Gaston senior battled OCD during high school career

Series wraps up

Today we conclude our series of stories about “first generation” graduates from the Class of 2014 — those who are embarking on a higher education.

Leading up to commencement weekend, June 5 to 7, we’ve featured students from one local high school per week. We’ve already highlighted Forest Grove and Banks. Today we focus on Gaston High School to close out the series.

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - David Boulanger, a member of Gaston High Schools Class of 2014, will be the first in his family to go on to a higher education after graduation June 7.David Boulanger turned 18 on May 5, about seven years after he decided he wanted to go to Oregon State University once he left Gaston High School.

“My family is a wrestling family, and OSU is a wrestling school,” said Boulanger, who was a grappler until his freshman year, when his athletic interests turned to football, which he lettered in all four years. “I’ve been a Beaver fan since I was in sixth grade.”

David’s parents, Amy and Jeremy Boulanger, met as students at Gaston High. His dad dropped out after sophomore year, but his mom finished her coursework and graduated. Neither went on to gain a higher education, but both spurred their oldest son along his academic path.

“My dad’s encouragement has always been for me to go to college, so college was always in the plan,” said Boulanger, a tall, dark-haired Native American who likes to hunt with his dad. “Whether to go was never a choice in my book.”

Jeremy Boulanger works at Stimson Lumber outside Gaston. Amy is a medical assistant. The tight-knit family — which includes David’s younger brothers Patrick, 13, and Hunter, 9 — moved to town from Cornelius when David was 3.

The strapping senior is glad they did.

“It’s like extended family out here,” Boulanger said. “You know everybody, and everybody knows you.”

Even though Boulanger’s grade-point average now hovers above a 3.0, school hasn’t always been easy for him. As a youngster, he had trouble concentrating, which led to difficulty retaining material.

“I was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in second grade,” said Boulanger, “and that made learning really hard. Sometimes things just didn’t click.” His parents signed him up for tutoring in math and other subjects at the Sylvan Learning Center, extra lessons that gave him a boost.

By the time he was a junior at Gaston High, Boulanger was taking advanced-placement classes in history and English.

“It’s funny, because I’m not a very language-savvy guy,” he said. “I’d never been able to write a really beautiful essay that moves someone. But I’ve learned how to use writing in that way, and now it’s my favorite thing.”

Besides the AP courses, Boulanger also enrolled in a Woods I class for which he’ll receive dual credit that transfers to OSU.

At Gaston, Boulanger has adopted a smorgasbord attitude, dabbling in a range of classes — over and above what’s required — from math, science and PE to language, law and philosophy. “I don’t want to be that guy who’s only good at one thing,” he said. “I’d rather be OK at a lot of things than the best at only one.”

He’s tried to spread his philosophy around the halls at GHS. “I’m always telling kids they should take at least one AP class, and while they’re at it, why not take two or three?” he said. “Too many seniors think they can just hang out and stop trying.”

Boulanger’s list of extracurricular pursuits extends to the stage. He’s been in six plays, including “The Last Gladiator,” as part of Gaston High’s drama department.

His time as a thespian challenged him to come out of his shell.

“As a little kid I could only talk to one person at a time — I was that shy,” he said. In high school drama, one exercise required him to write a subject on a piece of paper and put it into a hat with a bunch of others.

“Then I had to pick one out and give a two-minute speech about it,” he said. “Mine was ‘Miley Cyrus: After Hannah Montana and before the Video Music Awards.’”

With commencement approaching June 7, Boulanger said the last four years have gone by in a blink. “It feels like I walked in as a freshman and a day later I was a senior.”

Still, he’s looking forward to college — where he hopes to “change the world by encouraging people to be OK with other peoples’ perspectives” and make his parents happy at the same time.

“The day I got my letter of acceptance from OSU, my mom came home with a cake in her hands,” he said. “We all celebrated together.”

Boulanger plans to major in zoology or biology, with an eye toward someday working with large mammals at a zoo. “I’d like to find out why there’s such a connection between humans and these big animals,” he said.

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