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WLHS seniors receive a character award that includes $800

West Linn’s class of 2012 has moved on, but its overall understanding of the importance of character lingers at the high school, as 12 graduating seniors received special awards named for last year’s class at the awards night on May 30.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: PICTURE THIS PHOTOGRAPHY - From left to right, back row: Zach Levin, Jade Moore, Joel Larson, Oliver Muggli, Dustin Wilhelm. Middle row: Kelsey Gray, Casey Oswant, Leah Henningson. Front: Maria Jazmin Gutierrez-Zepeda, Bene Wilsted, Elise Brown. Not pictured: Angelica Jolley.The recipients of the second annual West Linn High School Class of 2012 Character Awards, Elise Brown, Kelsey Gray, Maria Jazmin Gutierrez-Zepeda, Leah Henningson, Angelica Jolley, Joel Larson, Zach Levin, Jade Moore, Oliver Muggli, Casey Oswant, Dustin Wilhelm and Bene Wilsted, were selected from the 43 nominations submitted by teachers and staff.

Words like supportive, courageous, kind, dedicated, genuine and considerate appeared frequently in the nomination letters. Each nomination was evaluated without the student’s name attached.

“We’re not picking names,” said 2012 parent Mair Blatt. “We’re picking stories.”

She described the recipients as “unsung heroes, kids who fly under the radar who might not otherwise be recognized.” Some of them, though not all, face serious health, home or financial challenges.

“We read the police blotter and hear about shenanigans,” said Blatt. “We never see these kids who went out of the way to help somebody when they were not obliged to do that.”

Each award included a check for $800, which recipients can use for college expenses, school supplies or any other purpose.

“Some of these kids may enter the workforce,” said 2012 parent Kim Vermillion. “This award can help with future expenses and help them meet their own personal goals.”

The character awards originated last year, when parents planning the 2012 graduation night celebration raised surplus funds.

“We wanted parents to know that if their donations were over and above, their money would still go back to the school,” said Vermillion. And with that idea in mind, the character awards began to coalesce.

Since their kindergarten days, members of the class of 2012 had been taught about character.

“Character education became a focus in the district following the district summit in 1994, when the community met to help answer the question, ‘How should we educate the next generation?’ ” said Jane Stickney, deputy superintendent.

Following the summit, teams and vision themes formed, and the school board eventually adopted these values: honesty, integrity, respect and responsibility. Kindness, compassion and courage were added a few years later, and the board set character-related goals for classrooms and schools.

The class of 2012 was the first to benefit from this focus on character throughout its 13 years in district schools. That’s why, said Blatt, creating the character award “felt like full circle for us.”

The 2012 parents raised funds from local businesses for this year’s awards.

“We are trying to keep this alive every year. We think this is worthy every year,” said Blatt. “We live in a generous community. We’ve seen them rise to the occasion many times. We depend on them to help this stay alive. It’s the community supporting the community.”

Contact the award committee at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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