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Get to know the 2017-18 valedictorians

Photos by Erin Gerola Photos by Erin Gerola

This year, Wa-Hi named 14 students as valedictorians and one student as salutatorian. To get to know a bit about their future plans, we sat down with them and asked them a few questions. Below are interviews with eight of this year's valedictorians: Seamus Duffy, Jacob Averett, Katie Leinweber, Marieke Hess, Hannah Gardner, Paige Gardner and Zander Norris. Watch for more interviews later this week. 

Seamus Duffy

What is the most memorable aspect of Wa-Hi?

“For me personally, it is the physics boat race after the AP test.”

What has helped you succeed at Wa-Hi?

“Supportive teachers, and having friends who are also engaged academically has been beneficial to me.”

What do you do outside of school?

“I do debate, knowledge bowl, tennis, and cross country.”

Have you committed to a college anywhere? If so, what contributed to that decision?

“I am going to the University of Washington. I’m pretty interested in engineering, and I was accepted directly into their college of engineering.”

What type of engineering are you most interested in studying?

“I’m not too sure what type of engineering, but I hope to discover what kind I want to do. The program is designed for you to have time to try things out.”

What do you see yourself working toward in 5 years?

“I hope to go to graduate school for engineering to further my career.”

Was one of your goals to be valedictorian/salutatorian?

“It was something I thought about, but it seemed a bit threatening.”

Jacob Averett

What is the most memorable aspect of Wa-Hi?

“Biotech was one of my favorite classes, and band is always fun.”

What has helped you succeed at Wa-Hi?

“Friends are huge motivators, and my parents. I’m pretty self motivated, though.”

What do you do outside of school?

“I do a lot with music: I play the piano, trumpet, and the french horn. I play tennis too.”

Have you committed to a college anywhere? If so, what contributed to that decision?

“I am going to BYU. There’s a couple reasons why I chose it; it’s one of the top schools in the nation, the tuition is cheap, and it’s a church school. Plus they have a great music program, and it’s in the mountains so there’s a lot of outdoors stuff to do.”

What are you most interested in studying?

“Biochemistry. I’ve liked chemistry since middle school, and during biology sophomore year we had a unit on molecular biology. After that I knew I liked either molecular biology or biochemistry. I like research, too, which I learned in biotech.”

What do you see yourself working toward in 5 years?

“I’m still going to be in college, working towards my doctorate. I’m probably going to be in school for at least 12 years.”

Was one of your goals to be valedictorian/salutatorian?

“I hate getting anything less than an A, so I didn’t really care if I got valedictorian or not, it was more of just excelling in every class, personally.”

Katie Leinweber

What is the most memorable aspect of Wa-Hi?

“I’d have to say joining FBLA and finally finding a club that was a really good fit for me, because I had tried a few other clubs, but this one was perfect for me.”

What has helped you succeed at Wa-Hi?

“My family. I have five siblings and all of my older siblings have tutored me in a subject at some point. Their success has really encouraged me to try my best as well.”

What do you do outside of school?

“I participate in FBLA. I also do cross country and track all four years. I’m part of 4-H, and I love reading and art.”

 Have you committed to a college anywhere? If so, what contributed to that decision?

“Western Washington University. I first considered Western because my oldest sister lives nearby and it would be cool to live around her for four years. I also love the campus. I thought it was really pretty. It was something new and interesting and in a location I hadn’t spent a lot of time in before.”

What are you most interested in studying? Why?

“Right now I’m undecided, but for a long time I had no clue, so my dad went on the website looking at the majors at Western and he listed off a bunch of majors I may like until he said industrial design. When we visited Western we looked at a gallery for industrial design students. That was really cool, and I’m interested in studying it.”

What do you see yourself working toward in 5 years?

“Happy, healthy, and eating a burrito.”

Was one of your goals to be valedictorian/salutatorian?

“It definitely was, but not so much being a valedictorian as keeping my 4.0. That was important to me, though I wish I hadn’t stressed over it so much.”

Marieke Hess

What is the most memorable aspect of Wa-Hi?

“The drama department and participating in musicals.”

What has helped you succeed at Wa-Hi?

“A select few teachers who’ve made the years a lot better and have been always supportive.”

What do you do outside of school?

“I’ve taken violin lessons at Whitman for about 12 to 13 years. I’ve participated in shows outside of Wa-Hi as well; I did a show at the Little Theater last year. I also travel a lot.”

 Have you committed to a college anywhere? If so, what contributed to that decision?

“I’ve committed to Loyola University in New Orleans. It was kind of a last minute application. I saw it and thought it would be a fun place, I never thought I would actually be going there. I visited over spring break and I love New Orleans; the culture, the city and the people that I met were so nice. I really connected with this school.”

What are you most interested in studying?

“I have no real idea. I hope to study some music — I don’t know if it will be my major but I want to continue learning more about it.”

What do you see yourself working toward in 5 years?

“Somewhere doing something exciting. Maybe graduate school.”

Was one of your goals to be valedictorian/salutatorian?

“Not really, I wasn’t like ‘I have to get an A in this class,’ but as the years went on and I still had it I was kinda more like I could do this.”

Hannah Gardner

What is the most memorable aspect of Wa-Hi?

“My best experience at Wa-Hi was participating in sports, swim team and track team. I had a lot of fun in sports. The coaches, the atmosphere and the friends you make in sports are amazing.”

What has helped you succeed at Wa-Hi?

“The staff has always been really helpful. The teachers are always there to help us get our work in on time and do well in the class.”

What do you do outside of school?

“I participate in swimming and track, and I’m also part of National Honors Society.”

 Have you committed to a college anywhere? If so, what contributed to that decision?

“The Honors College at Washington State University. I found the school because my brother was going there and so I started to be on the campus a lot and I found that I loved it there, it was like another home for me. I also fell in love with it because it had the programs that I wanted.”

What are you most interested in studying?

“I’m majoring in Mechanical Engineering because I really like to solve problems and help make an impact on the world.”

What do you see yourself working toward in 5 years?

“I hopefully will have a Master’s degree and have a job somewhere. Maybe travelled the world a little bit.”

Was one of your goals to be valedictorian/salutatorian?

“Not really, I just worked as hard as I could in all of my classes.”

Paige Gardner

What is the most memorable aspect of Wa-Hi?

“I’ve made a lot of friends through athletics and it’s been a lot of fun to be a part of something. It’s been a lot of fun to meet new people, and to make an impact on others.”

What has helped you succeed at Wa-Hi?

“I agree with my sister’s statement about the teachers helping us get our work in on time and do well in the class.”

What do you do outside of school?

“I participate in swimming and track, which has been a lot of fun to be a part of. I’m also part of National Honors Society.”

 Have you committed to a college anywhere? If so, what contributed to that decision?

“I drew my attention to Washington State because of swimming. I started looking at swimming first, then I fell in love with the campus and the feel of it. It has all the great programs I’m looking for and great research there. It’s everything I wanted in a school.”

What are you most interested in studying?

“Biology, because it’s always fascinated me and I love nature. There’s a lot of significant problems surrounding that field, so I’d really like to help solve some of those issues.”

What do you see yourself working toward in 5 years?

“I hope to have an upper post graduate degree and have a job somewhere, and be traveling the world.”

Was one of your goals to be valedictorian/salutatorian?

“No, I just worked really hard in my classes and did what I could to achieve an A. Being valedictorian was just icing on the cake.”

Connor Lemma

What is the most memorable aspect of Wa-Hi?

“I will always remember the teachers and their willingness to help.”

What has helped you succeed at Wa-Hi?

“Hard work — and a planner.”

What do you do outside of school?

“ I like to volunteer, play baseball, and do photography.”

Have you committed to a college anywhere? If so, what contributed to that decision?

“I committed to play baseball at Pacific Lutheran University. I loved the atmosphere and the amount of post graduate opportunities that they offer.”

What are you most interested in studying? Why?

“I would like to be an environmental engineer and help fix the environmental problems we’re seeing today.”

What do you see yourself working toward in 5 years?

“Hopefully, I’ll be in grad school in 5 years. In the future, I hope to be an environmental engineer in Portland or Seattle.”

Was one of your goals to be valedictorian/salutatorian?

“It was never one of my goals to be valedictorian. All I tried to do was get the best grades possible.”

Zander Norris

What is the most memorable aspect of Wa-Hi?

“I like the community, both teachers and students. It’s been an awesome school to go to and a great group of people to grow up with. The teachers have been outstanding, and I know I can go to them about anything and they’ll be there.”

What has helped you succeed at Wa-Hi?

“Certainly my friends, they created an atmosphere where I could be comfortable. The teachers have always pushed me to succeed as well, especially this year. They have been instrumental in my college search.”

What do you do outside of school?

“I’ve played in Wa-Hi’s band and youth symphony for four years and I swim on the varsity team. I’m also a baseball player and I volunteer at the First Presbyterian Church.”

Have you committed to a college anywhere? If so, what contributed to that decision?

“I’m going to Oberlin College. I really like the community and the appeal of the school. It’s in a small town so it’s a setting I’m comfortable with, but it’s also close to Cleveland which is a new experience. The academics are outstanding and I’ll get to play baseball there.”

What are you most interested in studying?

“I’m not quite sure. Probably something with history or economics. I really enjoy history.”

What do you see yourself working toward in 5 years?

“Maybe in post grad education with a stable job.”

Was one of your goals to be valedictorian/salutatorian?

“I wouldn’t say it was a goal. I always wanted to be a good student and push myself to get A’s, so being a valedictorian was just a product of that.”

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