Cream Of The Class North Side Valedictorians Excel In A Broad Range Of Activities In Addition To Their Academic Pursuits
June 6, 1996 - Updated: July 16, 3:36 p.m.
They are too busy to watch bad TV, but they find time to ace college prep calculus and advanced biology. They are student body leaders, champion debaters and gifted musicians.
Some are also linebackers who tackle like trains and basketball players with dead-eye shots. They all got A’s in P.E.
The North Side’s 1996 valedictorians aimed high and succeeded. Of the 2,100 graduates, 40 students logged a perfect 4.0 grade-point averages. Two students received one B.
Most were inspired by family, but all worked hard themselves. They have been rewarded with honors and scholarships to prestigious universities.
Here is a look at the valedictorians and the memories they leave behind:
North Central High School
A dreamer who wants to walk on the moon some day, Kimberly Allen filled her resume during her four years at North Central with everything from Honor Society to gymnastics to reading lessons with children.
She plans to attend Western Washington University and pursue a teaching degree.
Erica Blake takes a break from her studies to jog.
“It provides a chance to escape daily stresses that accumulate and put things back in perspective,” said Blake.
Winner of the U.S. National Mathematics Award, Blake plans to study engineering. She hasn’t picked a college yet.
A Washington Scholar and the best foreign language student in Spokane, Joy Crosby plans to study psychology and foreign language at the University of Washington.
Her most memorable experience this year happened when she and friends tried a step aerobics video tape.
“Nothing is funnier than four girls trying to follow an aerobics tape in a tiny living room,” said Crosby.
Jeff LeBret balanced varsity wrestling with school and came out on top. He was twice named the state academic champion for wrestling.
He was selected this year for the elite Morehouse Biomedical Symposium in Los Angeles.
He plans to attend Gonzaga University’s computer engineer school and eventually go to graduate school. “Or else run away to Europe and be a traveling minstrel,” he said.
A soccer and tennis player at North Central, Heather Leeming wants to become an elementary school or special education teacher.
She draws inspiration from her parents “because they always support and encourage me in all my activities.”
She plans to attend Western Washington University.
Rogers High School
Jenny Hutchens worked nearly as hard this year at scholarship applications as she did on school studies. Winner of a Washington Scholar award that pays full tuition at public colleges, Hutchens pined for Whitworth College.
She nailed down enough grants and scholarships this spring.
“All my hard work paid off,” said Hutchens, a gymnast and soccer player at Rogers.
She plans to become an elementary school teacher.
Racing motorcycles taught Steve Smith to set goals and to not give up. He took second at a national dirt bike race earlier this year in Castle Rock, Wash.
Persistence paid off academically. He remembers the relief of “seeing that last report card and seeing it with all A’s.”
Smith plans to attend Gonzaga University and study mechanical engineering.
Shadle Park High School
(with a 4.0 gpa:)
Cheerleading consumed much of Sara Adams’ senior year. Up to five nights a week, she cheered at school events.
“It was a blast showing other schools how much spirit we had,” said Adams.
She relied on her parents for support.
“They have been behind me 100 percent in everything I do, and they encouraged me to reach my goals,” said Adams.
She will attend Pennsylvania’s Grove City College and study mechanical engineering.
Kimberly Aked wants to study at the University of Washington. She hopes to be an international business person and “travel to many foreign places.”
She was yearbook graphics editor, a cross country runner and involved with leadership. She likes to water and snow ski, camp and read.
Like most artists, Jared Bock would like to turn his passion into a profession. Winner of a silver medal at last year’s Allied Arts Festival, Bock illustrates for the school newspaper and annual.
“Impressionist painters have a great influence on me,” said Bock. “They found ways to express themselves without following methods that were commonplace in their time.”
Bock plans to attend Spokane Falls Community College for two years before transferring to a four-year school. He would like a job that involves art.
Cheerleading during the annual Groovy Shoes competition with North Central High gave Aaron Caprye a strong memory of his senior year.
“It was a great time, where the whole school came together to show spirit,” he said.
Thanking his parents for their help and encouragement, Caprye said he plans to go to Pacific Lutheran University and study engineering.
Gloria Wood credits her parents for support during an academic career that included a Spokane Math Scholar award.
A regular at church youth group meetings, Wood plans to attend Seattle Pacific University and study in the school’s strong education program. She would someday like to be a missionary.
Amy Sawatzky has more medals than a general. President of Honor Society, Most Valuable Player of the track team, Knowledge Bowl member and National Merit Commended Scholar, Sawatzky had the best time running cross country.
Her sister and friends made the team and the time fun.
“We had fun singing with the team after meets or doing ‘Shadle-jacks’ during warm-ups,” said Sawatzky.
Sawatzky plans to attend Seattle Pacific University, study engineering and run track. She would like to do engineering-related missions work in developing countries, particularly China.
A member of the Nordstrom High School Fashion Board, Naomi Rush would like to go into business for herself. She plans to major in business at the University of Washington.
Family gave her crucial support during her busy high school career, which included cheerleading, school leadership and the Distributive Education Clubs of America.
“My family has been very supportive and has always encouraged me to do my best,” she said.
A seventh-grade teacher taught Meighan Rasley the secrets of success.
“She taught me poise, confidence, and that with a little hard work, anything can be accomplished,” said Rasley.
She plans to attend the University of Washington and be a pre-med major. Born and raised in Spokane, she would like to return to open a practice, possibly as an anesthesiologist.
Peter Raber’s leadership skills benefited the Shadle Park soccer team. They also benefited Raber, who landed an Air Force Academy appointment and a spot on the Falcons’ soccer team.
“Soccer … gave me leadership skills and somewhere where I belonged,” said Raber.
He credits Shadle counselor Juju Predisik with direction. He plans to be an ophthalmologist.
Ryan O’Connell-Elston combined two of his interests - politics and creative writing - in a memorable trip to Washington, D.C., earlier this year. He attended a National Young Leaders Conference.
An aspiring novelist, O’Connell-Elston plans to attend Seattle University and major in creative writing.
He participated in yearbook, debate, Knowledge Bowl and the Science Olympiad.
Like many Shadle Park seniors, Betsy Myers remembers bonding with classmates during a Homecoming hall-decoration contest.
“The spirit, fun and unity we shared will always make me remember this,” Myers said.
Myers managed her grades as editor of the yearbook and ace member of the golf team. She plans to attend University of Puget Sound and study in the the business leadership program.
She would like to turn her yen for traveling into a job as an international businesswoman.
A standout scholar athlete, JoEne Heimbigner nailed a three-pointer to lead the Shadle Park basketball team into the regional playoffs.
She squeezed time between studying and volleyball and basketball practices to be student body president. Leadership gave her the strongest memories of the year.
“The six of us officers became very close, and we had a blast,” said Heimbigner.
She plans to play volleyball for Spokane Falls Community College and pursue a teaching degree.
Amy Janosik was inspired by a tough mom.
“I’ve always thought she has been pushy, but I am grateful. If it wasn’t for her persistence, I most likely would not have reached this achievement,” said Janosik, a varsity cheerleader.
She plans to attend Spokane Falls Community College and major in business. She would like to eventually become an accountant, but her future is sketchy “because I don’t know where life is going to take me.”
Sibling rivalry inspired Jennifer Kuhlmann to top academic honors. Sister Melissa, a Washington State University’s Dean’s List student, was also a Shadle Park graduate.
“Not only has she been my core source of competition but also my dearest friend and teacher,” said Kuhlmann.
A cheerleader, Kuhlmann likes to hike, paint and sculpt. She plans to major in biology next year at Seattle University, where she has a $10,500-per-year scholarship.
Mead High School
Amy Fong learned much from her outstanding tennis career at Mead, which ended last month when she lost in the state tournament.
“It taught me patience, focus, determination and how to interact with new people,” said Fong.
As a sophomore and junior, she lost in a regional tournament. Her senior year, she won and learned the satisfaction of hard work.
She plans to play tennis at Whitman College next year.
Stephanie Underwood’s grandmother impressed on the 4.0 student the joy of life.
“She has inspired me with her excitement for life even at age 70, and she never runs out of love to give to everyone,” said Underwood.
An aspiring professional dancer, Underwood wants to study in the University of Nevada-Las Vegas’ reknowned dance program. She would like to eventually own her own studio.
Cross country captain Ben Allen was inspired by coach and teacher Pat Tyson. Tyson supported him academically and personally, opening “opportunities for me that I never thought possible,” Allen said.
He scored 1400 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test and claims to enjoy fossil digging. He plans to attend Indiana’s Wabash College on an academic scholarship.
He would like a job at NASA but would settle for anywhere he can “be in charge.”
Friendships developed in Merrill Alley’s sterling athletic career are important to the all-state football player and high jumper. He will share a room at Brigham Young University next year with fellow Eagle Scout and football standout Spencer Smith.
Four older brothers give Alley direction and advice in sports, school and life.
“They’ve always supported me and challenged me to do my best,” said Alley.
After earning the top grade in a Running Start microbiology class at Spokane Falls Community College, Irene Klarmeyer heard complaints from older students. She realized she was as mature as students years older.
Her maturity helped her to an school career that includes an academic award from the Masons and a spot on the Bon Marche High School Fashion Board. She will attend the University of Washington and major in physical therapy.
One of the region’s best students, with a 1440 SAT score and listings in national academic journals, Munir Tanas seeks intellectual challenges at home by playing his dad in chess.
“I always beat him,” Tanis says.
A piano and guitar player, Tanis also participated in cross-country, wrestling, track and Spanish Club. He will attend Whitworth College and study pre-medicine.
Karen King has learned the best lessons from her mother, who ran the Boston Marathon and finished Bloomsday in 51:15, second in her age group.
A cross-country runner, King hopes to one day follow her mother and run a marathon.
She will attend Western Washington University next fall. She wants to be a researcher for the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.
As features editor for the Mead High Panther, Andrea Palant knows the bizarre addiction of journalism. Her strongest memory from the last year was “writing for the school paper with diverse but cool students, along with late-night layout stress attacks.”
An award-winning writer and poet, Palant wants to be a missionary in Latin America or inner-city America. She will attend Whitworth College and study education, journalism and Spanish.
Nick Hebb is walking on familiar ground: His sister, Jennifer, was a 1993 Mead valedictorian. Now a Dean’s List biology student at the University of Puget Sound, Jennifer is an inspiration for her brother.
“She helped me through a lot,” said Hebb.
A standout soccer player, Hebb likes to hit the ski slopes and the outdoors. He will attend the University of Denver in his birthtown and study engineering.
A National Merit Commended Scholar, Nick Stucky is one of the few Inland Northwest student headed for the Ivy League. He plans to study engineering or computer science at Yale. He doesn’t have career goals yet, other than to “have a good time with what I do.”
Stucky likes to mountain bike and downhill ski and is a tree climber.
Mark Mohrlang hopes to turn a degree in environmental science into a passport to be a missionary in a Francophone country.
Mohrlang is a cross-country runner who is fluent in French and scored a 1390 on the SAT. He plans to attend Taylor University in Indiana next fall.
Baseball star John Barneson balanced sports with books well enough to earn a full-ride scholarship to Stanford University. One of the best shortstop prospects in the region, the recruiting trip to Palo Alto, Calif., college was a senior year highlight.
Barneson is interested in a medical career, possibly in cardiology or anethesiology. Last year he was one of 300 high school students in the Western United States to attend a conference in San Francicso designed for future doctors.
Boston College-bound Katie Bruya finds her heros at home.
“My mother is an inspiration every day,” said Bruya. “She is a professional with enough energy for our family.”
Bruya captained the school’s league champion volleyball team. She is a summer lifeguard. She hopes to become a doctor.
Maris Baltins is an avid snow skier and mountain biker who has played in the band and on the soccer team at Gonzaga Prep.
Recipient of a prestigious Bellarmine Scholarship at Georgetown University, Baltins plans to study pre-medicine.
Molly Bloom found the perfect mix of sports and books. Bloom was the school’s academic all-Greater Spokane League volleyball player and was captain of the volleyball and basketball teams.
Academically, she scored a 790 on the verbal portion of her SAT test 10 short of perfection - and was honored by President Clinton with a Presidential Scholar award.
She will attend the University of Portland. She has yet to pick a career.
Riverside High School
Jason Kettel’s parents taught their son a lesson, and he remembered. Tagged with a speeding ticket, Kettel’s parents took his driver’s license. He now drives the speed limit.
An athlete who likes to snowboard and wakeboard, Kettel will attend Whitman College. He has not picked a career.
Stephen Snider is a math man. He was an honorable mention in the Tandy Technology Awards Program and was nominated for a Spokane Scholar award in the mathematics category.
He will attend the University of Washington to study aerospace engineering. He earned Navy and Army ROTC scholarships.
He likes to work on his car.
Lakeside High School
There’s no time for Jim Gilles to rest on his laurels; he has 8 major projects to finish before graduation.
“Procrastination is the mother of all inspiration,” said Gilles.
A fan of the Simpsons and camping, Gilles was part of a team that won a regional math competition.
In spite of a 3.977 gpa and 1480 SAT score, Gilles isn’t heading to college right away. Instead, he plans to work a year and save money before continuing his education.
Northwest Christian School
Sarah Pederson finds her time well spent with friends.
One strong memory this year was an attempt by Pederson and her girl friends to toilet paper a boy’s house. After being gone a long time, the girls came back to one of their houses to find themselves locked out.
They had to explain the prank to a friend’s parents, who weren’t happy.
“I’m going to miss some the funny things we’ve done,” said Pederson.
She plans to attend Michigan’s Hillsdale College.
Sarah Guske lost her grandmother this year and discovered the words, “carpe diem.” The funeral was a celebration of life rather than a focus on death.
“It made me realize how much one can contribute through their life,” said Guske, 16.
She may like to contribute as a professor. She plans to attend Whitworth College and study electrical engineering.
Guske likes to travel, read classical literature and listen to music.
Deer Park High School
Being tops in the class is vindication for Alisha Neighbors.
“I knew if I could do this, I could do anything,” said Neighbors.
Neighbors is an award-winning soprano who sings with the school jazz choir.
She plans to attend Whitworth and study pre-medicine. She would like to be a doctor.
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