Monday, June 11, 2012

Highline Council PTSA Awards

Colleen Thomas-Reitsma (left) is recognized by HCPTSA's Jill Wunch

 We're to the last week of school, and it's a wonderful time of year. While it's a time of reflection and anticipation for students of every grade level, that's especially true for our graduating seniors. I'm going to finish out the year with posts during the last five days of school, and I'll begin and end by celebrating our graduating seniors.

I recently had the honor of attending the Highline Council PTSA awards ceremony at The Cove in Normandy Park. HCPTSA is a group that does great work for our kids. They are an umbrella organization for our PTSA chapters across the district. Jill Wunch has stepped up as HCPTSA president for the third time (she says it'll be the last, but she's probably said that before!) Many other parents are active leaders in the organization, including Debbie Thoma, who provided the picture below.

The awards night was a celebration of much of the goodness that is Highline. Dozens of parents and staff members received recognition for the work they do on behalf of kids. They were well deserving of awards such as the Golden Acorn, but I think all attendees would agree the most inspiring part was the recognition of the five PTSA scholarship award winners.

HCPTSA Scholarship Winners Alexis, Cong, Alba, and Laura (L to R)

When I was entering the interim superintendency last year, I interviewed a graduating senior from every high school. It was a transformational experience for me to hear about the accomplishments of our students, many of whom had overcome an obstacle in the course of their lives.

The Highline Council did a great job of sharing the accomplishments of the award recipients. Rather than me paraphrasing their bios, please treat yourself to a reading of their amazing stories!

Laura Jimenez Guerra from Big Picture HS: Laura works within her community as part of her education.  She has tutored music students at Cascade Middle School, led students in 8th grade science, worked with the Port of Seattle and currently with Seattle Theater Group as a production assistant.  She is a translator, facilitator, leader and coach.  The principal of her school wrote, "To me, Laura's most striking qualities are her sense of justice, her drive for authentic and rigorous learning experiences, and her humility and groundedness as a person.  I am as confident as can be of her intent and capacity to make substantive contributions to whatever college she chooses and to the communities she serves." Laura wrote about her volunteer experience through Big Picture saying, "I used to think that I was only ever going to do what I was told to do: I  was not special.  The people and volunteer opportunities at Big Picture helped me realize that the world is bigger than a GPA.  More than just a student, I am a woman, daughter, Chicana, Zapatista, and a leader.  I can achieve anything. That may not be enough for some college admissions directors, but it is enough for me.  It is everything."  Laura is going on to college at Cornish College of the Arts.

Cong Nguyen from Technology, Engineering and Communications HS: Cong volunteers through many organizations including Van Lang Vietnamese school, White Center food bank, Relay for Life, Kiwanis, his church and his school tennis team, all while maintaining a 3.95 GPA. He is a teacher, mentor, president, athlete, fundraiser and community leader.  One of his teachers wrote about him, "Cong is the most promising student to come out of our high school in the four years I've taught here... a couple things distinguish Cong: his heart, his leadership, his appetite for life and a desire to make things better.  He's also been a full-time language tutor for local Vietnamese children.  He has told me of the need for those kids to connect with their parents and the experience of their homeland. Cong has a genuine heart." Cong wrote about himself, telling us, "I have a passion for assisting youth in the Asian American community to learn about their heritage. Every Friday, I have been volunteering at Van Lang school to teach children how to speak, read and write in Vietnamese, and for four years I have instructed these children about where their families came from.  It's amazing to then see 8 year olds have a conversation in Vietnamese, about how each of their parents immigrated to America and went through endless hardships in order to give their kids a better future.  I want to make a change in my world and be somebody that kids can depend on.  I believe if I can change the lives of at least one person, I can start a domino effect that will change the world." Cong will be attending college at the University of Washington.

Alba Cruz-Lopez from Technology, Engineering and Communications HS: Alba works within her school and community as a leader, mentor and as a volunteer at Cascade Middle School helping 7th & 8th graders who are struggling in school.  She is the ASB executive board president, an athlete, a student of theology at her church and is determined to reach the goals she has set for herself.  One of her teachers wrote, "Alba stood out as a leader by helping form the identity of our school.  She took pride in our community of students and exemplifies the core values of what it means to be a TEC student; respect, responsibility, resilience and integrity.  Alba not only represents her high school here on campus, she has spoken at school board meetings representing the TEC student body, coordinated fundraising open house nights and community spaghetti dinners for our school.  Alba is dependable, organized and has drive and determination."  Alba has future goals to major in Criminal Justice or Psychology, to work in a police station, go to graduate school and earn a Ph.D.--all in the hopes of becoming a CIA agent one day.  She writes, "Every day when I walk to school I feel the cold and refreshing wind on my face, I see a peaceful sky and a welcoming city.  I love my community for its beauty and diversity but also because there are many programs that help the less fortunate. I am really grateful that my community reinforces the value of helping others and making a change in people's lives.  I have been a part of a ministry here in White Center called "Agape" and our mission is to assist homeless people to get off of the street, to get reliable jobs and get their life back together.  Programs like this motivate me to do more meaningful things with my time.  It inspires me to help people and motivate them to do something helpful for others."  Alba is starting her college journey at Washington State University.

Alexis Gregerson from Mount Rainier HS: Alexis volunteers through community events in the city of SeaTac such as Teen Night Out and in Seattle with Operation Nightwatch, as president of her high school leadership program and as a student leader of YoungLife, along with being an star athlete and completing 2 years of college classes during high school through Running Start at Highline Community College. Her YoungLife area director wrote, "Alexis stands out as a natural in the area of leadership.  She has a passion and zeal for life that is contagious and quite amazing.  Alexis has shown the ability to establish an excellent rapport with many different people in YoungLife and her community, including younger students, adult volunteers and parents.  She is a woman of quality and integrity."  Alexis has given her time to many organizations and she writes this about her experiences, "Working in a community that is so rich in diversity is something that has opened my eyes to developing a stronger understanding of the vast opportunity and culture I strive to learn about. During Operation Nightwatch, where we make and serve meals to the homeless, I have learned both empathy and responsibility.Responsibility comes from knowing the food we are providing is one of the main sources of  nourishment all day for the homeless. I am grateful for this volunteer opportunity because I have seen first hand how this blessed both those serving and those receiving. Being a YoungLife leader has taught me how influential I can be in someone's life... and how relationships are so important and will always be so valuable." Alexis will be attending college at the University of Washington.

Kory Hollingsworth from Mount Rainier HS: Kory volunteers within the community through Boy Scouts, his church and his school.  He is a leader, an artist, a stellar student with a 3.9 GPA in the International Baccalaureate Program, and judging from his Eagle Scout service projects--an excellent builder as well.  Kory's art teacher wrote, "Kory has an extensive list of academic and community leader accomplishments.  Most impressive to me as a teacher, however, is who Kory is as a person.  He is everything a teacher hopes a student will be: reliable, sincere, curious, determined and excited to learn.  Persistence and  a cheerful attitude have enabled him to methodically work through problems and create remarkable works of art in metal, clay and paint.  In these works, I am constantly impressed with his creativity and craftsmanship."  Kory has goals of working in the film industry and hopes to be a film director in the future.  He knows it will take leadership and responsibility to achieve this and he writes, "Through Boy Scouting, I understood the importance of hard work and building bonds with my fellow scouts.  Earlier in my senior year, I began work on my own Eagle Project, building dog beds for the King County regional animal services.  Through this experience I have learned the importance of organization and communication. The slogan of the scouting organization instructs us to 'do a good turn daily.' A simple but powerful statement that can drastically influence our society; the concept of 'paying it forward' can change how society works and thinks. With this in mind,when I pay things forward, I think of my future."  Kory will begin his college journey at Central Washington University.

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