Johnson, Covey Win Character Counts Award; Ten Finalists Nominated


The finalists for the Character Counts Award are, from left to right on the top row, Katelyn Reed, Gracie Johnson, Olivia Swindle, Melea Altermatt, and Alexis Alexander. On the bottom row, from left to right is Aidan Arnold, Dakota Covey, and Curtis Ahn.

Two seniors, Gracie Johnson and Dakota Covey, were announced as winners of the Character Counts Award at Senior Awards Night on May 25.

Ten BOHS seniors — five boys and five girls — were nominated as finalists for the award. The finalists were chosen by their peers and teachers for exemplifying the Six Pillars of Character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, care, and citizenship.

Finalists included: Curtis Ahn, Alexis Alexander, Melea Altermatt, Aidan Arnold, Neil Azimi, Dakota Covey, Nolan Guss, Katelyn Reed, Gracie Johnson, and Olivia Swindle.

In order to select the recipient of the Character Counts Award, the ten students interviewed with members  of the Brea community, including a police officer, firefighter, pastor, and BOHS administrators.

The Winners

Dakota Covey will be attending University of California, Irvine in the fall. Alexis Alexander

Dakota Covey

As former treasurer and vice president of the Brea Rotary club, prioritizing the needs of others was nothing new for Covey. 

Participating in toy drives, park cleanups, and food distributions with Brea Rotary has taught him to “constantly work to uphold [the] core value of service above self,” Covey said. Through his involvement in the club for the past six years, Covey has learned the significance of putting the needs of others first and treating everyone with kindness.

These life lessons have transferred to the way he treats his peers and teachers on campus. Covey’s positivity, respect, and compassion are traits he strived to act upon both on campus and in the community. “I want to be a positive source of friendship and inspiration for all so I can help others develop the pillars of character that I pride myself and others on,” he said.

Covey felt immensely grateful and proud that his efforts of being a “positive source” to his classmates and peers have paid off. 

“I’m glad to see that my character and attitude has given people a positive opinion of me and hope that this has inspired my peers as well,” Covey said. “I plan to constantly work on displaying character values such as compassion and citizenship in all that I do, from work in my career path to service within my community.”

Gracie Johnson will be attending Point Loma Nazarene University this fall. Alexis Alexander

Gracie Johnson

From standing in front of the school at a rally, to leading ASB meetings, Johnson’s responsibility and character has grown during the five years she has been a class and ASB president.

While upholding her position and representing BOHS, Johnson has always been reminded by her parents to “be kind to everyone because you never know what they might be going through,” she said.

Johnson believes that small gestures can make a huge difference in someone’s day even if it’s just a wave or smile to someone. This eventually inspired Johnson to join ASB to have more time in her school day devoted to serving others.

“I’ve been so fortunate enough to be president. With this position, my main focus has always been centered around making everyone feel included, loved, and mattered because some people don’t feel that way,” Johnson said.

Throughout Johnson’s time as president, gaining friendships with peers and teachers has allowed her to grow.

“The way that I care for people is genuine; I want to try my best to make others happy and make others smile and feel like they matter. Being nominated for this award has been a reminder to never let that go because great things come out of it,” Johnson said.

The Finalists

Curtis Ahn

Curtis Ahn will be attending University of California, Los Angeles in the fall. Alexis Alexander

If a class hears “That That” by Psy playing in the hallway, or loud laughter coming from a classroom, it is probably Mr. Brea contestant, Link Crew leader, valedictorian, and Character Counts Award finalist Curtis Ahn. 

Ahn attributes his character to his parents. “‘My mom always says, ‘Be the bright sunshine to everybody’ and to ‘treat others the way you want to be treated,’” Ahn said.

While balancing his high grades and extracurriculars, Ahn maintains a cheerful lifestyle, whether by welcoming freshmen on campus as a member of Link Crew, or hanging out with his friends. He believes that “You can always make things better by having fun because nothing beats laughter and smiling. It’s the best cure.” 

Ahn’s motto followed him during the Character Counts Award interviews. He focused on having a “fun and good” time during the process and was “pretty surprised” that he was nominated by the senior class.

Despite being Valedictorian and Link Crew Leader, Ahn said that having good character is the “biggest thing” he has. Support from his friends and family encourages him to keep up his outgoing nature.

“I’m really thankful, happy, and proud of this honor,” Ahn said.

Alexis Alexander 

Alexis Alexander will be attending Biola University in the fall. Kasia Alexander

A warm bear hug and a song about kindness from her grandmother, and a hot dinner surrounded by family, are some of the experiences that have shaped Alexander’s character. 

Alexander’s grandmother, Karen Kramer, always seemed to know everyone and never hesitated to introduce her grandchildren to them. She became someone Alexander looked up to and treasured in her life because she taught Alexander what it looked like to be a kind person. 

Whenever Kramer attended church activities or volunteered at Alexander’s elementary school, Mariposa, she always happily volunteered and made everyone feel loved. “That warm feeling I get from being in her presence is what I aspire to give other people because it makes me feel loved. I want others to feel the way I feel when I am with my sweet grandma,” Alexander said.

Kramer always sang a song about being patient, kind, and loving when Alexander was young, and it inspired Alexander to “make everyone feel loved and included” — like her own grandmother. As a varsity water polo athlete, varsity swimmer, and Photo Manager for the Wildcat, Alexander exemplifies what it means to be patient, kind, and loving. “I’m very blessed to have inherited traits from my grandmother,” she said. 

“People consider me to have these six pillars and it makes me feel proud about how I treat others and that kindness is paying off with an honorable title,” Alexander said.

Melea Altermatt 

Melea Altermatt will be attending Vanguard University this fall. Alexis Alexander

“Please and thank you’s” was a phrase Altermatt’s parents, Adam Altermatt and Lauren Altermatt, instilled in her when she was a child. 

From a young age, Altermatt’s parents have always emphasized the importance of what it means to uphold honorable character.

“The little [wisdom] they impart on me has helped form my character from the start,” Altermatt said.

Seeing the way her parents carry themselves and treat others shaped her idea of a role model. They showed her what “empathy, honesty, loyalty, compassion, and ambition” should look like. Inheriting these traits from her parents, Altermatt quickly became a leader and role model for other students radiating positive character. 

As a varsity cheerleader and as editor for the Wildcat, Altermatt prioritizes kindness and respect in all of her relationships and friendships which has led her to being nominated as a Character Counts Award finalist.  

As one of ten seniors selected for this award, Altermatt was “surprised” that she had an impact on so many classmates and teachers. “To be nominated for this award by my peers and teachers shows that the standards that I hold myself accountable to meet are noticeable to others and the character qualities that I possess stand out to others,” Altermatt said.

Aidan Arnold

Aidan Arnold will be attending University of Saint Mary this fall. Alexis Alexander

Aidan Arnold developed his character on and off the football field. 

Arnold joined the varsity football team as a freshman and got a head start on learning the ins-and-outs of the team dynamic. “[Football] is definitely a team aspect, and not solo. We all try to do what’s best for each other,” Arnold said. 

During his four years on varsity, the 2021 North Hills League Player of the Year learned that “You can’t do anything alone,” especially on the football field.

Aidan’s father, Jason, and older brother, Zach (‘16), have had a significant role in his athletic career. Arnold said that Zach’s “determination and drive” has always inspired him to work harder, and his father’s constant encouragement has allowed him to improve as a player and a person. 

Off the field, the extroverted Arnold stays true to himself. “I think just being myself and what my parents raised me to be has led to me being nominated. I have grown up knowing to always treat people as you want to be, and I try to connect with each new person I meet and get to know them,” he said.

After hearing that he was nominated for the Character Counts Award, Arnold was proud of being recognized for his genuineness. “I think that it will be a reminder that what I have been doing is right. It is a true honor to be recognized but it feels even better to know that I was doing the right thing without even thinking about it and just being myself,” he said.

Neil Azimi

Neil Azimi will be attending Chapman University this fall. Alexis Alexander

“Student by day, DJ by night” is what Azimi lives by.

When he was not on the dance floor DJ-ing, Azimi devoted his time to academics and extracurriculars. 

Involved in GITA and band, Azimi emphasizes the importance of “making friends rather than making opponents” in whatever one is involved in. Resorting to a welcoming attitude can help one gain their “trust and friendship.” 

“I always try to hold myself to a standard of morality that I think I might be known for,” Azimi said. Acting upon this mindset has allowed Azimi to make friendships, even in a competitive atmosphere. 

Being nominated gave Azimi reassurance that acting upon the Six Pillars of Character can only benefit him in the future. As Azimi attends Chapman University this fall, he plans on “carrying these traits into college because it will certainly be a help with creating the same type of identity for myself there as well,” he said.

Katelyn Reed

Katelyn Reed will be attending University of California, Davis this fall. Alexis Alexander

Whether on or off stage, Reed’s character was forged through the relationships she formed in the show choir program. She has been in the program for four years and is a part of the Tiffany’s and Spellbound choir.

“Joining the choir community allowed me to gain friendships while also pursuing something I’m passionate about. The friends I’ve made have changed the way I treat others because of the community I have been able to grow in,” Reed said.

Through these close relationships, Reed has learned the importance of “treating others the way you want to be treated,” she said.

By this, she is constantly making sure that she is treating her friends and other peers with utmost respect and kindness, because she believes that one’s character is a reflection of who they are. 

Receiving this award is a constant reminder to Reed of how important “good character is as a student, friend, and in future jobs.” As Reed attends UC Davis next fall, she plans to continue to exemplify the Six Pillars of Character throughout her academic career.

Olivia Swindle

Olivia Swindle will be attending Mt. San Antonio College this fall. Alexis Alexander

A familiar face in the city of Brea, Swindle is arguably one of the most involved students on campus. 

Captain of the varsity swim team, Dance Production member, ASB vice president, and an employee at the Brea Plunge, Swindle has made connections throughout her experiences serving and working with Brea students, teachers, and volunteers. She believes in making connections with the people around her because of the good that comes out of the relationships. 

Reflecting on the Character Counts Award interview and nomination process, Swindle said, “The process has taught me that, especially in the Brea community, people are there for you, and the Brea community wants to push you past your limits. And they want what’s best for you. If you really put effort into the relationships that you are making, people are gonna want to do things to help you succeed.”

Swindle believes that she was nominated due to the close bonds she made with her teachers and peers. By exemplifying a leader among the student body, Swindle realized during her panel interview that she “touched a lot of people’s hearts” through her roles in the community. 

Some of the panelists had recognized Swindle, whether through her sports matches, dance performances, or from her hours at the Brea Plunge, and it was a way for her to form relationships with the judges. 

Starting her college career at Mt. San Antonio College in the fall, Swindle had gained courage from her finalist distinction. “I feel like so many things are up in the air because you hear about all these stories about how people change their major. But, if the base to my path is character, I’m off to a good start,” Swindle said. 

Despite not winning the Character Counts Award, Swindle is appreciative of the opportunity to compete for the spot. “All of these other people deserve it, and we’re a good group of people. I’m just excited to see who wins,” Swindle said.

She also noted that the ten finalists were all unique in the way they served the Brea community: “We’re all from different interest groups on campus, but it was fun to reconnect and remember that we’re graduating together. It’s definitely something that is closing out the year,” she said.