NASELLE/GRAYS RIVER VALLEY — There is no doubt the covid-19 pandemic impacted the Naselle-Grays River Valley High School class of 2020.

Educational opportunities were moved to online learning, interactions via Zoom and emails. They missed out on the traditional “Senior Sneak,” a favorite of all graduating classes. Spring sports were cancelled. Instead of graduating, witnessed by family, friends and members of the community crowded into the gymnasium, they will be the first NGRV senior class to have a virtual graduation ceremony.

But if that little zoonotic virus thinks it has beaten down this group of seniors, it had better think again. When you think of these young men and women, think perseverance, persistence and determination. In their view, when faced with a hurdle, you just step higher and these are high steppers indeed. While it’s not possible to cover the attributes of each of the 25 members of the class of 2020 (emphasis on Class), here are some examples:

Valedictorian

First, there’s the 2020 class valedictorian Ethan Lindstrom. Not only did Lindstrom maintain a near perfect 3.979 grade point average over his high school years, he was a first team All-State athlete in three sports. In fact, he may very well be the first NGRVSD athlete to accomplish that feat. Clearly the captain of his fate, he captained the football team, the baseball team, the basketball team and his Knowledge Bowl team. In his junior year, he was voted the League MVP in both football and baseball and followed that up with being voted League MVP in basketball during his senior year. There is even a rumor he is a pretty good steelhead fisherman as well. In the words of Athletic Director Brian Macy, “Ethan is just a great all-around athlete, who worked his tail off.” Although his senior year baseball season was cancelled due to the pandemic, Lindstrom will be playing baseball at Linn Benton Community College in Oregon before transferring to a four-year college to major in either business or education.

Salutatorian

Abigail Moten, the 2020 class salutatorian, is another high achiever. Interim K-12 Principal and school counselor Justin Laine notes, “Abbie was recently admitted to Clatsop’s nursing program, the number one rated nursing program in Oregon. She is the youngest student ever to be admitted to that program. While she didn’t complete her transfer degree, there was no reason for her to do that. She used that time and energy to complete the prerequisites for the nursing program. She had to really fight hard and push early on for the advisors at Clatsop to even support her pursuing that. Of course, by the end, she had won them over and demonstrated she was every bit as ready as anybody else. Abbie has completed college credits through three different institutions, Clatsop, Spokane Falls Community College, and now Eastern Washington University. She did that to make sure she gets the classes she needs to strengthen her nursing application for admission to OHSU. She’s definitely somebody who knows what she wants and relentlessly pursued that.” Math teacher Nathan Bruce recalled, “She would always push me as a teacher to explain content thoroughly in order to get the ‘why’ behind a subject and that’s a rare treat as a teacher to have a student that actually will pipe up in class and want to dig a little bit into what makes things work in your subject area. I enjoyed having her in my class.”

Service oriented

Laine notes, “This is a very, very service-oriented group of young men and women. Members of the 2020 senior class have performed extensive community service work. Zanith Wulf has logged around 1,000 hours of community service for the local community as well as for Joint Base Lewis/McCord. Monte Schell has organized several American Red Cross blood drives. With some help, but he’s done a lot of that on his own. In recognition of their efforts, Zanith and Monte each received the American Legion Citizenship award.”

Both Laine and Bruce were quick to note the impressive work ethic of Cody Condon. Condon has worked extensively both after school and on weekends. Laine commented, “Cody is a young man that if anybody in the community contacted me and asked if I knew a student that could come and do some work for them Cody is often the first to volunteer. I always know that he will do a great job. He has a really strong work ethic.”

Athletics

Teacher and girls’ basketball coach Greg Nelson commented on Jaclyn Steenerson saying, “Jackie was one of the most coachable and hard-working athletes I have had the opportunity to coach. She entered as a freshman with a bunch of raw talent but needed to develop her fundamental basketball skills. At that point, I’m not sure that she even really liked basketball and she would become frustrated and wasn’t feeling successful by her standards. As many know, when teaching a new skill and changing the way an athlete already does things, it can be very frustrating for the athlete. And honestly, most athletes try it a few times, expect immediate success, and then quit trying it the new way. This is where Jackie was unique. Although frustrated at times, she kept working and working and working on each skill she was taught. In a few instances, after three years of hard work, some results were not actually seen until this year. As a credit to her persistence and perseverance, this year she was the co-MVP of the Columbia Valley League.

On the subject of athletics, Laine noted, “This group of seniors, in conjunction with other classes has accomplished a lot. So, I would want to be clear that it’s not solely these seniors, although it’s been with the leadership of these seniors that they have accomplished what they’ve accomplished. They made multiple trips to the volleyball and football state tournaments and that culminated this year with second place in football against that powerhouse Odessa. Our teams went to basketball state this year and, of course, the boys took third place and they were really just an eyelash away, one play away on either end of the court, from playing for a championship. They showed in that semi-final game that they were at least the second-best team. I know the boys were excited and poised and ready to compete for a state title in baseball this year. The fast pitch team has done well. There are a couple of girls from this group that helped to resurrect our cheerleading program. Multiple state track competitors and one district championship. So, you look at their athletic accomplishments. This group has achieved a ton in the athletic arena and that makes their academic achievements all the more impressive.”

In the arena of “mental athletics,” team “Monte and the Pythons” qualified and competed in three consecutive State Knowledge Bowl Tournaments.

Overcoming obstacles

Without singling out particular students, it should be noted that multiple students of the 2020 class have had to deal with the loss or chronic illness of immediate family members. They’ve known pain and sadness that might have dragged weaker individuals down, but instead, they exhibited the fortitude and perseverance to pull themselves up and succeed, becoming all the stronger for it.

NGRVSD Superintendent Lisa Nelson added, “I couldn’t have said it any better than Justin. The first descriptive words that came to my mind were unique and perseverance. They are definitely an eclectic mix of individuals with very different interests and personalities. They have had to struggle through many things that some students never will. I know the school year ended rather anticlimactic for them, but I have no doubt this class will continue to persevere for the rest of this year and in their lives in general.”

Half-million

In recognition for their academic and athletic achievements, the 2020 seniors will be awarded, and are expected to use, more than $500,000 in scholarships. That includes some $38,000 in local scholarships.

For those who are seniors of a different sort and worry about the future of this great nation, take comfort in knowing that from this class will come responsible medical professionals, engineers, teachers, businessmen and women, musicians, commercial fishermen and members of various needed trades in the construction and mechanical industries. Pandemic be damned. These young men and women are moving forward despite its interference and we will all be the better as a result.

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