Each of Clover Park School District’s 528 graduates has a fascinating story to tell about their time in high school and future plans. Two students from each school were chosen by the principal and will be profiled in the district’s community newsletter, Inside Schools.
Each of these students were chosen based on their academic standing, perseverance, involvement and commitment to good citizenship.
Joo Gyeong Kim
Clover Park High School
Clover Park High School senior Joo Gyeong Kim is proud of her time serving as a member of the school’s ASB leadership team. There are two moments in particular that stand out to her that made her senior year a memorable one.
The first is the winter social event the leadership team hosted for the first time this year. It was a fun opportunity for all students to come together and participate in different activities, including sports tournaments, dancing and more, hosted by the school’s various clubs.
“I was so proud as a senior officer that we were able to start this new event and that it turned out really well,” she said. “I hope it becomes an annual event at CPHS so students get to participate every year.”
The second memory is a more personal one that focuses on her growth as a leader. As part of her role in ASB, Joo Gyeong had to read the morning announcements over the intercom every day for two months.
“I still remember how nervous I was on the first day,” she said. “When my two months were over, I was so proud of myself and happy I had the chance to develop my public speaking skills.”
Joo Gyeong will continue her education next year at the University of Washington and plans to major in computer science.
Clover Park High School
Both of Clover Park High School senior Gavin McDonald’s parents have served in the military. His mom is retired from the Army and his dad is currently active duty in the Navy. He said it just made sense for him to join JROTC when he started high school.
What Gavin didn’t expect was how far up the ranks he would ascend. He spent his senior year growing his leadership skills as the group commander of the CPHS Air Force JROTC program. That made him the highest-ranking student cadet in the program.
“I’m just trying to do the best I can and make sure our units run as smooth as possible,” Gavin said. “Initially, I loved the order and discipline JROTC offers, but now I’m loving the opportunities I get from it.”
Gavin’s next big opportunity will take him across the country. He will enroll at St. Mary’s University in Maryland in the fall with nearly his entire four years of tuition paid for thanks to a $64,000 merit scholarship.
He plans to major in computer science with an eye toward a career in cyber security. He said his interest in computer science first sparked in middle school and he took every coding class he could at CPHS to prepare for his future.
Harrison Preparatory School
Harrison Prep senior Jessica Niemi wants to make a difference in her community and the world.
“I grew up as a military child and lived all over the world,” she said. “Being able to give back to my country is very important to me.”
She fostered her desire to help others while serving as key club president at Harrison Prep. The role gave her an opportunity to volunteer with the Lakewood Community Garden and help classmates who don’t have the resources at home they need to be successful.
When she began her tenure as president, the club itself needed someone to step up and help build for the future. She rolled up her sleeves and worked with the club advisor to implement and execute a plan to increase membership and design what the future of the club would look like.
Jessica is also a four-year member of the school’s knowledge bowl team and earned a 4.0 cumulative GPA during her time at Harrison Prep. In addition to being focused on her studies, Jessica believes in showing good character at every opportunity.
“I think it’s important to be a good role model,” she said. “You can always push yourself to be the best person you can be.”
Jessica will attend Columbia University this fall. She plans to major in either political science or financial economics and wants to work in embassies around the world.
Harrison Preparatory School
Harrison Prep senior Valentino Gomez-Bernal believes in the idea that you never stop learning and that every day gives you the opportunity to gain new knowledge.
That mindset helped fuel his quest to earn an International Baccalaureate diploma and kept him focused on his school work.
Outside of the classroom, Valentino enjoyed participating in clubs that gave him opportunities to help others and share his culture. He was a member of the school’s International Club, Spanish Honor Society and National Honor Society and served as treasurer of the key club.
“My parents always taught me to do the right thing and help others when I can,” he said.
Valentino is interested in a career in medicine but doesn’t want to be a doctor. He will be attending the University of Washington-Tacoma next year with the intention of earning a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences. He wants to design prosthetics and robotic arms.
“I’ve always enjoyed math and science,” he said. “I am intrigued by the idea of helping other people while aspiring to do what I like best.”
Mai Li Stults
Lakes High School
Lakes High School senior Mai Li Stults believes the sky is the limit for her future. Literally. She will be entering the Air Force Academy in the fall with the intention of becoming a commissioned officer and a pilot.
“I am looking forward to the camaraderie and extreme challenge the Academy promises,” she said. “Every day will be different and an adventure.”
During her time at Lakes, Mai Li kept her extracurricular schedule filled. She played soccer, tennis and bowling, served as a mentor, competed in DECA and served as treasurer for the school’s National Honor Society.
She is particularly proud of her time on the Lakes bowling team. Mai Li and her teammates earned third place in the 3A state tournament this year. Her busy schedule meant she always had something to do, and it also gave her the opportunity to work on her leadership skills.
“I chose to be involved in both DECA and mentoring to help push me out of my comfort zone,” she said. “It helped me grow in my leadership capacity and develop my voice so that I am prepared to lead in these challenging times.”
Brian Noel Villarreal
Lakes High School
Lakes High School senior Brian Noel Villarreal hopes to win a Nobel Prize in medicine some day in the future. He wants to reform the health care system in the United States by making it more affordable for everyone, especially people of color and low-income communities.
Brian doesn’t do things half way. When he dreams, he dreams big. When he gets involved, he really gets involved.
During his time at Lakes, Brian signed up for every activity he could to make sure he fully lived the high school experience. He was a member of ASB, the dance, tennis and track teams, first-generation club, National Honor Society and band.
Of all those activities, the moment that stands out most to him is winning the 3A hip hop state championship as a member of the dance team last year.
“From pretending to bobsled in the hotel tubs, using scary face masks and playing hide and seek, the whole experience was just a lot of fun and I made countless memories,” he said.
Brian will attend Columbia University next year and plans to major in biochemistry before going to medical school. He values personal growth and looks forward to a future of lifelong learning.
“There is so much for me to learn about myself, other people and the world around me,” he said. “Growth has not always been easy, but I am proud of the person I have become after learning the lessons encased between the obstacles I faced.”
Open Doors student Tatiana Macias had times where she didn’t think she would earn her high school diploma. Whether it was supporting two children or helping her mom fight cancer, life often got in the way of her school work since joining Open Doors in 2017.
But Tatiana is excited to finally hold that diploma in her hands as a member of the Open Doors class of 2020.
“It can be really hard to achieve your goals sometimes,” she said. “But when you really want something, you have to work hard and go for it.”
Open Doors offered her the perfect structure to complete her high school education. Being able to work from home was something she needed and she would often be up at one or two in the morning finishing assignments because her kids were asleep and that’s when she had some quiet time.
“With two kids, I just had to push through it,” she said. “There are going to be difficulties in life all the time, but you have to find that five, 10 minutes at a time to get your work done.”
Tatiana’s next step will be applying for colleges and working toward a new career. She is interested in being a counselor so she can help people like her get through tough situations or working in marine biology.
Open Doors student Kalil Bolar believes in the power of collaboration. He always enjoys the opportunities where he gets to work with his fellow students.
“I love working with other people and hearing what’s on their minds,” he said. “That’s how you get smart, by being willing to listen and learn from others.”
After struggling in the traditional high school environment, Kalil started at Open Doors near the beginning of his junior year. The community he found in the program helped kick him into gear and put him back on track to graduate.
“I had so much going on around me,” he said. “But at Open Doors they really treat you like family. The teachers and staff members are always there to talk when you need them.”
Now that he has earned his diploma, Kalil will begin an apprenticeship to prepare for a job working for Seattle City Light as a lineworker, installing and maintaining power lines around the city. He is looking forward to being able to buy his own car and move out on his own.
“I’m an example of why you shouldn’t give up,” he said. “I always thought school was hard, but when I finally put my mind to it, I realized I could do it and was just making it harder for myself.”