Hopes for higher education
Despite the difficulties created by the pandemic and virtual schooling, more than 300 students graduated from Sandy High and Oregon Trail Academy this year, each one set off on a unique path to college, trade school or the workforce.
The Post had the opportunity to catch up with three Sandy area graduates after the pomp and circumstance died down and talk about their plans post-high school.
Lawyer for the people
Well-known for his debate skills, it should come as no surprise that Sandy High grad Parker Meyers has aspirations of becoming a lawyer.
In the fall, Meyers will attend Oregon State University, in hopes of obtaining a bachelor's degree in political science, then later a law degree.
"(Law) fascinates me and it's very engrained in the political system," Meyers said. "It's the justice about it that appeals to me, and the fact that you can help people as a lawyer."
While at Sandy High, Meyers competed on the Speech and Debate and Mock Trials teams, which he says he'd still have been drawn to even if his father Chris Meyers wasn't the coach.
"I've always loved talking and debate and politics and law," he explained, adding that competitions his senior year weren't quite what he'd hoped for, being mostly online. "I was just happy to do it. Speech and Debate was a great experience all around."
It was Mock Trials his freshman year, however, that sparked his interest in law.
"I liked the acting part of (Mock Trials)," he said. If he had to name one person or speech he admired most in the legal world, Meyers said it would have to be the fictional character of Atticus Finch and his last appeal in front of the court from "To Kill a Mockingbird."
With his gift for gab, Meyers is looking forward to meeting new people and making new friends in college, besides learning new things.
He admits he is a "a bit relieved" to be done with high school, but also "a bit stressed" about starting college.
"I have a very new thing ahead of me," he said, adding that he'll also certainly miss his friends and family in Sandy.
Fortunately, Meyers won't be entirely alone at OSU, since his older brother is the coach for the collegiate speech and debate team he plans to join.
Meyers grew up in Sandy and received multiple accolades as a Sandy graduate, including the Stewart Family Scholarship and a nomination for the Most Outstanding Senior Award.
Programming a future
Another Sandy grad to receive high awards this year was Andrew Hokanson, one of the five valedictorians in the Class of 2021. Hokanson also earned honors as part of the Middle College Program at Mt. Hood Community College.
While Hokanson says he wasn't expecting as a freshman to end up in the top of his class, "it was exciting" to be recognized as a valedictorian.
As a student at Sandy High, besides making the grades, Hokanson was very active in the robotics club, qualifying for the worlds competition this year before it was canceled by COVID. His favorite class was computer programming with teacher Rob McGlothin.
Hokanson plans to lean into his technological talents by majoring in computer science this fall at University of Utah.
"You can do pretty much anything with programming," Hokanson explained. "You can make things to help people and you can also make use of a lot of math skills."
In college, Hokanson says he's looking forward to taking more classes "centered around my favorite subjects."
Though Hokanson knows programming is his future, he is unsure just yet how and where specifically he would like to use those skills after college.
"Pretty much anything, as long as I can get a job, is my mindset," he said.
When not studying, Hokanson enjoys using his programming skills to build computer games and plans to continue to do so while at university.
Ready to write
Staying closer to home by attending Portland State University in the fall, OTA grad Juliette Dunn is looking forward to the autonomy of college life.
Though still finding her footing as an autistic person in the adult world, Dunn says she's ready for "the independence and greater ability to explore the world as I want to (and having) greater control over my life and education."
She adds that she's also hoping to meet more queer and neurodiverse people like herself at PSU, after attending such a small school.
Still, Dunn explained that she will miss the sense of community and one-on-one instruction time OTA offered by having such small class sizes.
"I'll miss the small community where everyone knew each other," Dunn said. "It was a really close community and a more personal experience."
Dunn already missed this experience during the pandemic when classes went virtual for most of her senior year, making her graduation, she says, "kind of anti-climactic."
"We learned but it wasn't the same," she added. "There was less of that community. This was probably the year I've been the most uncaring about school. I'm looking forward to having in-person classes in the fall."
Dunn plans to major in English at PSU. She has experience already as a published writer through contributing pieces on neurodiversity to online publications, such as Medium and Prismatica and self-publishing her own fictional novels.
"I started writing articles about neurodiversity because the websites about autism are dominated by organizations run by parents of autistic children, and not much by those who live with autism themselves," Dunn explained.
For those interested in reading Dunn's work, visit julietteauthor.wixsite.com/author or medium.com/@juliettedunnbooks.
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