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SMITH: Future Santa Rosa Marine's dream come true

Published: Saturday, April 6, 2013 at 2:27 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 6, 2013 at 2:27 p.m.

Fausto Leon worked hard and did well at Santa Rosa High, but shortly after graduation in 2010 came painful news.

He’d failed the English portion of the state’s high-school exit exam and would not receive a diploma. Having been brought to California from Mexico at age 8, Leon hadn’t sufficiently mastered his new language.

Over the past three years, he has learned the impact of not possessing a high-school diploma. He sought to become a Marine and to pursue legal status through the DREAM Act, which credits military service.

But no diploma, no go. He was pretty glum when he stopped by SRHS not long ago and shared his bind with the school secretary Marlene Callen.

She asked Jim Kowalcsyk, who teaches English to non-native speakers, if there might be anything he could do for Leon. With the administration’s OK, he allowed the ex-student to study with his fifth-period class, and started him on an online course for preparing for the English exit exam.

In February, Leon retook the exam. Callen phoned to tell him the results would arrive at the school this past Friday.

He appeared in the office and Callen told him he’d have to sit a bit and wait. She was watching his face when he spied the “CONGRATULATIONS!” cake and heard the cheer.

“I’ve never seen such a thunderstruck kid,” she said.

Leon, now 20, said that as soon as he receives his diploma he will apply to the DREAM Act and see a recruiter.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I’m looking forward to being a Marine and making this country proud for what it’s doing for me right now.”

ACT ONE: There must be a story behind the decked-out bride and groom seen kissing for the cameras beneath the marquee of downtown Santa Rosa’s Roxy theater.

There is: In 2001, new Monty grad Doug McNally was working at the moviehouse and was asked to show around a new hire, Joy Erickson of Santa Rosa High’s Class of ‘02.

Something clicked, but a year passed before they went on a date — to the Roxy. They saw “The Powerpuff Girls.”

That’s probably not so important. Regardless, they became a serious item and recently they came home, from the Santa Barbara area, to marry at Holy Spirit Catholic Church.

Doug and Joy paused en route to their reception at the DeTurk Round Barn for photos at the theater where the love story began.

SPEAKING OF FILMS, Dreamworks Studios is shooting a flashy and fast-moving one on several scenic highways in Mendocino County.

“Need for Speed” is a road-race flick based on the video game series by the same name. The story’s chief rivals are Aaron Paul of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and Dominic Cooper, who counseled the President in the Abraham Lincoln movie with the vampires.

The backdrops to action scenes shot on highways 1, 128 and 253 are spectacular. The cars please the eye, too.

Lamborghini. McLaren. Koenigsegg. Ferrari. Saleen. Mmm.

GABE FERRICK, a Montgomery senior, has in four years raised $100,000-plus to improve conditions and lives in African nations anguished by genocide.

His imminent graduation and launch to college (USC) means this is the last year he’ll lead his annual Walk to End Genocide. But, he said, “The good news is that I am mentoring two teens, so this important event that mobilizes our community and helps the global community will continue.”

Gabe will introduce his successors at the fundraising walk that steps off at 9 a.m. April 14 at Santa Rosa’s Congregation Shomrei Torah.

His walk ( has grown into a genuine event with speakers, elected officials and survivors of genocide in nations such as Rwanda and Burundi.

He’s eager to make the last walk he’ll direct before college a memorable one.

And yes, his grandmother is set once again to bake cookies for walkers to savor at the end of the neighborly, 3-mile stroll for a safer world.

(Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and

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