The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Eight students named to lead high school graduation ceremonies


May 23, 2017

LEADING this year’s graduation exercises are, in front, from left: Kristen Adams, Mckenzie Yoder, Gracie Olson and Michelle Isabell. In rear, from left, are Eleanor Hewitt, Nathan Hager, Sean Wolthuis and Daniel Virtue.

Seven Sweet Home High School seniors have been named valedictorians and one as salutatorian for the school’s graduation ceremonies, scheduled for 7 p.m. on June 9 at Husky Stadium.

The seven valedictorians, all with 4.00 grade point averages, are Kristen Adams, Eleanor Hewitt, Michelle Isabell, Gracie Olson, Daniel Virtue, Sean Wolthuis and Mckenzie Yoder.

Nathan Hager, who finishes with a 3.98 GPA, will be the salutatorian.

They will lead a class of roughly 140 graduates.

Valedictorian Kristen Adams

Adams, 18, is the daughter of Michael E. and Katherine Adams of Sweet Home. She has one sister, Elizabeth, 14.

During high school she has been involved in swimming, Symphonic Choir, Class Board, National Honor Society, Ski and Ride Club and American Sign Language Club.

She’s also volunteered with Foster Outdoor School and Camp Koinonia and has been director of the Riverside Christian Church worship team.

She plans to attend the University of Oregon to major in business and Spanish.

Adams said that she’s learned in high school to “not give up.”

“Problems don’t just go away. If you shove them in a box, they don’t just go away. You have to learn how to deal with them.”

She said Spanish and Symphonic Choir have been her favorite classes in high school.

“I think my best memory from high school is playing Ultimate Frisbee every year after our final spring choir concert. We’d go out to the soccer fields and play Ultimate Frisbee every year,” she said.

Adams said she’d offer the following advice to new freshmen: “Don’t screw off because you don’t want to look back and be like, ‘Huh, I’ve done nothing.’ But at the same time, have fun because, on the same hand, you don’t want to look back and say, ‘’Huh, I’ve done nothing.”

She said if she were to change anything about her own high school experience, “I would have spent more time having fun.”

Salutatorian Nathan Hager

Hager, 18, is the son of Michael and Sunhee Hager of Sweet Home. He has one sister, Megan, 15.

During high school he was involved in swimming, track and field, the National Honor Society and soccer.

He has volunteered with the Swim Club and worked as a lifeguard.

He plans to attend Oregon State University, then go on to medical school.

Hager said he didn’t find high school very challenging, academically. Athletics, he said, were what he considers his most valuable learning experience in high school, learning “how to deal with the public – learning stuff like how to work with a team and dedication to something, just waking up every morning and striving to be better.”

“Honestly, school itself, academically, didn’t challenge me at all these four years. But with sports you’ve got to be there every day and show that you want it. Really, that’s taught me more, I’d say, during my high school career, than any classes.”

Being part of the school’s first double state championship – both boys and girls – provided a lifetime memory, he said.

“This year we were able to go to state and do what we had to do to win the championship. All of us swam amazingly and I couldn’t have done it without my team, without the hard work I’ve put in throughout the whole season and during the last four years in high school working towards that one moment.

“So, it is definitely a memory I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. We won state. It’s a big deal. And boys and girls too.”

Hager’s advice to incoming freshmen: “Get involved in something. It doesn’t have to be sports. But you need to find something in your life that pushes you. Just start getting involved, because when you get involved in a group, it’s like a little community thing.

“A lot of people these days are, like, shut off. They’re all secluded, like on their phones; they don’t communicate as much. But if you’re in a group, like a sport, you get friends from that. You learn how to work extra hard because you’re doing extracurricular activities.

“I think that’s honestly the most beneficial thing, learning to tackle more than just your classes – your classes and this additional work on top of that. It’ll make you a better person and a citizen of society later on.”

Hager said if he were to change anything from his own high school experience, it would be to play football and baseball in addition to swimming.

Valedictorian Eleanor Hewitt

Hewitt, 18, is the daughter of Pam and Bo Hewitt of Sweet Home. She has two sisters, Sarah, 15, and Josie, 13.

During high school she was editor of the Huskian school newspaper and was involved in swimming, cross-country, the Youth Watershed Council, the city Youth Advisory Council and Key Club, of which she was president for two years. She also worked as a lifeguard.

She plans to attend Yale University to study biomedical engineering, then go to medical school to become an ophthalmologist.

“I intend to work in a developing country, providing medical service.”

Hewitt said high school has taught her how to prioritize her time and activities and schedule.

She enjoyed the staff at school.

“Everyone is encouraging and supportive.”

She said her warmest memories from high school will be the swimming championship team she was part of as a junior – the first-ever for Sweet Home girls.

“That was really cool,” she said. “And it was with my sister, too, which made it all the more special.”

She said her experience in Key Club has taught her the importance of “community service and giving back.”

She said she’s learned how that impacts other people, “but that makes you feel more complete.

“You feel like a better person because you’re doing something to help something that’s bigger than yourself.”

Hewitt’s advice to incoming freshmen: “Turn your homework in on time. Make good friends. Don’t be afraid to try something new, because you never know if you’re going to be good at it. And even if you aren’t good at it, you know, it’s good to have the experience. And it’s almost better, sometimes to have something you’re not that good at to remind you that you’re human and it’s OK to make mistakes.”

She said if she were to change anything in her high school experience, “I would have tried to be more social and make more of an effort to build friendships.”

Valedictorian Michelle Isabell

Isabell, 17, is the daughter of John and Christine Isabell of Sweet Home. She has two sisters, Johnnie, 20, and Alisha, 16.

During high school she played softball for a year and worked at A&W and as an intern at the Ore-gon Jamboree. She was also involved in her youth group.

She plans to finish her general education credits at Linn-Benton Community College, then transfer to Eastern Oregon University to major in premed biology.

Isabell said her high school experience taught her “how to procrastinate on everything.

“It taught me how to procrasinate very wisely. It prepared me how to study and take college stuff, I guess – sleep 12 hours a day, wake up and do everything at 1 o’clock in the morning.

She particularly enjoyed “all of the interesting accidents in chemistry.”

Her warmest high school memory, she said, will “probably be winning May Week this year – by 20 points” after a serious challenge by the sophomore class.

Isabell’s advice to incoming freshmen: “Don’t mess around too much. Get your stuff done while you still have the chance to.”

She said if she were to change anything in her high school experience, it would be to “take more risks.”

Valedictorian Gracie Olson

Olson, 18, is the daughter of Leon and Shana Olson of Sweet Home. She has four siblings: Trever Olson, 23; her twin brother Kobe Olson, 18; Brandon Marquez, 22; and Bri Marquez, 17.

During high school she has been involved in volleyball, wrestling, track and field, student government and National Honor Society. She also was an Oregon National Wrestling Team member.

She also was involved in hunting and she “caught a few bass.”

She plans to major in engineering at Oregon State University.

Olson said she’s learned in high school that “attitude is everything.”

Her warmest memories from high school will center on sports – particularly wrestling, she said. Olson moved from the statisticians’ table to the wrestling mat as a junior and placed third in the state wrestling tournament after girls wrestling started to gain a foothold in the Sweet Home program.

Being part of the team that won a state championship this year will be a fond memory, she said.

“State champions, getting third as an individual was very exciting for me. It’s really cool because moms come up to me and tell me that their little girl wants to try it and stuff. I think that’s kind of awesome.”

She said she learned the most in high school from sports – especially the work ethic, but also working with other people.”

Olson’s advice to incoming freshmen: “Try new things. Don’t be afraid to fail. Just getting out of your comfort zone is a good thing.”

She said if she were to change anything in her high school experience, “I would say ‘yes’ more.”

Valedictorian Daniel Virtue

Virtue, 18, is the son of Jim Hagle and Abby Virtue-Hagle. He has two siblings, Katie, 20, and Nathan, 16.

During high school, he has been involved in football, basketball and baseball, in which he has excelled, despite some tough seasons this year for the Huskies in some of those sports. Virtue took over as quarterback this year of a very young football team that was starting a brand new offense and led them to a state play-in game. He also pitched a perfect game in baseball during his junior season.

He is also a National Honor Society member and was active in 4-H and in church.

Virtue plans to attend Oregon State University to major in forest engineering.

He said his fondest memories from high school will revolve around sports.

“My best sports memory will be this baseball season,” he said. “Just winning a lot of games and doing well.”

Virtue’s advice to incoming freshmen: “Be responsible to turn in assignments. Study for tests and that will show on your grades. Make sure and go to class. And have a good time.”

Valedictorian Sean Wolthuis

Wolthuis, 17, is the son of Ivan and Rebecca Wolthuis of Sweet Home. He has three siblings: Brad, 15; Jenna, 12; and Mark, 10.

During high school he has participated in swimming, cross-country, soccer, track and field, choir and the National Honor Society.

He also has been active in church, piano, Boy Scouts, Swim Club and as a lifeguard.

Wolthuis plans to serve a two-year proselytizing mission for his church, then attend Brigham Young University and major in biochemistry.

He said high school has taught him to “enjoy learning.”

He said he’s learned “to be myself and stand up for what I know to be true – not to conform to any negative peer pressures that may be around me. Especially in the last year.”

His fondest memory from high school, he said, will be his role on the boys state championship swimming team this year. Wolthuis swam on two relays for the Huskies at state, including the 4x100 team whose win clinched the team title.

“It was absolutely a great experience,” he said. “It will be a great memory – great camaraderie, especially finishing up senior year. It was a nice cap.”

Wolthuis’ advice to incoming freshmen: “Be happy. Be positive. Be a joyful person. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there a little bit and make yourself known, as opposed to just fading into the shadows.”

He said if he were to change anything in his high school experience, “I would have put myself out there a little more.”

Valedictorian McKenzie Yoder

McKenzie, 17, is the daughter of Arthur and Andrea Yoder of Sweet Home. She has one sister, Alexis, 14.

During high school she has been involved in Leadership, the Huskian newspaper, Timber Echoes yearbook, soccer, track and field, tennis, National Honor Society and the American Sign Language Club.

She’s also been active in children’s ministry, piano lessons, Peer Court, and as Sportsman’s Holiday Queen.

She plans to attend the University of Oregon to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration, then move on to Pacific University for graduate school with the goal of opening her own optometry practice.

Yoder said high school has taught her to manage her schedule and prepared her for college.

“Taking my high school courses and college courses at the same time. With that, and extracurriculars and sports and everything, you have to really manage your time and make sure you’re getting everything done. Because if you only put half your heart into it, or only part of your time, without scheduling properly, everything can just fall. And you can just drop the ball and that makes it really hard.

“Learning how to organize yourself and manage your time is a really big thing I learned in high school.”

She will leave with some fond memories, she said.

“I think my two best memories were getting to play soccer my junior year because I was injured first two years – finally getting out with the girls and getting to have that companionship with the team and with the track team as well. That was really enjoyable.

“The second thing was getting to work on newspaper and yearbook because then you get all the inside information. You get to talk to the teachers and the students and everybody. Pretty fun.”

Yoder’s advice to incoming freshmen: “Focus on your academics and make sure you do get good grades and stuff. But don’t forget to hang out with your friends and make sure you have some free time. Because you don’t want to get burned out in high school, especially if you’re going to go on to college or straight into the work force.

“Have a good time, manage your schedule, get good grades, and everything will flow from there.”

She said if she were to change anything from her high school experience, it would be to “take more time to relax and enjoy high school because it’s fun making memories with friends.”


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