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Sunday, February 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Gonzaga Prep senior a light in many communities

Gonzaga Prep’s running back  Mason Plese fights for yards against Woodinville’s Andy Lau on Nov. 21 at Joe Albi Stadium. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Prep’s running back Mason Plese fights for yards against Woodinville’s Andy Lau on Nov. 21 at Joe Albi Stadium. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The first thing people notice about Mason Plese is the sincerity in his smile. When he looked around at the strangers surrounding him in Starbucks, they all returned it, glowing in the warmth directed at them.

Plese is graduating as one of this year’s valedictorians at Gonzaga Preparatory School. His open and easygoing demeanor has allowed him to don many hats, including ASB co-president, captain of the state championship-winning football team, National Honor Society member, Young Life student leader and member of the Knights of the Leash community service group.

“If you’re not improving then what’s the point?” said Plese, born and raised in Spokane. “Strive to better yourself every day in some way, shape or form. That’s probably my main thing: Make every day count.”

Leadership comes naturally to him, and Gonzaga Prep head football coach Dave McKenna says it shines through in actions rather than words.

“He contributed a positive attitude, an attitude that through hard work, anything can happen,” said McKenna, who coached Plese on varsity for three years. “And he’d be smiling doing it. He had fun playing football.”

Plese also strives for balance, grounding himself with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” when life’s obligations accelerate.

The middle child of five, Plese is gracious toward his family. He plans to pursue pre-med studies at college, an interest that comes from his grandfather, who operates an internist practice in town. He also appreciates his parents, Aimee and Vic Plese.

“I’m blessed to be in the family that I’m in,” he said. “The value of a supportive family is priceless.”

The Gonzaga Prep community appears grateful to have had Plese among it.

“I’m extremely proud and honored to have coached him here at Prep,” McKenna said. “I know he’ll do extremely well in his future, and I love him.”

McKenna also said he hopes his teammates will follow in his footsteps in the coming years.

Although Plese is fairly sure of his interest in the sciences, he is still deciding where to pursue his college dreams. As of mid-April, he narrowed his pool of schools to Gonzaga University, Loyola University Chicago and Carroll College.

“Flexibility is huge,” he said. “It’s key in whatever you do, being able to change what you need to.”

This will be lived out particularly in the social sphere of his college life, where he plans to study abroad as well as take part in intramural sports, service leadership and possibly student government.

“Education is for life,” Plese said. “That’s something no one can take away from you, so why not improve yourself while you can?”

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