The Ritzville Adams County Journal - Eastern Adams County's Only Independent Voice Since 1887

By Steve Salins

Washtucna grad nets over $150,000 in scholarships


Journal photo by Steve Salins

Valedictorian Savannah Perez delivers her address during the Washtucna High School graduation ceremony on June 1. Perez earned over $150,000 in scholarships and will be attending Whitworth University in the fall, where she plans to study computer science and art.

Savannah Evelyn Perez, valedictorian of the 2019 graduating class from Washtucna High School, commented that the graduation ceremony was the smallest any audience members will ever attend.

And so it was; Perez was the only senior to walk the aisle of the Washtucna gym in step with a piano version of Pomp and Circumstance. (The other senior graduate chose to attend a ceremony elsewhere.) Though the rural school is small, the respect, affection and appreciation for Perez dominated the atmosphere created by both graduation speakers as well as by principal Vance Wing's remarks during the course of the ceremony.

Principal Wing opened the program with the announcement of awards and scholarships earned by Perez. He mentioned an Outstanding Effort award from within the school, a Citizenship Award, and a National Physical Fitness Award. Perez had transferred for her three high school years into Washtucna High School (60 students) from a school of 2,000 students. The theme which emerged throughout the ceremony, as well from Perez herself, was her personal growth within the atmosphere of her new school that allowed her to overcome a natural reserved shyness and quiet to grow into a woman characterized by leadership and confidence.

"Impressive" is the description for the number and value of the scholarships earned by Perez. From the Daughters of the American Revolution came $100. A Whitworth University Scholarship will bring her $22,000 annually. An annual grant from Whitworth adds another $5,000 each year. A Visit Scholarship adds $1,000; a scholarship from the Washtucna Alumni brings another $1,000; and a Washtucna-Benge Scholarship contributes $5,000 to her college expenses. Finally, a College Bound Scholarship contributes approximately $9,500 each year.

The total value of these scholarships exceeds $154,000. Perez intends to study computer science and art at Whitworth, leading to a career as a software engineer.

Two speakers took the podium at the ceremony. Perez introduced English teacher Staci Gloyn as a favorite and a friend. Gloyn set her comments around a comparison of the mythical Phoenix to Perez's rising from the nest of a previous school to become a woman of sophistication and charm, from whom she (the teacher) has learned patience, kindness, and how to rise above difficult situations.

Gloyn reminded her audience that Perez created the town logo, a mural on Main Street, chalkboard drawings and window paintings. She disclosed that Perez got her name from a song: "Savannah's Smile" and described her student as a caretaker, non-judgmental, an old soul, friendly and forgiving.

History teacher Michael Dorman followed with his gratitude for the impact Savannah has had on his life. He went on to describe ten "hopes" for his student as she moves on with her life:

-Hope she will never make promises if not going to be commitments;

-Hope she will always accept accountability for her choices;

-Hope she will not only hear others, but listen to them as well;

-Hope she will appreciate her abilities and work toward her potentialities;

-Hope she will work through her problems and not around them;

-Hope she will always be compassionate and sensitive to others;

-Hope she will work hard to find more time and never be "too busy;"

-Hope she will know in her heart what she stands for;

-Hope he won't give her detention when she returns to finish her course work;

-Hope she knows how difficult it is for him to see her go.

He also shared three pieces of advice given at his graduation by his mother, his father and a pastor, plus one that comes from his heart. His mom said, "stay optimistic." His dad said, "stay tough." The pastor said, "seek the truth." And Dorman said, "remember the word 'discernment'-to judge well."

Perez's valedictorian speech built on the same themes laid by comments made in the program leading to her talk. Addressing the size of her graduating class, she commented, "it may seem a little insignificant that I am valedictorian out of only two students, but I have worked hard to earn this title and I am honored to have it." Later, as Principal Wing spoke, he challenged her "insignificant" remark by saying that she is very significant in how she earned her honor through her grades and activities.

Perez went on to express her gratitude for her teachers, the school and her parents for "helping her form as a person-breaking out of the very strong shell I had come in." To the future graduates, she left a quote by Dr. Seuss: "Be what you are, and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."

She reminded that life is full of accomplishments and failures, and it's how one handles failures that determine one's future accomplishments. She concluded by saying she wouldn't be who she is if it wasn't for those who had helped her along the way.

Principal Wing announced that Savannah had been accepted into a summer paid internship at the Pacific Northwest Laboratories in the Tri-Cities. He emphasized what a special honor the internship represented. After the applause died, Wing certified that Savannah met the Washington State criteria for graduation from high school, and Washtucna School Board president Steve Crouse presented Perez with her diploma.


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