Valedictorians, salutatorians have carved out their own unique paths to graduation

As diverse as the Newberg High School Class of 2014’s eight valedictorians and four salutatorians are, if there’s something they all have in common, it appears to be their dedication to carving out their own unique paths to graduate and life beyond.

Those personal routes will begin to diverge even further following commencement, which will be held at 7 p.m. Friday at Loren Douglas Field. by: GARY ALLEN - Top o' the class - Newberg High School's valedictorians and salutatorians (S) are: Back row: Savannah Stanton, Trevor Danielson, Monica Kelly. Third row: Marjorie Halstead (S), Jonathan Bos (S), Marthadina Russell. Second row: Nicole Fawver, Cassidy Helikson (S), Katie Reohr. Front row: Maranda Hamilton, Kahlia Knox (S), Melissa Swanson.

“I think it’s really fun to be a part of when so many people are so good at so many different things,” Silver School valedictorian Monica Kelly said. “It’s not like we’re all doing the same thing together, but we’re all doing something so cool all the time.”

Many of this year’s best and brightest say finding their own way just wouldn’t have been possible if not for the variety of options they were offered during their careers at NHS.

“I jumped at the chance to go and take college courses this year,” said Savannah Stanton, one of two valedictorians from Green School. “I took online writing and online poetry for my English credits this year and it’s one of the best choices I’ve ever made. It provided me room to grow and get into that college mode.”

The group will also spread out to seven different colleges and universities, with Stanton planning on dual enrollment at Portland Community College and Oregon State University, with Blue School salutatorian Marjorie Halstead set to attend Oregon State University. She will study dietetics, while Stanton is undecided as to her preferred area of study.

Halstead she also appreciated the chance to take courses for college credit, but also praised the staff at NHS for creating an optimal atmosphere for personal growth, saying they all genuinely care about students.

“When I open up to teachers and share my story, they’re always receptive and always want to help you grow,” Halstead said. “If it weren’t for the teachers that I’ve had, specifically Mr. Ramey, Mr. Baumholtz — it’s ironic because they are both P.E. teachers — and Mr. Anderson and Mr. Sinkbeil, I wouldn’t have grown as a human and an adult if it wasn’t for them.”

Many in the group, including Silver School valedictorian Trevor Danielson, have taken advantage of both the academic and athletic opportunities at NHS. Danielson could have earned an athletic scholarship to throw the javelin at a number of schools, but will attend and compete for Stanford on a substantial academic scholarship.

Fellow track standout Jonathan Bos will also continue to compete at the college level next fall as a business major at Corban University. Bos attended NHS for only his senior year after attending Veritas since kindergarten and found the social aspects of the school both fun and enlightening.

“Coming from Veritas, I was jolted at first by the huge amount of people, but that was partially why I came, to experience a larger school before college,” Bos said. “I think between athletics, which I knew people from, Newberg was really a good step for me to branch out.”

Along with Yellow school salutatorian Cassiday Helikson, Monica Kelly will attend California Lutheran and plans to study criminal justice.

Because she plans to study music composition, Helikson pulled off the rare feat of graduating high school in just three years.

Yellow school salutatorian Kahlia Knox and Blue school valedictorian Melissa Swanson both will stay in Newberg and attend George Fox University. Swanson plans to study engineering and Knox intends to major in graphic design.

“I was able to take a lot of different courses and challenge myself in different areas,” Swanson said. “I think that will probably help in going to college.”

Green School valedictorian Katie Reohr will head south to attend school at Santa Clara, while valedictorians Maranda Hamilton (Yellow) and Marthadina Russell (Silver) have elected to stay in the Pacific Northwest, opting for the University of Portland and Seattle University, respectively. While Reohr is undecided, Russell will major in linguistics and Hamilton physics and music.

Many of the 4.0 grade-point-average students — valedictorians doing so while taking honors classes — said they appreciated the diversity of classmates, in terms of small schools, they experienced in advanced classes but also bonded as they worked together on the toughest subject matters. Bruce Sinkbeil’s calculus class this year was just the latest example.

“What’s really helped me get as far as I’ve gone is these people, because I’ve been with them in block classes since sophomore year,” Halstead said. “So within our tier of learning, where we wanted to be and pushed ourselves to be, we kind of all made a family.”

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