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Five Lewis and Clark kids were among this year’s Spokane Scholars, showing ‘education wasn’t lost, it was paused’ during the pandemic

UPDATED: Mon., April 25, 2022

Top Spokane Public Schools scholars Uma Mitchell, left, Karenna Holland, Siena Roberts, John Quigley and Alan Zeng all attend Lewis and Clark High School and the group tallied up most of the scholarship money from a recent scholar award event. They posed together Wednesday in the entryway of Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane.  (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Top Spokane Public Schools scholars Uma Mitchell, left, Karenna Holland, Siena Roberts, John Quigley and Alan Zeng all attend Lewis and Clark High School and the group tallied up most of the scholarship money from a recent scholar award event. They posed together Wednesday in the entryway of Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane. (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

When the pandemic struck two years ago and banished her from the halls of Lewis and Clark High School, Karenna Holland did what came naturally for millions of teenagers.

She stayed in bed. Almost every morning.

But unlike most of her classmates, Holland surrounded herself with books and devoured them. Now, she’s headed to New York University as a pre-med student.

Likewise, classmate John Quigley found that remote learning offered him a chance “to spend more time exploring math.” He too is heading to NYU.

It was the same story for fellow LC seniors Alan Zeng, Uma Mitchell and Siena Roberts. Last week, the five were among the top award winners at the 30th Annual Spokane Scholars banquet, winning a combined $19,000 in scholarships.

All found a way to make the most of a tough situation that afflicted most of their high school careers. Abruptly sent home in the spring of their sophomore year, they endured remote learning for most of the following year and masks until last month.

Spoiler alert: When the class of 2022 graduates in June, LC Principal Ivan Corley plans to discuss how “education wasn’t lost, it was paused.”

And yet, Holland, Quigley, Zeng, Mitchell and Roberts didn’t even slow down during the pandemic. They made it look easy, even when it wasn’t.

“It was hard,” said Holland, whose passion for the stage was muted though never stifled during the pandemic.

“Theater is such an in-person thing, so we had to get used to filming ourselves alone in our rooms, which isn’t super fun because one of my favorite things is just hanging out with my friends,” said Holland, the top Scholar in the fine arts category.

Holland was doing just that on Wednesday as the five scholars gathered in Corley’s office to talk about the past and a future that looks shiny and bright.

Holland was even dressed for the occasion: a bright blue dress for her role as Ariel in the LC drama department’s production of “The Little Mermaid.”

“I’ve always had such a good connection with the arts – it makes me feel good about myself,” Holland said at the awards banquet.

Holland will graduate summa cum laude with a weighted grade-point average of 4.4. She also scored in the 95th percentile on the SAT, and is an AP Scholar with Honor.

Quigley, the top Spokane Scholar in mathematics, also showed diverse interests. He played violin in the school orchestra, took four years of Chinese and planned computer lessons at the Spokane Summer Scratch Camp for Kids even as he scored a perfect 800 on the SAT Math.

Quigley said he’ll keep his options open at NYU as he considers majoring in math and computer science.

Like the others, Zeng acknowledged that the pandemic was rough at first.

“But once you get used to it, it becomes very manageable,” said Zeng, who adjusted well enough to earn a 4.4 weighted GPA and a near-perfect combined SAT score of 1590.

Zeng, who finished second in the science category at the Scholars banquet, said he will pursue a pre-med path at either NYU or the University of Washington.

“It should be a decent career,” Zeng said.

More than most students, Mitchell found adventure during the pandemic. During a French class conducted remotely, she tried to adjust to a class with “30 different people who wouldn’t respond to a question.”

“But (the pandemic) helped we with some quiet time to work on things,” said Mitchell, the top Spokane Scholar in World Languages.

Mitchell, who has a weighted GPA of 4.38, studied Spanish for six years, French for four, and is currently focused on Chinese and Arabic.

Mitchell plans to incorporate their passion for world languages by pursuing a college degree in chemical and biomolecular Engineering with a focus on Virology, going on to work with Doctors without Borders.

For Roberts, the pandemic was a mixed blessing. She had the freedom to research from home with fewer distractions, but her passion for debate was tested by the necessity of “standing in front of a camera and reciting to myself.”

However, Roberts was able to earn a weighted GPA of 4.508 even while tackling the most demanding curriculum offered at the school.

An AP Scholar with distinction, taking more than 15 AP classes and scoring 4s and 5s on 10 of the exams taken so far.

Roberts plans to attend the University of Arizona, major in chemistry and eventually attend medical school and perhaps work as a trauma surgeon.

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