Soldier earns valedictorian honors

After working 12 hours a day as a hazardous materials specialist at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, Army Staff Sgt. Dysha Huggins-Hodge studied in the computer lab, determined to complete an associate degree at Anne Arundel Community College on schedule — and to earn A’s. Now stationed in Maryland, the 4.0 student gave the valedictorian speech at her graduation last week.

Also on Community College Spotlight: Women earned 62 percent of associate degrees and 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees in 2008-09.

Preschoolers meet their soldier

Home from Afghanistan, Sgt. Mark Alvares surprised his preschool pen pals, who happened to be celebrating Hero Week. Alvares’ wife, who teaches at Bright Horizons in Los Gatos, had helped the children send a painted flag, Valentine’s Day cards, Easter bunny ears, bracelets and a DVD of the kids singing to the troops. I was amused by this part:

“I played Army man a lot when I was a kid,” Alvares said. “Then I grew up to be one.”

“Well, I want to be a princess,” one girl said. “Me too, me too,” chimed a few other girls.

A reservist, Alvares will return to his job as a San Jose police officer.