Angela Esono, a senior at South Mountain High School, was named the City of Phoenix 2016 Outstanding Young Woman of the Year at a luncheon, April 29 at Arizona Country Club.
Four other Phoenix Union students were among the 16 students named Outstanding Young Men and Women for each of the eight city council districts, and another student won an Honorary Award. The program is presented by the City of Phoenix Youth and Education Commission.
Esono won a $1,500 scholarship. The Outstanding Young Man was Yash Patel from Sandra Day O’Connor High School. The winners were selected for outstanding community service and commitment to excellence in all areas of their lives.
Other Phoenix Union Outstanding Young Women/Men nominees are District 4: Helena Silva-Nichols and Justin Rainge, Camelback High School; District 7: Christopher Joseph of Betty Fairfax High School, and District 8: Carlos Yanez-Navarro of Bioscience High School. Alondra Morales-Sanchez of Maryvale High School won an Honorary Award.
Esono’s path to this award is one of sacrifice, perseverance and gratefulness. She was born in a West African island nation called Equatorial Guinea, and immigrated to New York, via Spain when her father, a high-ranking official in the government, was forced to leave the country because of political turmoil. The family first landed in the U.S. in New York, and made its way to Phoenix in 2001.
Esono knew three languages, none of which were English. She spoke Spanish, French and Fang, a Spanish/Portuguese dialect spoken on the island. The second youngest of eight children, life was difficult in the United States. Her father had to take menial jobs, and school was difficult because she he says she “was tongue-tied” with the different languages and learning English.
“My father made me stay in English as a Second Language classes longer than I needed, to perfect my speaking, and I wasn’t able to get placed in higher classes. I was in ELL classes until fourth grade, but I did an extra hour of studying every day,” Esono said without an accent. “The culture was different than back home, and it was sad we would never see the rest of our family again.”
Esono, who is third in her senior class with a 3.8 unweighted grade point average, is headed to the ASU Downtown Barrett Honors College for the school of Public Service/Public Policy. She has earned a National Generation Service Corp scholarship, valued at $11,000 a year, as well as the Doran Scholarship to ASU.
She wants to study public policy, emphasizing sustainability, with public administration as a second major. She hopes to go to graduate school in public administration or law. Esono says she hopes to work for the United Nations someday or for non-profits. She has interned with State Representative Reginald Bolding.
“I want to give back. My dad is motivation. He had to deal with adversity. I’m doing it all for my parents. They sacrificed,” Esono said. “People have helped me, and I want to do the same by going into government. Despite what people say, that is where my passion lies. In government you can bring good things to the world.”
The Outstanding Young Men and Women nominated have to acknowledge someone who has been instrumental in their lives. Osuno picked her counselor, Stephanie Clay, who was with her when she received her award.
Esono is the fourth consecutive Phoenix Union student to win the Outstanding Young Man/Woman award.
BrieAnna Frank of Maryvale won last year, Jesan Islam from Cesar Chavez in 2014 and Genesis Miranda-Soto of Betty Fairfax in 2013.