Making the grade
Six valedictorians and one salutatorian lead the way for Newberg High School seniors this year, showcasing their talents in the classroom and beyond. Whether they were involved in sports or other extracurricular activities, the 2019 class was active in the community and left its mark.
Alex Jaczko certainly left his on the basketball court. The star forward from the NHS boys basketball team excelled in the classroom as well, finishing with straight-A's in his four years.
Jaczko, who is headed to Linfield College next year to play basketball, said he's proud to see his hard work pay off in sports and in the classroom.
"For me, I felt that not procrastinating was a big key," Jaczko said. "Also, being involved in extracurricular activities made it easier to manage my time and stay motivated to have good grades."
Coaches Mark Brown and Mark Johnson, Jaczko said, drove him to succeed. So did his parents, who he said didn't put too much pressure on him despite having high expectations.
"Basketball is my biggest passion and it keeps me motivated throughout the school year," Jaczko said. "I look forward to being a Wildcat next year."
Elyse Fawver was an athlete as well, running cross-country and track throughout high school. She called the valedictorian distinction an honor that shows what she and her classmates were able to achieve when they put their minds to something.
Fawver, a member of the Newberg chapter of the National Honors Society, said her support system allowed her to thrive.
"Having a supportive group of friends and family was very important to my academic success," she said. "Not only did they help me cope with the stress of high school, but they also allowed me to focus a majority of my attention on school. They taught me so much more than I could learn in school, and for that I am extremely grateful."
Both of Fawver's sisters were valedictorians and her parents – she said – were a big help. Her friends value learning and are "wonderful humans" in and outside of school.
Elise Hanna ran cross-country alongside Fawver and also played softball. Her friends and teammates played a big part in her success as well, she said, but her biggest influence was her mother.
"My mom is the one who homeschooled me through a majority of elementary school," Hanna said. "She is the first teacher who taught my siblings and I the importance of hard-work and perseverance, and she has dedicated so much of her time toward helping my entire family grow to our utmost potential. It is her example of commitment to success that has inspired me to grow in so many areas of my life."
Experiencing the dynamic of being on a team – and working alongside her classmates – changed Hanna's perspective on what is most important, she said. She encourages future students to enter high school with the mindset that some of the most important lessons they'll learn won't be academic.
"I believe that, while of course academic success has been a large focus of my high school experience, it is not, in fact, the most important or valuable form of success that should be achieved during these four years," Hanna said. "High school provides all students with the opportunity to expand their knowledge of how the world works, and a majority of this knowledge is gained in the classroom through the student's interactions with teachers and peers."
Yessica Roldan was active outside the classroom. She volunteered at Providence Newberg Medical Center, the Chehalem Cultural Center, the Migrant Program at NHS and even lends a hand in fundraising for scholarships for children from immigrant families.
Roldan's parents came to the United States from Mexico to give her and her siblings a better life. If they hadn't made that sacrifice, Roldan said she doesn't know where she would be now.
"Thanks to my parents being an inspiration, I always put my academics first," Roldan said. "Studying long nights, and being in constant communication with teachers also helped maintain my grades. I always strive to do the best I can in any class I am placed in."
Roldan's favorite memory from high school was her first choir concert. The nerves she felt faded away once she began to sing and she stuck with symphonic choir for two years. She considers the performing arts department at NHS as "family."
Capri Wheaton also sang in various choirs in addition to serving as a student representative on the Newberg School District board of directors, Newberg Traffic Safety Commission and Newberg Planning Commission. She was on the governance board of the Community Wellness Collective and volunteered with Interact Club as well.
Between all that, Wheaton made time to earn valedictorian honors. She also helped organize the walkout at NHS last year in the wake of the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla.
"I was able to see how my part in organizing and planning the event brought the school community closer together following a nationwide tragedy," Wheaton said. "I learned my actions and activism could be used to foster positivity in communities and I felt empowered to continue to create change."
Wheaton's idols include Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton and Amal Clooney, but those are just a few of the women she aspires to be like. Locally, she said she looks up to women in the Newberg community like Kristen Stoller, Denise Bacon and Shannon Buckmaster.
There's another role model at home, too.
"My mom was the one and only valedictorian of her high school, so I grew up with the goal of becoming a valedictorian myself in order to make her proud," Wheaton said. "I am proud to see all of my hard work paying off and I am proud to have earned a title associated with high academic achievement."
Moriah Reid rounds out the group of valedictorians with a passion for civic involvement as well, along with athletics and a handful of other pursuits. She played four years of volleyball and participated in mock trials, racial reconciliation club, the gender sexuality alliance and student council, among other groups.
Reid transferred to NHS midway through her junior year but kept steady involvement in just 18 months. Her time in Associated Student Body (ASB) was her favorite, she said.
"That group of students have become family to me and I genuinely adore them and love them so much," Reid said. "I laughed and cried with those people. Coming from a tiny school to Newberg was overwhelming but they gave me a tight-knit community that allowed me to feel at home so quickly."
Abigail Joyce is the salutatorian for NHS this year and she called being celebrated alongside her classmates an "awesome experience." She was part of the school's orchestra program for three years along with National Honor Society, and she also volunteered at Providence Newberg Medical Center and participated in track for two years.
Family, as is the case for many academic all-stars, was an important component in Joyce's success.
"My sisters were always there for me to remind me that I was capable of this whenever ever I felt otherwise," Joyce said. "There were definitely times when I felt the stress wasn't worth it and my sisters just urged me on and encouraged me to keep working hard."
Newberg High School graduation is Friday at Loran Douglas Field.