Five local students honored at Encinitas Chamber of Commerce Rising Star of the Month program


The Encinitas Chamber of Commerce hosted its Rising Star of the Month program Jan. 12 at event sponsor Piña Encinitas in the Moonlight Plaza Shopping Center. The honorary breakfast recognized five high school students who have demonstrated character, integrity, love of learning, and involvement in school and community, and/or have overcome challenging life circumstances without compromising their education, according to a news release.

Each month during the school year, additional San Dieguito Union High School students will be celebrated at a recognition breakfast. All Rising Star students will have the opportunity to apply for a scholarship that will be awarded in May, 2023.

The Encinitas Rising Stars honored were Daria Sopot from Canyon Crest Academy, Elizabeth “Gracie” Mineiro from La Costa Canyon High School, Lena Daitch from San Dieguito High School Academy, Veronica Hughes from Sunset, and Irini Ampelas from Torrey Pines High School (who could not attend the event due to a flight cancellation). Their families and local city officials were in attendance, as well as Encinitas Chamber of Commerce CEO Sherry Yardley, Encinitas Chamber of Commerce board members, and City and San Dieguito Union High School principals and district officials.

Rising Star of the Month sponsors included Event Sponsor Piña Encinitas, Breakfast Sponsor MiraCosta College, and Scholarship Sponsors the Encinitas Rotary Club, e3 Consulting and Premier Martial Arts. Gift donors included Mr. Moto Pizza, Cox, Blenders Eyewear, Concept Surf Shop, MiraCosta College, Chick-fil-A, Broad Street Dough Co., the Community Resource Center (CRC), Raising Cane’s and 101 Republic. Go to for more information.

About the students:

Daria Sopot, CCA

“Daria is an incredibly thoughtful, bright and independent young woman,” said Brett Killeen, principal of Canyon Crest Academy. “As the Arts Host on CCA TV, Daria brought such warmth, sincerity and excitement to her role. Her inclusive and kind spirit travels well beyond the screen, and she can be found on campus greeting everyone from peers to staff members with a huge smile. Many at CCA can speak to Daria’s passion, perseverance and talent, but what truly sets her apart, which we can all so clearly see, is her heart.”

Elizabeth “Gracie” Mineiro, LCC

“Gracie is a ubiquitous presence on the LCC campus,” said Justin Conn, principal of La Costa Canyon High School. “She helps others as a leader in our PALs program, and she is a fixture in comedy, sports and theatre productions. She brings joy to the classroom through her humor, wit, and kindness.”

Lena Daitch, SDA

“Lena loves being involved at school and has been a vibrant servant leader in ASB/Leadership class for the past four years,” said Cara Dolnick, principal of San Dieguito High School Academy. “She works hard behind the scene to help support and build up others by planning and implementing school-wide events and activities. She is kind, compassionate, and values diversity and inclusion. Lena is also a leader in our culinary arts program; as a sous chef she takes advantage of mentoring other students in the classroom and coordinates the production of food for school-wide events. She is reliable, responsible and proactive in her work. She is a special student who is a role model to others!”

Veronica Hughes, Sunset

“Veronica represents everything you want from your students,” said Rick Ayala, principal of Sunset High School. “She models consistency in all that she does. Veronica shows up every day with a positive attitude and she produces high-quality work in all of her classes. Her teachers rave about her level of commitment and her character. Veronica is a gift to Sunset and she makes it a better place.”

Irini Ampelas, Torrey Pines (not pictured due to flight cancellation)

“Irini Ampelas is a wonderful part of our TPHS community, embodying kindness, care for others and thoughtful leadership,” said Rob Cappo, principal of Torrey Pines High School. “Irini is the student teachers dream of having in their classroom -- she utilizes time wisely, participates in class discussions, works well with anyone she is paired with, advocates for herself, and is always willing to help out her classmates. Irini’s maturity and personable demeanor make her a leader in the TPHS Associated Student Body (ASB). Her giving nature has been evident since a young age. In addition to being a caring and supportive member of her family and community, Irini has raised money for health organizations, and for those experiencing homelessness.” —- Encinitas Chamber of Commerce news release