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Sierra Highs first Hall of Fame class
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Sierra High Hall of Fame inductees, from left, Lindsey Pavao, Vern Gebhardt, and Rick Arucan listen to the speaker. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Five individuals were inducted into the inaugural Sierra High Hall of Fame on Sunday.

They were Rick Arucan, Vern Gebhardt, Lindsey Pavao, Mario Enriquez, and David Ulibarri.

Rick Arucan

Arucan is a distinguished alumnus of Edison High School in Stockton and he is a graduate from the University of the Pacific, where he was elected to the school’s Hall of Fame for his accomplishments on the baseball field.

Arucan spent 39 years in education as a teacher, coach, and administrator. He has a Master’s in Education and School Management.

After spending his entire teaching and administrative career at East Union High School, Rick was named as the first principal at Sierra in 1993. He greeted his first class the following year and spent 14 years as our principal.

Arucan set the highest standard for himself as well as those around him, including his teachers, administrators, and especially his students. While at Sierra, the school achieved the highest accreditation marks from the state of California and his outstanding leadership earned him the ACSA Administrator of the Year award.

Ideas such as the Lobo Gold Rally, a rally to celebrate academic excellence, were a brainchild of Arucan’s.

Many people who have worked underneath him have gone on to become high school administrators and principals and they will all tell you that his influence was a driving force in their leadership style. Even after retirement, Arucan continues to mentor and provide support for younger principals and he even spent a short stint as an interim principal at Lathrop School this past year.

Arucan is still well respected and adored by his students and staff. He is also the master of quips, which we still often refer to even today as “Arucanisms.”

Lindsey Pavao

Lindsey Pavao graduated with honors from Sierra High School in 2007. While at Sierra, she could be seen singing with the Jazz Band and she also played the Piano. After spending two years at U.C. Davis, she transferred to Sacramento State, where she is currently majoring in Psychology.

Pavao is a role model to former, current, and future SHS students as an example of a person who stretched herself to the extreme, in order to pursue her dream of singing. Not only is she achieving her goal, but she has earned significant recognition from some of the most widely recognized professionals in the music industry.

After a rigorous tryout process, Pavao was chosen to participate in the nationally televised singing competition known as “The Voice.” Thousands of hopefuls, across the nation, auditioned and competed for a spot on the hit television show. It took her less than 30 seconds to make an impact on the show. She had hardly begun singing when Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, and Cee Lo Green began fighting over her to include our Sierra grad to their respective rosters. Lindsey ended up choosing Aguilera as her coach, and they formed a powerful bond that helped lead her into the final 8 contestants of the show. Aguilera told Pavao, in front of a national television audience, that “You have such a unique quality and tone to your voice.” As of the month of April, Pavao was the number one iTunes downloaded contestant to date.

Pavao was featured in the April edition of Nor Cal Magazine and she has been recognized for her vocal achievements by the Modesto Bee, Manteca Bulletin, KCRA News, Entertainment Weekly, along with making numerous other radio appearances. She will be taking a year off from school and she has quite a few options on the table for herself. She could soon be signing a record deal or she may even be a part of the North American Tour of “The Voice” this summer.

Vern Gebhardt

Vern Gebhardt was preaching “Victory with Honor” and “Character Counts” long before the phrases became the mainstay of the Sac-Joaquin Section and High School athletics. Gebhardt was a University of Pacific athlete and graduate. He was one of the first people hired by Arucan in 1993 for the school’s opening in 1994.

Gebhardt was the architect of the athletic program, hiring each coach and ordering every piece of athletic equipment and every stitch of uniform clothing. Unlike other new schools in the district, Sierra opened with lots of land, but few athletic facilities. Under Gebhardt and Arucan, Sierra built baseball diamonds, softball diamonds, and later added a Swimming Pool. Certainly one of the most significant accomplishments was the building of the Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium.

Gebhardt created an athletic budget that was fair to all sports and by saving the current year’s athletic receipts for the upcoming school year, the athletic department has always enjoyed a surplus of funds.

Much of the culture and tradition that the Sierra athletic program established in 1994 is still in place today. Many of the coaches that were hired by Gebhardt have enjoyed successful careers and are still coaching at Sierra, including soccer coach Manuel Pires, baseball coach Jack Thomson, and basketball coach Scott Thomason.

After retiring in 2005, Gebhardt was elected to the Manteca Unified School District Board of Trustees. A former MUSD Teacher of the Year and Sac-Joaquin Association Athletic Director of the Year, Gebhardt recently added another honor to his name. He was recently inducted him into the Manteca Hall of Fame for his outstanding contributions to Manteca education and athletics.

Mario Enriquez

Mario Enriquez is a 2006 Sierra High School graduate. He participated in the Peer Resource program for three years, under the direction of Debbie Mitzman. In college, he used his skills to positively impact the community through programs at the University of Pacific.

After receive his Bachelor’s Degree from UOP, Enriquez continued his community involvement while working with the National Council of La Raza in Washington, D.C.

Enriquez still returns to Sierra and works with current students, serving as a role model for both our Peer Resource students and ELD population.

Enriquez works every day to make a positive difference in local communities and in the world at large. According to the UOP Alumni Office, “Mario has been able to apply his Sociology degree to his work at a top-tier non-profit organization. The National Council of La Raza is a Latino/Latina civil rights advocacy-based organization. Mario works on the NCLR, which supports hundreds of local and community-based programs, as well as campus-based student organizations. The goal is to build the skills of Latino youth and increase their potential to be leaders.

In his role, Enriquez plans and executes local and national youth conferences, increases social media efforts such as Facebook and Twitter, and words to promote the Lieders network, which provides resource for youth such as scholarship, internships, and fellowship.”

Enriquez has been recognized and honored as the Outstanding Latino Leader of the Year Award by the University of the Pacific, National Knight of the Roundtable Award by the Omega Delta Phi Fraternity, and he has been a keynote speaker at several Latino Leadership Conferences and Bilingual Financial Aid Summits.

Enriquez is a first generation college student from a bilingual family. Mitzman describes Mario as having “positive energy, enthusiasm, strong work ethic, and desire to serve others immediately made him exceptional. He maintains those positive traits while serving this country as a supporter of our youth.”

Enriquez is living and working in Virginia.

David Ulibarri

David Ulibarri was an excellent and distinguished athlete while attending Sierra High School and continued has outstanding athletic career at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he was the Big West Conference Champion in the 800 meter.

Ulibarri set three track and field records, which he continues to hold to this day at Sierra. He has the 800 meter record of 1:55.42, the 1600 meter record of 4:13.2, and the 3200 meter record of 9:13. He qualified for the C.I.F. State Meet in Cross Country all four years of high school and he helped Sierra win its first C.I.F. Section Championship in Track and Field by scoring 18 of the team’s 28 points. He went on to place 8th at the C.I.F. Track and Field State Meet.

He was named Sierra’s All-Around Senior Athlete in 1999 and Tri-Valley Herald’s High School Athlete of the Year for the 1998-99 school year. This past Track season, the 2012 Tom Moore Relays was dedicated to Ulibarri.

Since graduating from Cal Poly, Ulibarri has remained in the San Luis Obispo area, working as the purchasing manager for VS Athletics. Ulibarri has continued to support the Sierra High School Athletic Program by donating thousands of dollars to the school. As Sierra’s cross country and track and field equipment supplier, David is someone we know we can count on to help us out within a speedy time-frame whenever the school gets into a tight situation.