OCEAN PARK - Ilwaco High School senior Stephen Shaw is one of about 75 excited Peninsula students who make up the graduating class of 2009.
The son of Udell and Cathy Shaw, Stephen is a longtime resident of the Peninsula and was inducted into the National Honor Society.
A member of the first senior class to graduate from the new high school, Stephen likes weights class, but also really enjoys art class with Kelli Schimelpfenig.
A student of hers since his sophomore year, Schimelpfenig remembers him as being "quiet and mousy" in the beginning. Looking back, Stephen says being openly gay was a challenge throughout his high school years.
But when a drawing assignment required him to sketch a friend's portrait, Stephen's talents were revealed and she insisted he sign up for the advanced art class - even though he hadn't taken a beginning art class yet.
After becoming more involved in art, Schimelpfenig says Stephen blossomed and developed his true character.
Gaining inspiration from local artists on the coast, he now enjoys painting, sculpting and drawing. Some of his art can be viewed at the IHS student art show May 15 through June 2 at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum.
"I like doing lots of different art - it's pretty much a wide range," he explains.
For his senior project, Stephen painted a layered mural using acrylic and glow-in-the-dark paints. The painting features the IHS mascot, Oscar the Fisherman, attempting to reel in a fish. Flip off the lights, and the scene changes to Oscar grabbing ahold of the fish and putting it in its place.
His advice to the class of 2010 is, "Pick something you want to do for your senior project, it makes a difference in the project and you'll feel better once you're done with it."
When high school is through, Stephen says he'll miss his friends and "'Mrs. Schimmy' - she's a real fun teacher."
After graduation, Stephen plans to find a job and attend Oregon College of Art and Craft in Portland, where he hopes to study painting and sculpting.
"He's a neat guy and has incredible talent," Schimelpfenig praises. "Not only can he draw well but he has an amazing imagination - an imagination that's strange, bizarre and charming all at the same time. He surprises me at every turn. He's getting more comfortable with himself and his creativity, and I look forward to seeing what he'll do in art school ... He's quite a sculptor and I'm looking forward to him exploring that."