Senior Spotlight - Ilwaco’s Rissa Gerke an elite state scholar

<p>Clarissa (Rissa) R. Gerke of Nahcotta was one of 147 in the state to be honored by the Washington Scholars program that was enacted by the Legislature in 1981. The Ilwaco High School senior's award came in the field of biomechanical engineering.</p>

ILWACO — Clarissa (Rissa) R. Gerke of Nahcotta is one of 147 high school seniors statewide to be honored by the Washington Scholars program that was enacted by the Legislature in 1981. Her award is in the field of biomechanical engineering.

Gerke is the first Ocean Beach School District student to win the award.

The 1981 Legislature enacted the Washington Scholars program to honor the accomplishments of three high school seniors from each of the state’s 49 legislative districts. The Higher Education Coordinating Board administers the program, in cooperation with the Washington Association of Secondary School Principals.

Gerke plans to attend Central Washington University this fall. Until recently, being named one of the state’s top seniors would have brought her a scholarship of at least $6,345. Students attending pricier Washington State University and University of Washington would have received almost $9,000 had the state not cut funding for the project to help balance the budget.

The Washington Scholars award represents the highest academic honor conferred to high school students graduating in the state.

High school principals nominate the top 1 percent of their graduating senior classes for Washington Scholars consideration on the basis of academic achievement, leadership, and community service. A 36-member selection committee, comprised of representatives from public and private high schools, state educational agencies, and public and private four-year colleges and universities then winnows the list.

The three highest-scoring candidates in each legislative district are recognized as Washington Scholars and the fourth-ranked candidate is designated the Washington Scholar Alternate. The program provides important recognition for some of the state’s most exemplary high school students even when budgetary constraints preclude financial awards.

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