By Lou Ponsi
Kyle Vallone, 17, has never been one to gain knowledge just for the sake of gaining knowledge.
While earning an advanced degree from a prestigious university is important to the Tesoro High School graduate, applying his knowledge and position toward the betterment of society is just as essential.
Vallone has been involved in service projects throughout his years in the Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD).
Service work through education, particularly on one project, is a major reason Vallone was selected as one of only seven incoming students at Vanderbilt University to be entered into the university’s Ingram Scholars Program.
As an Ingram Scholar, Vallone will be tasked with combining his education and career with a lifelong commitment to finding solutions to critical problems in society.
“It just feels absolutely amazing,” Vallone said about earning the scholarship. “It is a very, very unique program. It rewards innovation in volunteering and community service and helps you take it to the next level. It’s not just ‘here’s your money, and let’s go.’ It’s ‘we want to help foster your skills, and develop your ability to contribute to society through this program.’”
Ingram Scholars are expected to devote approximately 20 hours each month during the academic year and at least one of their undergraduate summers to relevant community outreach and service projects.
“You go to classes and meetings and continue to get support throughout your entire undergraduate experience,” said Vallone, a member of the National Honor Society who is graduating from Tesoro High with 4.78 GPA.
Vallone feels he was selected as an Ingram Scholar in large part due to his work with Operation Capo Cares.
Vallone founded Operation Capo Cares with help from Pati Romo, executive director of Career Technical Education at CUSD, Capistrano Valley High teacher Mark Bowie, and Vista del Mar Middle School teacher Chuck Hobbs.
The group’s mission was to collect face shields that can be made on 3D printers during the height of the pandemic. The district held weekly collections at Capistrano Valley High.
From there, the parts were delivered to the Lake Forest company MatterHackers, where they were fitted with plastic shields, sanitized, and distributed to medical professionals.
“When I saw the opportunity to be able to share 3D printer skills with our students in CUSD but also make an impact during the pandemic, it was a natural step to expand that and get Capo Cares out there,” Vallone said.
The Capo Cares initiative is Vallone’s most notable act of service, but is just one of numerous areas where he will have left his mark in the CUSD.
Vallone served as captain of the Tesoro Academic Decathlon Team and was a founding vice president of his high school’s chapter of the Science National Honor Society.
He was a one-on-one peer buddy in Tesoro’s chapter of the Best Buddies program which pairs students with other students who have developmental and intellectual disabilities.
Vallone was also a biology curriculum specialist with Project Atom, a student-led organization that introduces middle school students to higher-level subjects. Additionally, he served as an intern at the Child Creativity Lab, where he helped create educational STEAM workshops for younger students.
“We are so proud of him, as a student, as a concerned community member, and as a kind and caring young man,” Romo said. “He will go far. We can’t wait to hear of his accomplishments in his career pathway.”