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Axley, who is planning to visit his rehabilitated mother in North Carolina after graduation, said he hopes he can show others what his parents have shown him: Drugs will destroy you if you let them.
"My dad taught me that you don’t have to do bad things. You have a choice," the teen said. "And if you can’t walk down that path and do good, eventually, reality’s going to catch up and smack you across the face."
Teens receive Student of the Year awards
Eight students from as many Salt Lake Valley high schools received awards for being leaders in their communities. They were chosen by school resource officers, who teach vocational law-enforcement classes in those schools and handle criminal investigations on school grounds.
The winners were: Christopher Axley (Hillcrest); Betty Castillo (Olympus); Joel Kakela (Kearns); Esabelle Khaosanga (Skyline); Connor Squire (Cyprus); Jacob VanRoosendaal (Riverton); Daryllin Zitting (Taylorsville); Jayden Zundel (Herriman).
As Axley sat among mayors, police officers and other students from across the Salt Lake Valley last Tuesday, he never dreamed he would win the award, he said.
Students at neighboring tables had 4.0 grade-point averages, were captains of sports teams, leaders and award-winners.
But Axley’s character and dedication won out. Stinson commended Axley’s commitment to the Unified Police Department’s student cadet program, which teaches students about the various aspects of law enforcement, and his ability to set an example for his peers.
As Axley took the stage to accept the scholarship, he wiped tears from his cheeks. His 6-foot, 3-inch frame swelled even more with pride as he shook Sheriff Jim Winder’s hand.
"It was overwhelming," Axley said later. "I just wanted to jump up and down and scream. … It was an honor just to be there, let alone to get that scholarship."
Standing beside him, nearly a foot shorter, was Taylorsville High School senior Daryllin Zitting.
Zitting, 17, also wants to pursue a career in law enforcement, first by working with police dogs and then, perhaps, by joining the gang unit.
Already making a name for herself as the first female to hold a noncommissioned officer position in the Taylorsville High School JROTC battalion, Zitting joined UPD’s cadet program in November.
She plans to go to Salt Lake Community College after graduation and then go to Weber State.
"My parents — they’re a little nervous about the whole police-work thing," the teen explained. "But they want me to chase my dreams. … And after being in that room, getting that award from the big guys, I feel like, yeah, I can do this."
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