “You’ve got to have wings to get where you’re going.”

Editor-in-Chief: Yolanda Gomez

Yolanda Gomez lives at Woodrow.

As editor of the school newspaper, The Wildcat, Gomez says it is easier to find her in Woodrow’s journalism room than it is at home.

“I spend about 25 hours (a week) on the paper,” she says. “I’m here night and day.”

Gomez joined the newspaper staff last year and was chosen to be editor because of her dedication and organization, she says.

“There’s a satisfaction you get when the finished paper is in front of you, and you see people reading it,” Gomez says. “It’s your communication with the whole school.”

As newspaper editor, Gomez attends community events and solicits advertising from neighborhood businesses. Recently, she and members of her staff were invited to Planet Hollywood where Pauly Shore of MTV was promoting his new movie “Jury Duty.”

“You’re communicating to the real world,” Gomez says. “You have to make calls and work with different people. It’s made me more responsible and taught me not to procrastinate.”

For the past two years, Gomez performed in Woodrow’s one-act play, and she has been a member of Woodrow’s drill team. She has been in the choir program since her freshman year, and this year, she is manager of Variations, the school’s show choir.

“I don’t want to sit at home and be bored,” Gomez says. “I like being involved.”

Gomez has applied to Texas A&M and Southwest Texas State University. She plans to study marine biology.

The Singing Quarterback: Joe Theriot

Joe Theriot performs on stage and on the field.

For four years, he has been a member of Woodrow’s football, baseball and swimming teams, as well as a member of Variations, a performing show choir.

He also has had a part in the school’s musical each year, playing a lead role this year in “Sugar.” During musical rehearsals, he often found himself at Woodrow until 10 p.m., he says.

“I’ve always loved to perform,” Theriot says. “I get a ‘high’ when I’m on stage.”

Theriot has 11 varsity letters in athletics as the football quarterback, the catcher in baseball and a freestyle swimmer.

Last year, Woodrow’s baseball team won the district, as did the swimming team. This year, the swimming team placed second.

The football team, however, has not been so lucky, Theriot says, winning only two games of eight this year.

“It builds character,” Theriot says. “It humbles you a lot. We (the team) have to work hard. I’ve learned you have to put commitment into something.”

Theriot hopes to play baseball in college, but says his education will come first. He will study communications and plans to become a sports broadcaster.

At Woodrow, Theriot is among the top 10 in his class and is a member of the National Honor Society.

He has also been president of his class all four years at Woodrow and is a member of the art club, the Key Club and Young Life.

Theriot has been accepted to Texas Christian, Baylor, Texas Tech and Texas A&M universities, as well as the University of Oklahoma.

A Life Participant: Sarita Contreras

Sarita Contreras decided she wanted to be in the National Honor Society when she was a junior.

Now secretary of the society, Contreras says being inducted into the honor society was her proudest moment at Woodrow.

Going to college is another accomplishment of which she is proud – as one of the top 20 in her class, Contreras will be the first member of her family to attend a university.

She has been accepted to several Texas schools, including Southwest, which is at the top of her college list. She is still waiting to hear from Texas A&M, another top choice.

In college, she will study to be a physical therapist.

“I’m an aggressive person,” Contreras says. “I don’t like people to give up on anything. Being a physical therapist, you can encourage someone and bring up their emotional state of mind.”

At Woodrow, Contreras is co-captain of the varsity soccer team, which she has played on for three years. She also manages the football team and is the basketball team’s bookkeeper.

This past summer, she attended a week-long World Affairs Seminar sponsored by the Lions Club at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater.

“We spoke about what is happening in the world,” Contreras says, “and about how the new generation can help solve the problems we are facing among countries.”

Contreras is involved with her family in their neighborhood crime watch group. She also works at the Tuesday Morning Store at Mockingbird and Matilda.

“I tell my younger cousins and friends at school that if you want to be someone in life, you’ve got to participate,” Contreras says.

Reaching Her Goal: Yevette Sterling

Yevette Sterling’s goal at Woodrow has been to graduate.

She has seen students drop out of school or skip months at a time, she says.

But Sterling has done more than stick with school. She consistently receives “As” and “Bs” in her classes while participating on the varsity basketball and track teams and baby-sitting during non-school hours.

“I’m proud of doing as well as I’m doing in school,” Sterling says. “I want to finish. I don’t want to go to school for years and just give up. Your education is the most important thing you should focus on. How can you be anything if you haven’t finished school?”

After graduation, Sterling plans to study dentistry. She has applied to the University of Oklahoma and several Texas universities. Her first choice is East Texas State University in Commerce, from which she is waiting to hear.

She will be the first person in her family to attend a university, says Sterling, who lives with her mother and two brothers. Her two older sisters no longer live at home.

Sterling played guard for Woodrow’s basketball team, which tied for second in the district this year. In track, she runs the 400-meter dash and several relays.

Last year, she was the district champion in the 400, and her mile relay team finished second. “Basketball has taught me pride and confidence in myself and my teammates,” Sterling says. “Track has given me endurance and motivation.”

When not at Woodrow, Sterling baby-sits for a friend’s two children. She isn’t paid for the baby-sitting, saying she does it because her friend needs help.

“It has taught me not to depend on other people,” Sterling says. “I want to be independent. My attitude about life is know what you want to do and do it.”

He Doesn’t Follow The Herd: Michael Franco

Michael Franco expresses himself through music.

At Woodrow, Franco has played the drums in the marching and concert band for four years, and in the jazz band for two years.

“I’ve learned to play different types of music each year,” he says. “I’ve learned jazz styles and classical styles.”

“Music is the one thing I take an interest in. I don’t go home and watch TV.”

Franco plans to attend community college in Colorado while saving money for the University of Colorado at Boulder, he says. He will pay for the move himself and plans to work full-time this summer to save for the trip.

He hopes to be a professional drummer. But if he doesn’t make it in the music business, he wants to work with animals and will study biology in college, he says.

Besides being a musician, Franco also is an Eagle Scout with Boy Scout Troop 64, which meets at Northridge Presbyterian Church. To earn the rank of Eagle Scout, Franco organized a neighborhood recycling project.

Franco lives with his mother and two younger brothers, and he often visits his father, who is the scoutmaster of Troop 64.

Franco’s family supports his plans for a music career, he says.

“I’ve never wanted to follow the herd,” Franco says. “I’ve always seen myself as the stray.”

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