June 3, 2010 in Washington Voices

Cheney High’s Samantha Harwood finds she loves language

En garde! She’s a Francophile
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Dan Pelle photo

Cheney High School student Samantha Harwood, whose father died last year, will graduate Friday.
(Full-size photo)

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Samantha Harwood loves the French language. So much so, she’d like to teach high school French someday. She said when people think back on their days at Cheney High School, she wants to be thought of as the girl who was really good at French.

When she first started high school in Chugiak, Alaska, she wasn’t sure whether she should take Japanese, Russian, German, French or Spanish. She sat down and thought about it and settled on French.

“I was just excited for it,” she said.

It turned out she had a knack for it.

“I understood it so easily and quickly,” she said. “I don’t know where I got that ability. I was just good at it.”

Harwood said that before she started taking French classes, she was shy and didn’t talk to many people, but the classes seemed to bring her out of her shell.

John Michel, senior class guidance counselor at Cheney, recognized her love for the French language and nominated Harwood for Spokane Scholars, a group that bestows scholarships on students who excel in particular subjects.

“She is immersed in all things French at the high school and operates at the highest level in each of the associated clubs and offices she currently holds,” Michel wrote in his nomination letter to Spokane Scholars.

Harwood’s family moved to Cheney in the middle of her sophomore year so her father could receive treatment for a brain tumor. The family lived with her aunt, Michelle Moore, before finding a place of their own, and Harwood was surprised at the enormous amount of support her aunt showed her.

“(I thought) ‘Where have you been all my life?’ ” Harwood said.

She said that she moved around quite a bit while she was growing up and never felt she could call any one place home.

“I could get used to this place,” she thought after she first moved to Cheney. “Now, I just feel like I belong here as much as any other student.”

But it wasn’t easy for her after the move. Her dad’s illness grew worse and she moved back in with her aunt instead of living with her parents.

“I did get to see him when he was getting closer” to death, she said of her father. He died last year.

She said she began using her French classes as kind of an escape from the sadness in her life. She wanted to do something useful with herself and said she could have just been upset all the time.

“I realized, he wanted to see me graduate so bad,” she said.

She credits her father with her interest in wanting to be a teacher since he taught, too.

After she graduates Friday, she plans to attend Eastern Washington University and get at least a master’s degree. She wants to study in France, most likely Nice, and to visit Paris. She also dreams of one day attending the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

“I love school,” she said.

When she’s not immersed in her studies, Harwood works at a fast-food restaurant in Spokane and tries to find opportunities to volunteer, such as with Burgers with a Heart, Bloomsday and helping to coach her cousin’s soccer team. She also likes working with kids and animals, scrapbooking, drawing and, like most teenagers, spending time with her friends.


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