Olin, Hewitt named Jr. First Citizens

Scott Swanson

Sweet Home High School seniors Sarah Hewitt and Austin Olin have been chosen Junior First Citizens for Sweet Home for 2018, and Olin last week was chosen as Linn County’s Junior First Citizen.

“It’s a huge honor to have been chosen to represent my town,” said Hewitt, 17, adding that she felt privileged to be selected from a field of “great nominees.”

Olin, 18, said that being selected as Sweet Home’s nominee “was an amazing opportunity in itself, but to go further past that, it’s almost like a breeze of all of your hard work finally paying off and being recognized for it.

“It’s super exciting and I’m so thankful for all the people who have supported me – my parents, teachers, everything.”

Both were honored at a dessert Tuesday evening, Nov. 6, at Linn-Benton Community College, and they appeared on the Junior First Citizen’s float in the Albany Veterans Parade, which included 16 nominees from all over the county. All nominees received gift baskets and $500 scholarships. The winners also received $1,000 scholarships from the Rotary Clubs and the Voiture 891 40 & 8, one term of tuition at LBCC sponsored by the LBCC Foundation, and a framed certificate.

Brittany Grenbemer of Santiam Junior and Senior High School was the other county winner.

The Sweet Home nominees were interviewed by a panel of teachers and community members, said Tomas Rosa, Sweet Home High School activities director.

He said Olin and Hewitt were selected based on their performance in academics, involvement in sports, clubs, activities, community service, church, volunteer hours – “all of that.”

“They both had very strong interviews, really mature,” he said. “What (committee members) look for is a well-rounded person – well-informed, well-read, who excels in classroom but also excels in other areas.”

Hewitt is the daughter of Bo and Pam Hewitt. She is involved in a wide range of activities in school and in the community.

She’s president of Key Club, the high school-level Kiwanis Club, and is helping to establish an Interact Club at the high school for the Rotary Club.

She’s also vice president of the Youth Advisory Council, which advises the City Council on issues of interest to young people in the community, and is co-director of South Santiam Youth Watershed Council, though “we’re in the process of having a new supervisor, so that’s stopped right now,” she said.

Hewitt is also a volunteer at SHEM, First Princess on the Sportsman’s Holiday Court, a member of Class Board at the high school, and District 17 constituent for Earth Guardians 350 Climate Justice Club. She also helps lobby at the capitol for Youth Climate Justice Legislative Initiative.

In addition, Hewitt is editor of the Huskian student newspaper, is a member of the National Honor Society, swims for the Sweet Home Swim Club and the high school team, which she helped to a second-place team finish at the state championships earlier this year, swimming legs on a first- and second-place relay at state.

She also works as a lifeguard at the pool and for her family’s ranch.

She said she wants to find ways to give back to her community after high school.

“It’s just amazing how many opportunities this small community has been able to give me and the rest of the youth,” Hewitt said. “It’s really encouraging and I look forward to being able to give opportunities to future generations when I get older.”

She said she plans to study civil engineering with a goal of becoming an urban planner “who helps to design the infrastructure for sustainable communities.

“I feel that’s the best way for me to serve.”

She is applying to a number of schools, she said, with particular interest in Princeton or Brown on the East Coast and Stanford and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on the West Coast.

“Sarah is an awesome candidate,” Rosa said, noting that Hewitt’s older sister Elea was a county Junior First Citizen. “She’s everything her sister is. She throws her name in the hat, she excels at everything.”

Olin said he has a demanding schedule with sports, work and community involvement.

He has played football and baseball throughout his high school years and this year is adding wrestling. He was an all-league center in football.

He also helps manage his parents’ Foster Lake and Country Star RV parks and works for local orchard owner Steve D’Accardo on weekends.

He’s also a Key Club member, National Honor Society member, a writer and photographer for The Huskian and has been involved in Class Board until this year.

“My main foot in the door to community service in Sweet Home has been Key Club,” Olin said. “I like going to all sorts of different events. Key Club just presents opportunities and you just grab what you can. If I’m open I usually grab it, but with sports and everything it’s kind of hard, especially taking wrestling.”

Both of them say they’ve developed ways to manage their busy schedules.

“I do National Honor society, then wrestling, then I go to work and do my homework,” Olin said. ” It’s kind of hard finding opportunities (for community service). When I do, I definitely take them.”

Hewitt said she keeps her schedule on a spreadsheet.

“On weekends I always make a to-do list, then I make sure I get those done,” she said. “I just have my list of priorities and I make sure I get the big things done first, then I fill in with the little ones. You just have to be on top of it and try to write things down.”

Olin said he rotates weekends – one for community service, one more college-based “for scholarships.”

“In between, I’ll just find time to work after practice or in the mornings. Whenever. When my parents are gone, I’m the manager.”

He said he plans to become a corporate lawyer after earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon and then finishing law school at the U of O, which, he said, he believes is the “best law school in the state.”

He said he appreciated the interview process for Junior First Citizen because he thinks it will help him when he moves beyond high school.

“I find (law) intriguing – kind of like a chess game, trying to find different ways you can get your point across and win a case. It’s a huge thing.

“This interview process has been super helpful for me, because it’s kind of just like professional questions, you’ve got to present yourself, you’ve got to think about things before you answer and everything. It’s just been really nice to have a professional setting before I launch into the real world after high school.”

Rosa said Olin is a “super mature individual” who “gave a really great interview and gave some good points and some stories that everyone could relate to.”

He said that when candidates get to the county level, things get difficult for the judges.

“Every kid is awesome.” Rosa said. “Just being nominated is an accomplishment of its own.

“Some years they separate themselves, but usually I’m glad I’m not on the interview committee.”