Del Norte County's Freemasons, teachers and parents celebrated student awards Wednesday in a ceremony they hope to make an annual event.

Two students - a boy and a girl - from each school were awarded certificates of achievement and $100 checks from Crescent City's Freemasons Lodge No. 45. Two more students, Del Norte High School's Rocky Lo and Madalyn Critz, were singled out as the most outstanding male and female in the Del Norte County Unified School District.

Lo and Critz received certificates of achievement from the local Masonic Lodge and from state Sen. Jim Nielsen, as well as $250 checks.

"This is an amazing honor and privilege," Critz said upon receiving her award.

Principals from the district's 11 schools determined the award winners based on the student's academic achievement, moral character and work ethic, said Freemason Bill Gray, a local attorney. The 24 students selected for this year's achievement awards could serve as examples to their peers that they can succeed, he said.

"These are characters that embody not only Masons but what's virtuous in all of us," he said.

Each student has scored high in academics, which reflects his or her moral character, Gray said. As for work ethic, the ability to maintain a high grade-point average is proof of someone who is hard-working.

"There is no substitute in this world for someone with a strong work ethic," Gray said.

The ceremony featured brief addresses from district Superintendent Don Olson, county Supervisor Roger Gitlin and Lodge No. 45 master John Pricer, who offered a history of the Freemasons.

The Freemasons approached the district with the idea of awarding student achievement last fall, Olson said.

Olson talked about his father, who had to quit high school at 16 to help his family run the farm toward the end of the Great Depression. Olson said his dad joined the U.S. Army and served in France, Germany, Italy and Austria before coming home and attending trade school.

"My dad didn't finish high school, but he greatly valued education," Olson said. "He went to high school in 1969 and finished his diploma. He graduated a few years before I did in 1972."

The award-winners include:

andbull; Bess Maxwell Elementary School:Bianca Peters and Isaac Vang.

andbull; Joe Hamilton Elementary School:Ashley Mickee and Kevin Lo

andbull; Margaret Keating Elementary School:Destinlee Mendez and Naquel Benites

andbull; Mary Peacock Elementary School:Breanna Gragg and Kolton Cumbra

andbull; Mountain Elementary School:Elizabeth Ward and Bryson Rodriguez

andbull; Pine Grove Elementary School:Teresa Martinez and Orlando Trujillo-Ortiz

andbull; Redwood Elementary School:Shelby Countess and Richie England

andbull; Crescent Elk Middle School:Claire Smith and Saul Cortez

andbull; Del Norte High School:Samantha Gonzalez and Brian Say-Wentz

andbull; Sunset High School:Felicity Lopez and Marcos Steffen

andbull; Overall Outstanding Students:Madalyn Critz and Rocky Lo

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