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Overcoming three abnormal school years, academic achievers will be first to receive diplomas June 10.

PMG PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - NHS' valedictorians include (front row, from left) Aiden Gray, Amelia Bayha, Madeline Stone and Claire Rosenberger; (back row, from left) Tim Delventhal, salutatorian Augustine Schoonveld, Lillie O'Loughlin and Kaspar Czuk.

Despite experiencing three abnormal and challenging school years due to the pandemic, seven valedictorians and one salutatorian will graduate from Newberg High School on Friday, June 10.

Aiden Gray, Amelia Bayha, Madeline Stone, Claire Rosenberger, Tim Delventhal, Lillie O'Loughlin and Kaspar Czuk, who will all graduate with a 4.0 GPA, are the class valedictorians. Augustine Schoonveld, who will graduate with a 3.975, is the sole salutatorian.

What started as a normal sophomore year in 2020 quickly spiraled into one plagued with great uncertainty as all classes went online and students fell behind academically. The following year, students played catch-up and were forced to finish in two quarters what the school normally required in a full year.

But the valedictorians and salutatorian say the adversity only made them stronger.

"Junior year was the hell year," Bayha, who had to take three AP classes in two quarters, said. "That sucked, but it was good prep (for college)." With all her teachers spread thin, Bayha learned how to teach herself straight out of a textbook. It was also the first year she felt challenged in school.

"COVID made me a lot more self-reliant and it really made me ask for help," Gray said, adding that she attended every physics help session and scheduled one-on-one sessions with the teacher.

"I was like, 'I am not going to let physics beat me," Gray said. "'I'm going to overcome this.' It just made me realize where my difficulties lie and made me get help, because I knew that if I didn't, then I would be stuck behind."

Like Bayha, the pandemic marked her first academic challenge, but Gray said and others said those hardships have equipped them to deal with adversity in college.

"It was really tough. I'm not going to lie," O'Loughlin said. "But I think I'm a much better student and person because of it. It was really about just self-motivation and not letting myself give up on my dreams just because something unexpected happened. I had to show a lot of resilience and find joy in the little things."

O'Loughlin, who had dreamed of becoming valedictorian since middle school, said she is most proud of her achievement because "it shows I didn't give up on myself."

Throughout high school and much of her life, O'Loughlin has danced competitively, even participating in local productions of "The Nutcracker." Also in high school, she was part of National Honor Society and student government.

In the fall, O'Loughlin is attending University of Southern California, where she will major in writing for screen and television and minor in dance. Her goal is to become a showrunner for her own television show, specifically a teen drama.

Like O'Loughlin, Rosenberger made a goal early to become valedictorian. While in high school, Rosenberger played varsity soccer and lacrosse, serving as captain for both teams her senior year. She was also involved in National Honor Society. In the fall she will attend the University of Oregon. She has yet to pick a major, but is considering architecture, graphic design or chemistry.

"I don't know what I'm going to do, but I hope that I'm successful, not just in the way of money but I hope that I find happiness in what I'm doing in life," Rosenberger said.

Gray said she "kind of stumbled into" being a valedictorian and was surprised when she was selected, having focused more on getting good grades and staving off boredom than seeking the title.

In high school, Gray was involved in the after-school orchestra club, National Honor Society, Rotary Interact Club and Boy Scouts of America, through which she earned the rank of Eagle Scout earlier this year. In the fall, Gray will attend Oregon State University and study civil engineering.

Delventhal also didn't plan to become valedictorian, striving instead to learn and work as hard as possible in his classes because he found the material engaging. While in high school, he participated in Youth and Government, worked in a community garden and played soccer and ran cross country. This year, he also founded a linguistics club.

Delventhal will attend Macalester College in Minnesota and major in either English or geography, with international studies, political science or linguistics as back-up plans. Eventually, he wants to become a journalist.

Czuk, like Delventhal, focused less on his grades and more on learning as much as he could about a variety of subjects, perceiving versatility as a way to better understand others.

While in high school, Czuk was active in the theater department, Delventhal's linguistic club, Youth and Government, choir, soccer and tennis. He also served as the Newberg Traffic Safety Commission's youth commissioner for two-and-a-half years.

In the fall, Czuk is attending Saint Olaf College in Minnesota, where he hopes to meet new people from different cultural backgrounds. His major is undecided, but he is considering engineering or pre-med, so he can help people either by "making their lives easier" or "fixing their bodies or mental states."

A transfer from Veritas School during the beginning of the pandemic, Stone wasn't expecting to become valedictorian but knew it was a possibility if she put in the work. During her freshmen and sophomore years, she participated in softball, debate and choir, but gave up the activities to work more.

After high school, she plans to go to a community college, most likely Portland Community College, to get her pre-requisites done, with the goal of eventually transferring to OSU and pursuing a degree in medicine or marketing.

Bayha said she is "satisfied" with becoming valedictorian but isn't allowing herself to celebrate because "actually getting to feel good about my achievement would allow me to relax, and I have big goals for the future." She added that "NHS isn't the biggest obstacle I'm going to face."

In high school, she played water polo all four years. Her team won a state championship her sophomore year and she became a captain her senior year. She was also a part of student government.

In the fall, she is attending Chapman University in Southern California, where she will play Division 3 water polo and major in biochemistry. Her goal is to get into dental school and become an orthodontist, one day owning several clinics.

Schoonveld said while the salutatorian title is cool, what truly matters to him are the experiences and friendships he gained while participating in band, theater and choir.

"Those experiences have been so valuable to me, just to be a part of those communities and forming so many wonderful relationships," he said. "It really does make me feel better prepared for the next step in my life."

Schoonveld will attend the OSU Honors College and study nutrition. He is considering becoming a doctor but plans to keep his options open.

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