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VIDEO: Peoria Unified student aims high

Reyes named Hometown Hero in Leader of Tomorrow category


Peoria Unified student Cougarjade Reyes is even more powerful than his unrivaled name hints at.

Throughout his high school career, he has taken up the gauntlet for cybersecurity, a field that will need those pure of heart to fight battles not fought on the ground in foreign countries, but within the operation systems and networks of the internet.

The Peoria Unified senior was the student keynote speaker at the NICE K12 Cybersecurity Education Conference held in Phoenix Dec. 4-5.

Reyes is also captain of the school’s CyberPatriot team, which is competing well on the national level.

And most recently, he was awarded the Air Force JROTC J-100 Scholarship, valued at $250,000.

One of Reyes’ goals is to serve as a cybersecurity officer in the U.S. Air Force.

All this while growing up in a low-income household and being raised by his single father, who taught him that disadvantages don’t need to be deterrents.

Cactus High computer science and cybersecurity teacher Ken Mattern said Reyes has overcome obstacles that some youths don’t have and taken a big interest in cybersecurity, with a continuing thirst to learn more about the science.

“Cougarjade uses his signature smile to find the best in every situation and the world is a better place for it. He is a true leader and has a huge passion to make a difference in the cybersecurity world,” Mattern said.

For his accomplishments in the Peoria Unified community, Reyes has been named Hometown Hero in the Leader of Tomorrow category.

The Hometown Heroes Awards are a celebration of individuals who live, work, learn or teach in the city or Peoria Unified, as well as Peoria businesses for their achievements and distinguished contributions to the community and beyond.

He will be honored at an awards luncheon later this month.

Reyes is more than just a student of cybersecurity. He serves in Junior ROTC at Cactus High. He was the winner of the school’s Air Force Junior ROTC Cyber Academy Scholarship in 2022, and was ranked No. 1 out of 150 ambassadors for the 2022 Hugh O’Brian Youth Seminar in Arizona.

Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Roel Zamora, a senior aerospace science instructor at Cactus High School, said Reyes is a dynamic leader and a gifted athlete.

Reyes served as the group commander of Cactus’ cadet corps for the fall semester, which is the top ranking cadet of over 130 assigned to the unit. In this position, he was responsible for appointing fellow cadets to serve on his staff and leading them in the planning, organizing and execution of all cadet corps activities.

Some of the highlights from his tenure as commander included cadets earning recognition as “Best Military Entry” in the city of Surprise’s annual Veterans Day Parade, winning 1st place out of 11 teams in Apollo High School’s Prospector Challenge field day competition, and the cadet corps completing over 1,450 hours of community service since July 1.

Athletically, Reyes currently holds the male record for the 1-mile run in the cadet corps, and he is on the varsity wrestling team at Cactus.

“Cougarjade is a well-rounded individual who has had a challenging upbringing, but his positive attitude and indomitable spirit have set him up for some great opportunities in the future,” Zamora said.

Get to know Reyes more here.

Philip Haldiman can be reached at phaldiman@iniusa.org, or on Twitter @philiphaldiman. We’d like to invite our readers to submit their civil comments, pro or con, on this issue. Email AZOpinions@iniusa.org.