The Westside Express has been fortunate to have on its team three outstanding students who are advancing in their studies–one graduating from university magna cum laude, one transferring from a community college while receiving two scholarships and another graduating from high school as the salutatorian.

Courtney Andrade, who has served as the newspaper’s co-editor, graduated from California State University Stanislaus May 25 magna cum laude. She is an English major who is on her way to becoming a high school English teacher. Next year she will be enrolled in the CSU Stanislaus teaching credential program.

What makes her accomplishment even more remarkable, besides having worked in retail management for 11 years, is that she is the mother of two sons, Adrian, age 9, and Emilio, age 10. She gets ongoing support from her husband Jorge. Together, Courtney and Jorge enjoy life with their boys in a variety of family adventures.

Malina Duran, who has covered city council and planning commission meetings the past year for the Westside Express, graduated from Merced College in 2022 with Superintendent’s Honors, but continued at Merced College to complete transfer courses in her major.

This spring Duran was awarded two significant scholarships for her academic excellence: the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Merced Branch, STEAM Scholarship, in the amount of $1,000, and the Science, Math and Engineering Scholarship in the amount of $500.

This fall she will be transferring to California State University, Stanislaus pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Media with a focus on graphic design and journalism. She’ll be living in student housing for the academic year.

Prishaa Vala, who covered school board meetings for the Westside Express this past year and wrote many other stories about her school and community, graduated from Los Banos High School June 2 as the class salutatorian with a GPA of 4.7.

She was acknowledged by the Los Banos Soroptimists Club as the June Erreca High School Student Volunteer of the Year and was awarded a $500 scholarship by the club.

Vala’s involvement in the community and The Westside Express has inspired her passion for law and legal studies, which she’ll pursue at the University of California, Berkeley in the fall.

Andrade will stay on as The Westside Express co-editor through December, working for the newspaper while continuing her education. Duran and Vala will be contributing articles occasionally for the paper while they pursue their university studies.

“We have been so blessed to have these three amazing young women on our team,” said Gene Lieb, The Westside Express publisher. “They are all bright, hardworking and dedicated, and they have all made significant contributions to make our newspaper relevant and valuable to our community. All three have a bright future ahead.”

Prishaa Vala, reporter for the Westside Express, as seen in her senior photo for Los Banos High School, where she was named salutatorian for the Class of 2023. She’ll be moving on to UC Berkeley in the fall.
Malina Duran, reporter for the Westside Express, when she graduated with Superintendent’s Honors from Merced College in May 2022. She continued on for another year at Merced College to take additional transfer courses and earn two scholarships. She will be attending CSU Stanislaus in the fall.