Valedictorians Reflect On Past, Set Course For Future
During the next two weeks, hundreds of students will receive diplomas from Spokane Valley high schools. Thirty-seven of them have earned perfect 4.0 grade point averages and will graduate as valedictorians of their respective classes.
These students cite a variety of reasons for their success, from supportive parents to inspirational teachers. Many are going out of state to school. Most were actively involved in extracurricular activities.
Senior year passed quickly, the valedictorians said. They advise next year’s class to work hard, but enjoy high school while they can.
Here’s a quick look at this year’s top students:
Central Valley High School
James Carney says he’s a valedictorian because of competition with his brother, who was also top of his class.
Carney, who enjoys the outdoors, in-line skating, skiing and boating, plans to attend Seattle University and study business. He advises next year’s seniors to “do your best while education is free.”
Austin Daniel Dickey was most inspired by an aunt who went to college late in life.
Dickey, who participated in baseball, Odyssey of the Mind and math team, among other activities, plans to achieve a master’s degree in architecture at Washington State University.
Jason Evans also was challenged to achieve because of competitiveness with his older brother who was a valedictorian in 1993. “I didn’t want him to show me up,” the younger Evans said.
Evans is an active fly fisherman who also enjoys camping and skiing. He plans to attend Montana State University and possibly study engineering.
Michael Richmond was most influenced by his father, who told him that the only way to be successful in life is through a well-rounded education.
Richmond participated in percussion ensemble, marching band, concert band and played varsity baseball. He plans to attend the University of Oklahoma and study chemical engineering.
Brett Schmauch also attributes his high grades to competitiveness - with his sister.
Schmauch was class president as a junior and senior and played soccer and golf. He’s planning to attend Washington State University and advises next year’s seniors to enjoy the year while they can because it goes fast.
Kathy Temple, who played violin in the school orchestra and in the Spokane Youth Orchestra, plans to continue playing at the University of Delaware, where she’ll study math and economics.
Temple credits her parents “because they’ve been very supportive and have always maintained that school comes first.”
Stephanie A. Yoke plans to attend Eastern Washington University to study abnormal psychology, then go on for her doctorate in psychology elsewhere.
Yoke advises next year’s seniors to take life as it comes. “Don’t worry too much about the future,” she said, “or it will overwhelm you.”
East Valley High School
Bryan Blakesley was active in science club, German club and Taikwon-do and plans to focus on premed and chemistry classes at Gonzaga University.
Being a valedictorian is the “final award for four years of devotion coupled with an optimistic attitude.”
Heather Carlson plans to continue teaching AIDS awareness and participating in a church youth group while at the University of Washington.
Carlson wants to be a doctor and also possibly serve in the Peace Corps. Her long list of high school activities includes track, Spanish, German and science clubs and marine biology explorers.
Lynn Diener was active in school and community theater during high school and plans to continue next year while at New York’s Bard College, where she’ll study environmental science.
She said her father and uncle were her biggest influences because they both encouraged and helped her during high school.
John Halttunen said he’s his own greatest influence. “I am the person who has motivated me the most,” he said. “I always strive to be the best person I can.”
Halttunen, who played varsity basketball and golf, plans to study engineering or architecture at the University of Idaho.
Jon Hildahl plans to study biology or environmental science at Western Washington University, with hopes of being a veterinarian or a homeopathic doctor.
Hildahl played football and baseball, but does not plan to continue in college. Instead, he’ll focus on rock climbing, mountain biking, camping and playing the guitar. “What you do today creates your future,” he said.
Barbara Norquist plans to continue as many of her high school activities as possible while studying medicine at the University of Washington.
She might have to choose, as the extensive list includes French club, science club, drama, volleyball, tennis and several other activities.
Robert G. Shogren said, “You only get out of education what you’re willing to put into it.”
If so, Shogren’s sure to succeed. In addition to being an Eagle Scout and playing in wind ensemble, pep and marching bands, the 4.0 student played basketball, football, track and ran cross-country. He plans to study civil and environmental engineering at Gonzaga University in the fall.
Scott Tate says he feels honored to be a valedictorian, especially since East Valley’s class of 1995 is the “strongest the school has ever seen.”
Tate won four letters in tennis and was active in German club and the National Honor Society. He plans to study engineering and take pre-med classes at the University of Utah.
Liberty High School
Kristin Olson achieved outstanding grades by “doing every assignment with all of my energy and working toward perfection.”
She plans to major in elementary education at Whitworth College. Olson performed in the “Nutcracker” ballet and also played piano during high school.
Freeman High School
Jenna Freeman was secretary of her school’s National Honor Society chapter, vice president of her class and a member of the math and knowledge bowl teams.
She plans to attend Grove City College in Pennsylvania and study psychiatry. As for being valedictorian, Freeman said, “I would rather be known for my compassion and for loving other people.”
Spokane Valley High School
Trinette Clure says a former teacher, JoAnne Fabian, was her biggest influence. “She taught me how to be a strong, smart and mentally healthy person.”
Being a valedictorian is a special honor that Clure is happy she can share with her family. “There were times I didn’t believe I’d ever finish school, let alone be a valedictorian.”
Wendy Leavitt finished her degree requirements in March, two months ahead of her class. By the end of April, she had landed a job as a teller at Spokane Teacher’s Credit Union.
Leavitt said her husband, Chris, was her greatest influence. “He always helped me out and told me I could do it,” she said.
University High School
Brian Bishop plans to study computer engineering at Northwestern University in Chicago or Whitman College in Walla Walla after traveling through Europe this summer.
Bishop was most influenced by his math teacher, Gerry Manfred. “He has made math fun and interesting for me and has given me an interest in pursuing math in the future at college and beyond.”
Jeffrey Burningham has an extensive list of activities that includes being student body president, a three-year varsity letterman in football and basketball and a Special Olympics volunteer.
Burningham, who said he’s self motivated and his own biggest influence, will attend either Western Washington University or Brigham Young University and study public relations, radio, television or business.
Brandon Enevold plans to study education at Whitworth College while continuing with hobbies such as weight lifting, archery, fishing and hunting.
Enevold said that being a valedictorian “feels great” and he wishes “senioritis” on all members of next year’s class.
Tomi Garner plans to attend Brigham Young University and take pre-med courses. In addition to being a senior representative, she played softball and basketball and ran cross country.
Being a valedictorian means “I am capable of anything I put my mind to,” she said.
Alex Gibson was active in math team, Technology Students Association, tennis and National Honor Society, among other things. He plans to study computer science or engineering at the University of Idaho.
Gibson has received numerous awards including student and athlete of the month and the Mason’s Outstanding Achievement Award.
Kristy Kimbrough plans to study engineering, journalism or biology at Washington State University after traveling through Europe with her French class this summer.
On being a valedictorian, Kimbrough said, “Some of my grades I really had to earn, but I feel like a lot of A’s are handed out. In some classes there’s this fear of getting a B, like it’s bad or something.”
Kimbrough’s greatest influence was her English teacher, Carol Isotalo who “goes above and beyond what is expected in her teaching.”
Chad MacDonald, who plans to attend the University of Idaho, advises next year’s seniors to take as many honors and advanced placement classes as possible.
MacDonald cited his parents as his greatest influence and said being a valedictorian means he achieved all that he could in high school.
Rebecca Monson plans to attend Brigham Young University and take business classes while continuing to play the piano and clarinet.
Being a valedictorian was a longtime goal for Monson. “Getting the best grades possible was a big deal to me. I worked my hardest to do my best, even if it meant sacrificing my spare time.”
Gretchen Rapp has a diverse list of school and community activities which includes being a spokesperson for suicide awareness, treasurer of the student body and a pianist for church services. She’s also played softball and basketball.
Rapp plans to attend Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn. Her grandfather taught her “that the greatest lessons that you can learn are the ones that you personally experience.”
Andrew Richardson plans to study secondary education with an emphasis on math and science at Western Washington University.
During high school, Richardson wrestled, and participated in the Honor Society and the math team. To next year’s seniors, he said: “Pay attention. Do your homework. Have fun.”
Greg Rivers, this year’s French Club president, plans to travel through Europe for two months this summer before entering the University of Washington to study engineering.
Rivers also was active on the school math team and competed in the state contest the past two years. His two greatest influences were his math teacher, Gerry Manfred, and his French teacher, Barbara Gharst.
Stephanie Sander was the ‘first chair’ clarinet player in marching, concert and pep bands during her three years of high school.
She plans to continue playing clarinet in the fall at Washington State University, where she’ll study elementary education.
Scott Santens, plans to go for his doctorate in physics at Princeton University in New Jersey. His list of math and science awards includes: Elks National Foundation Most Valuable Student Award in 1995 and the Masonic Outstanding Junior Student of 1994 Award.
Santens cites his math teacher, Gerry Manfred, as his greatest influence because he “has allowed me to further challenge myself at every opportunity.”
Rebecca Stone plans to attend Montana State University for two years and finish at Washington State University, while studying chemical engineering and business.
Stone, who was active in DECA, French Club and National Honor Society, said she “feels proud to represent a class filled with brilliant minds.”
Eric Thompson plans to enter Gonzaga University to achieve his bachelor’s in engineering and master’s degree in business administration within five years.
Being a valedictorian is “an award for the past four years in which I have made learning and school work my No. 1 priority.”
Valley Christian School
Eric Drozdov will attend Seattle Pacific University and major in electrical engineering. Then he’d like to get a job with Hewlett Packard or Telect.
Drozdov was most influenced by Pastor Rich Stafford, the music director at his high school. “He taught me a lot about commitment, hard work and service. He was a good role model.”
West Valley High School
Heather Beese says her best friend, Sasha Jordan, was her biggest influence because she “displays a unique combination of the best qualities I think a person can possess.”
Beese, who plans to study engineering at Boston University, was involved in a wide array of activities in high school, including dance team, math team, cheerleading, yearbook and DECA.
Patricia Kelly has always dreamed of going far away for college.
Her choice has been narrowed to Northeastern University in Boston or the University of South Carolina.
Kelly, a cheerleader and tennis player, plans to study pharmacy. To next year’s seniors, she said: “Be yourself … even if your opinion is different than those around you.”
Kaci Stansbury earned 10 varsity letters during high school, in volleyball, basketball and track.
She placed seventh in the state last year in the shot put.
In the fall, Stansbury plans to study engineering at the University of Nevada, where she received a track and academic scholarship.
She also was active in math team and Spanish club during high school.
Photos for Trinette Clure and Wendy Leavitt of Spokane Valley High School were not available.
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MEMO: (Story from Graduation special section in Valley Voice)
(Story from Graduation special section in Valley Voice)