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Running toward her goals: Whitworth student Madelyn Buckley, 18, is named to Native American academic team

UPDATED: Mon., Feb. 22, 2021

Whitworth University student Madelyn Buckley, 18, pictured here on campus on Wednesday, is on the track and cross country teams. Buckley, who is registered with the Nome Eskimo Community, was recently named to the American Indian Graduate Center’s 2020 All Native American High School Academic Team.  (Libby Kamrowski/The Spokesman-Review)
Whitworth University student Madelyn Buckley, 18, pictured here on campus on Wednesday, is on the track and cross country teams. Buckley, who is registered with the Nome Eskimo Community, was recently named to the American Indian Graduate Center’s 2020 All Native American High School Academic Team. (Libby Kamrowski/The Spokesman-Review)

Madelyn Buckley, a Nome Eskimo Community registered member, has roots closer to Spokane. She excelled in high school academics and distance running, now covering ground for the track and cross country teams at Whitworth University.

Buckley, 18, grew up from age 3 in Nine Mile Falls, where her family enjoyed spending time outdoors. At Whitworth, she’s a first-year student studying elementary education to become a teacher, her goal since grade school.

Announced this month, Buckley has received national recognition as one of 10 members of the American Indian Graduate Center’s 2020 All Native American High School Academic Team. The annual cohort is selected for outstanding original academic, artistic or leadership endeavors.

Buckley is a 2020 Lakeside High School graduate.

“I was a good high school student and had a 3.95 GPA,” said Buckley, although shy about describing her accomplishments. I graduated in the top 10% of the Washington high school graduating class of 2020.”

The Washington State Honors Award is a state program to recognize the top 10% of a current year’s high school graduating class statewide. The award considers GPA, required course credits and college entrance test scores.

Although the award was recently announced publicly, Buckley had received notice earlier this academic year and believes it mostly is tied to her academics, with perhaps a nod to her record as a runner. This scholarship and two others from the American Indian Graduate Center made the difference in being able to afford living on campus, she said.

“As for why I wanted to come to Whitworth, the reasons are it’s near to home, I liked the small Christian community, and also I met with my coach and team when I visited, and I just really liked them all.”

Buckley was born in California but lived in Nine Mile Falls since being a toddler. It’s her mom, Kim Buckley, who has ties to Nome, Alaska, and the Nome Eskimo Community.

“My mom’s dad grew up in Nome,” she said. “Mom would go up and visit in the summers, I think, as a kid. In Falls, it was just the five of us – mom, dad, my brother and sister and me. I’ve known the Spokane area for pretty much my whole life.”

Beyond loving school, Buckley grew up spending her free time playing outside with her older brother and younger sister. Her other favorite hobbies are reading, crocheting as a craft her mom taught her and baking. She admits to being a huge fan of “anything chocolate.”

She did well in math subjects and enjoyed English and writing but went all out for a foreign language. She took Spanish during her four years in high school and then took a test to receive Washington state’s Seal of Biliteracy award for Spanish.

At Whitworth, she has stayed on campus since fall, although her first semester involved a little more than half the classes being online. But this semester, she’s attended classes mostly in-person under COVID-19 precautions, including a limited number of students in class and wearing masks.

In pursuing elementary education, Buckley said she’s long known her path.

“Pretty much in elementary school, I decided I wanted to be a teacher because I really liked all the teachers I had. Also growing up, I helped in my church nursery and babysat kids. I think it’s really fun to be with kids, and I want to teach them.

“I took a teaching academy class my senior year of high school, so I got to go into a classroom and said yes, this is what I want to do. I would read with groups of kids and individual students and helped the teacher.”

On applications for scholarships and planning for college, she’s also listed her accomplishments as a runner.

“I started running for the team in middle school, and then in high school I got more competitive,” Buckley said. “Now, I’m running on the track and cross country teams here at Whitworth, and I run six days a week.”

She trains often with teammates, even if there’s snow on the ground. In high school, she competed in cross country 5K. For Whitworth, she plans to do the steeplechase, a new challenge for her, but mostly, “anything distance-related.”

“I actually broke my high school 5K record – my time was an 18:51 – and that was my goal for a long time, so I was really happy when I did that for one of my last races my senior year. That broke the record for my high school as the fastest girl. Also, my senior year at state cross country, I got fifth for 1A schools.”

She enjoys being in Spokane, the only “big city” she’s ever known. “I like this area. I just wanted to stay close to home.”

And the Lilac City is likely where she hopes to remain as a future educator. “I think I’ll plan to stay somewhere in the Spokane area to teach.”

“I decided I wanted to be a teacher because
I really liked all the teachers I had.” Madelyn Buckley
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