Kathy Ramirez-Gijon
Kathy Ramirez-Gijon, a senior and golf team member at Dos Pueblos High School, will be recognized for her academic and community achievements as the Goleta’s Finest Student of the Year. (Goleta Chamber of Commerce photo)

[Noozhawk’s note: One in a series on the honorees at the Goleta Chamber of Commerce’s 70th annual Goleta’s Finest Community Awards Gala, to be held Nov. 23 at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara.]

What’s the criteria for Student of the Year selection? A student who is well-rounded and has done great things. This year, the choice was easy: Kathy Ramirez-Gijon, who will be honored by the Goleta Chamber of Commerce on Saturday with the Goleta’s Finest Student of the Year Award.

A senior at Dos Pueblos High School, Ramirez-Gijon is a D’Penguineer, a member of the prestigious Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy. This project-based education in science, technology, engineering, art and math, or “STEAM,” is as difficult to get into as it is pioneering and groundbreaking.

As part of one six-student team, Ramirez-Gijon is designing and manufacturing museum exhibits. They’ve just finished prototyping an interactive light sculpture, with more than 500 rods that light up when placed in front of Kinect, Microsoft’s revolutionary technology. The team is now searching for another project to complete before the end of the school year.

But Ramirez-Gijon is more than engineering; with 382 community service hours and counting, she’s a voracious volunteer. Along with working at the Goleta Chamber of Commerce’s Goleta Lemon Festival and the Goleta Fireworks Festival, she teaches math as a teacher’s aide.

“I got to give a full lesson to an IB (International Baccalaureate) math class when the teacher was gone,” she said. “It was one of the most fun experiences I’ve had at school.”

As a student council member since her sophomore year and now as Associated Student Body secretary, Ramirez-Gijon enjoys setting up for football games and dances.

Much more than an academic, Ramirez-Gijon is an athlete. Starting in ninth grade, she started playing golf.

“It’s my way of treating myself,” she explained. “Golf is crucial to keeping me balanced, and it’s what’s helped me be able to do so much academically because it makes my life so much more that academics.”

The sport is so important to her that she’s never even considered missing a golf season.

“I never drop a golf match for a math class because golf is ‘me” time,” she said. “It’s great to take a break and have fun with an awesome team of golfers and coaches.”

And speaking of “me” time, Ramirez-Gijon finds time to enjoy much of what Goleta has to offer.

“My favorite things to do include fishing off the Goleta pier at night with my dad and brother, skating at Ice in Paradise, and playing golf at Glen Annie.”

Although she has yet to hear back from her college applications, this first-generation college-bound young woman plans to pursue a career in mechanical engineering — one of a very few Latinas in this competitive field.

The Goleta Chamber of Commerce’s 70th annual Goleta’s Finest Community Awards Gala will begin at 6 p.m. Saturday at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, 8301 Hollister Ave. in Goleta. Click here for more information, or to purchase tickets.

— Kate Schwab represents the Goleta Chamber of Commerce.

Bill Macfadyen

William M. Macfadyen, Noozhawk Publisher

Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at wmacfadyen@noozhawk.com, and follow him on Instagram: @bill.macfadyen. The opinions expressed are his own.