NEWPORT COAST — Angela Pham works hard and performs well in school, but she doesn't want to see her peers left behind.
So the fifth-grader at Newport Coast Elementary School in her free time helps her classmates with their work and answers their questions.
"I always admire the fact that Angela is not only diligent, hardworking and has everything in … she looks to help others," said her teacher, Ingrid Ohanian. "She has her eye out to constantly help others."
Angela, 10, was one of 10 students across the Newport-Mesa Unified School District recently recognized with the district's Starfish Award. Ohanian nominated Angela for the award that recognizes students for exceptional citizenship, character and community service.
Ohanian said it's usual for students to help one another, but they don't normally go to the same extent as Angela. It is natural and innate for Angela, she said.
"She doesn't show off," Ohanian said. "She's very humble, and she is just very caring for others and to me."
For Angela, she said receiving the award was "awesome" and a nice surprise for her family.
Angela's mom, Loan Pham, first found out about the award through a letter in the mail.
"I was kind of surprised, just kind of happy for her," she said.
Pham said Angela has always been a high achiever, but she didn't realize that Angela was going out of her way at school to help others, too.
"Angela is a really hard worker," Pham said. "She's always doing something around the house and she helps me."
For Angela, she normally gets her work done ahead of time on the weekend. She said she likes to help her peers with her free time.
"Sometimes they are struggling, and sometimes it's just nice to help people," she said. "I feel like it's good to help."
She said she works so hard academically because she likes to learn. She also wants to get a good job when she is older, following in her father's footsteps as a doctor.
"You get to help people," she said.
Although motivated, Angela isn't all work. She likes to play the piano, especially music by her favorite composer, Chopin. She also likes playing sports at recess like soccer and football.
And to celebrate her accomplishment, the family went out Angela's favorite restaurant, Roy's, where she ate her favorite dinner.
"Braised beef ribs," Angela said with a big grin.