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Wilson High valedictorians reflect on their high school careers and plans for the future

SARAH PFEIFFER

What neighborhood do you live in?

Fulton Park

What are your post-high school plans?

Next fall I will be attending the University of California, San Diego, where I'll be majoring in English Lit with a minor in Italian. 

What is your favorite memory from high school?

My favorite memory was my sophomore year Chemistry class, because I made a lot of friends, had an amazing teacher and was able to learn a lot from some cool experiments. 

What are you most proud of about your high school career?

I'm most proud of the way I've grown throughout high school, not just intellectually but also coming into my own as a person. 

What are the most valuable words of wisdom you've learned at Wilson?

Student loan debt is not forgiven when you file for bankruptcy. 

JULIA TAYLOR

What neighborhood

do you live in?

I live in the Maplewood neighborhood in Southwest Portland.  

What are your post-high school plans?

This fall, I will be attending the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, B.C., to study Global Resource Systems and Sustainability. 

What is your favorite memory from high school?

I'd say that my favorite high school memory would be the opening night of my very first Wilson theater show. It was the fall musical during my freshman year, and we were doing "In the Heights." I had opening-night nerves, but mostly I was excited to perform for the first time with my friends on that stage. It was a great way to start out freshman year.

What are you most proud of about your high school career?

I'm most proud of the connections I made with students and teachers. I met so many great people who share my interests, and I also got many opportunities from my teachers, who really helped me grow — and not just in the classroom, but as an active member of society as well. Finding those people who you can relate with is crucial, and I'm thankful I was able to make these connections.

What are the most valuable words of wisdom you've learned at Wilson?

The best advice I received at Wilson was probably to make time for exploring your passions. It's easy to devote all of your time to studying and schoolwork, and while those are important as well, it's been so important for me to make sure I still have time to do the things I love, such as environmental activism, theater, and leadership. I know more about myself because I kept trying new things and continued to pursue the things I care about.

ANNA KIEN

What neighborhood

do you live in?

I live in the East Columbia neighborhood in Northeast Portland. I have been commuting to Southwest Portland since 2011, when I started attending Robert Gray Middle School.

What are your post-high school plans?

I will be attending the Robert D. Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon.  I plan on majoring in Business Administration and Marketing Management. with a possible minor in either Finance or Accounting.  I hope to travel the world in a business-related career.

What is your favorite memory from high school?

In the summer before senior year, a group of 11 students and our physics teacher, Mr. Joseph Minato, headed down to Western Oregon University to host a three-day camp for families from around the world to experience the solar eclipse. The students facilitated fun activities, including arts and crafts, campfires, lessons on safety, the phases of the moon, ellipses and much more.  We even had a blown-up planetarium and star party to show the different constellations. Spending time in class discussing and learning about the solar eclipse, then sharing the experience with many families and peers, was an experience worth cherishing. Seeing the kids at the camp become so excited and engaged in astronomy and science was a great sight. The Big Eclipse Camp was definitely a highlight of my high school career, and I am very appreciative to have been a part of this adventure.

What are you most proud of about your high school career?

I am most proud of how far I have come and accomplished as a first-generation American and college student. There are many challenges that many first-generation students face that are never highlighted, most notably the lack of resources at home for finances, academics and college and career preparation. During my time in high school, I am very honored and grateful to have been able to represent Wilson High School on many different platforms, including Student Leadership, the District Student Council, the Asian American Youth Leadership Conference, the Women's Center for Leadership and most recently, the 2018 Rose Festival Court.

What are the most valuable words of wisdom you learned at Wilson?

There are many things that are constantly changing in life.  It is important to always be open-minded and accepting of these changes regardless of how much you may dislike them. Your overall outlook is entirely composed of how you as an individual take in the information and the emotions you correlate with it.  If you only notice and seek the flaws and negativities of a situation, you're bound to never enjoy whatever it may be.  By making an effort to find the positives, no matter how difficult or how small, you will be much happier with what life may bring you.  Put yourself out there and enjoy every moment!

ELISE PAZNOKAS

What neighborhood

do you live in?

I live in the Garden Home/ Ashcreek neighborhood in Southwest Portland.

What are your post-high school plans?

In the fall, I will be traveling to London to attend King's College London to study astrophysics.

What is your favorite memory from high school?

One of my favorite memories from high school is beating Grant on our senior night for volleyball. Grant, one of our biggest rivals in volleyball, beat us the first time we played them last season. However, at senior night we fought and came back to win the game, which was very emotional for many of the players.

What are you most proud of about your high school career?

I started high school not knowing what I wanted to do or where I would want to go to college. After four years of high school, I am proud of the fact that I am now on the path to studying astrophysics at a school overseas. Getting the grades and doing the schoolwork to get to where I am has only been one part of the journey. It has also been growing to who I am today and starting to figure out where I want my life to lead.

What are the most valuable words of wisdom you learned at Wilson?

One of my teachers at Wilson told the class that school is a balance. Doing homework and studying is important, but having fun and being social is very important too. I thought these words were very valuable, as students often forget this balance and overstress only one side of the equation.

ANDREY JENKINS

What neighborhood

do you live in?

The Hillside neighborhood

What are your post-high school plans?

Working at a summer camp this summer and then going off to college. It's Camp Westwind (at the beach). Next year, I'm going to Iowa State to study agronomy. I'm also hoping to minor in biological and pre-medical Illustration.

What is your favorite memory from high school?

I'm not sure I have a favorite memory, but I'm happy to have met so many amazing friends.

What are you most proud of about your high school career?

I'm probably the most proud of winning an award for my art. I won a Scholastic Gold Key in Oregon for a painting I did, and it went on to win a Scholastic Silver Medal nationally.

What are the most valuable words of wisdom you learned at Wilson?

I'm not sure about words of wisdom but I know I was told to take advantage of all the different classes I could take there, and I definitely did! I took a range of classes at Wilson that I really got a lot from (like AP environmental science, physics, yoga, AP studio art, and AP art history).

ASHLEY STANTON

What neighborhood

do you live in?

I live in the Maplewood neighborhood.

What are your post-high school plans?

I am going to Pacific University this fall and I am going to study occupational therapy. Hopefully, if all goes according to plan, I will spend seven years there and get my doctorate. Dr. Stanton has a nice ring to it — maybe it'll make all that money worth it.

What is your favorite memory from high school?

One of my favorite memories would have to have been in my junior year in advanced chemistry — this was before Wilson offered AP —when my teacher, Mr. Penk, brought out his fiddle and played us a bit of music. It was after a hard test, and our whole class had been stressed. And once it was over, he just took out his fiddle and played. It was as if our whole class bonded in that moment of relief.

What are you most proud of about your high school career?

I am most proud of keeping all A's throughout high school. I had to fight for my grades through physical, mental, emotional, familial and social struggles, and I managed to keep them up. I've had some of my friends tell me that I have inspired them to work harder on their grades or other things, and that is the most inspiring thing you can hear after working so hard. I am also proud of getting to be part of year six of TeenWest, the organization that writes plays for teens and brings them to high schools for their debut. I came into high school with a horrible fear of public speaking, and getting up in front of a class to give a speech was the worst. My hands shook; my whole body sweated, the works. Mr. Miller — the head of the drama department — worked with me in acting classes over the years to get over it, and this last year, I was able to audition and get cast in a main stage show called "HimHerThemUs." It was an incredible experience that wouldn't have happened if my teachers hadn't pushed me out of my comfort zone.

What are the most valuable words of wisdom you learned at Wilson?

One of my favorite quotes from high school goes, "Sometimes the chicken just falls out." This was from my AP psychology teacher, Mr. Loveless. As funny as it sounds in and out of context, it has stayed with me. To me it says that, yeah, stuff can happen and it will happen; you can't fight it, so you must move on. It's also just really fun to say.

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