Editor’s Note: The Nisqually Valley News will highlight the top 10 Yelm graduates in an upcoming edition. The newspaper is also working on a special section to honor all local graduates in June.
A pilot, a state-champion wrestler, an equestrian shower, a soon-to-be collegiate soccer player and a class leader are just some of the roles that this year’s Rainier High School top five academic students fill, in addition to being devoted to their school work and community.
But more than anything, this year’s top five — as well as the 47 other students in the graduating class — have shown resilience and dedication when confronted with adversity.
The most notable challenge this year came in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the closure of schools in March and the shuttering of businesses statewide.
Now, as seniors begin counting down the final days of their high school careers, many students are reminiscing over printed worksheets and Zoom video conference calls on the events that were cut short.
But, as the old saying goes, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
These students all have bright futures ahead, and they’ve shown there’s little doubt they’ll achieve great things.
Here are Rainier High School’s top five academic achievers, as chosen by the school’s staff.
Brody Klein, known to his classmates and community as a multi-sport athlete who tested the limits of what’s possible throughout his time at RHS, will serve as this year’s co-valedictorian.
A state champion pole vaulter and wrestler, Klein said his favorite memory while at RHS was winning the 2020 WIAA 2B championship in the 160-pound bracket.
Klein said his favorite memory in the classroom was learning about early colonization and the people who built America. Narrowing down his favorite teacher proved to be a difficult task.
“Honestly can say I love all of my teachers for different reasons,” Klein wrote. “I do not have a true favorite, but the most memorable to me would be Rob Henry, Ashley Caldwell and Karissa Beckman. Sociology, AP Literature and Composition, and AP Calculus respectively.”
After high school, Klein plans on moving back to Iowa with his family. He plans on attending Central College in Pella to study physical therapy and exercise science. While there, Klein said he plans on playing football and competing in track and field events.
In five years, Klein said he sees himself being employed at a local gym while finishing up his post-graduate studies.
Some of Klein’s hobbies include fishing, biking, lifting weights, reading, hiking and camping.
Erika DeMint, this year’s ASB vice president and president of the Rainier High School’s chapter of the National Honor Society, will also serve as this year’s co-valedictorian.
A multi-sport athlete who has participated in varsity track and field the last three years and went to the state track tournament, DeMint plans on attending Seattle University in the fall on a three-year Army ROTC scholarship and plans on studying sport and exercise science.
New to wrestling this last season, DeMint never strayed from a challenge.
“My favorite memory from Rainier High School is the entire wrestling season,” she wrote. “It was probably the best decision I have ever made … Not only was it a lot of fun but it was really transformative, and I learned a lot about myself.”
She didn’t know much going into the sport and felt pretty scared, but she overcame that obstacle and earned a varsity letter. She also learned lessons of mental toughness and resilience from coach Chris Holterman, she said.
Her favorite memory in the classroom was having long discussions in English class about real-world topics. Her favorite teacher was Caldwell, who taught her honors English as well as a number of advanced placement classes.
“It’s because she is the most caring and thoughtful teacher I have ever had,” DeMint wrote. “She can be tough sometimes but she is always there to talk. Also, she doesn’t give busy work, all of her assignments had a purpose and were well thought out which was very appreciated.”
DeMint said she recently took up playing the ukulele and plans on mastering the instrument throughout the remainder of the stay home order and summer. During her free time, DeMint likes to longboard with her friends, work out and watch television and movies.
The thing she’ll miss most about high school is the close relationships she’s developed with her teachers and fellow students. On the coronavirus, she plans on telling her grandkids about how it was “so important to be unified as an entire world to fight a common enemy and how an entirely new generation of heroes was created in essential workers.”
Alexa Dunn, the high-flying helicopter pilot, plans on attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona this fall to study aeronautical science and finish out her pilot’s license.
A Running Start student of two years, Dunn worked part time throughout high school as a tutor at South Puget Sound Community College. Her hobbies include flying helicopters, reading, writing and hiking.
Dunn said she describes herself as motivated and determined.
“Ever since I was 9 years old, I knew that I was going to be a helicopter pilot — it was just a matter of when,” she wrote. “Now, almost nine years later, I am a helicopter pilot. Every second of my education in high school, even when I wanted to throw in the towel and let my grades drop, was towards the end goal of getting into Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and getting scholarships to help fund my flying.”
In five years, Dunn hopes to be freshly graduated from Embry and working in the field as a helicopter pilot. Dunn said she could see herself being a pilot instructor or flying in the tourism industry.
Her favorite teacher at RHS was Caldwell, who taught English.
“She helped foster a love of critical analysis that I took wholeheartedly into my literary analysis class at SPSCC, which was undoubtedly one of the best classes I’d ever taken, and it was because of her encouragement of my ideas that I got there,” Dunn said.
Emily Patton, a multi-sport athlete who also shows Arabian horses outside of the walls of RHS, plans on attending Centralia Community College in pursuit of a two-year associate’s degree before transferring. In five years, she hopes to have her bachelor’s degree and have built the foundation of her future.
Over the last four years, Patton said her favorite memory was last year’s prom dance, where she and her friends had a “blast tearing up the dance floor.”
Her favorite memory from the classroom will be discussions in classes with Caldwell, with whom she took four-years worth of honors and advanced placement English classes.
In her spare time, Patton likes to garden and read.
The thing she is going to miss most about high school is seeing her friends every day. Throughout her time in high school, Patton ran cross country and track and was in the weightlifting and Spanish clubs.
Patton describes herself as hard-working and motivated. Regarding the coronavirus pandemic, Patton said “it has taught me how fast things can change, and because of how fast they can change not to take anything for granted.”
Sophie Beadle, a quick-witted soccer star who helped Rainier basketball work its way back to the district tournament this year, plans on attending Seattle Pacific University in the fall to play soccer and pursue a career in journalism.
In five years, she sees herself working her way out into the world, interviewing collegiate and professional athletes as a sports reporter.
Her favorite memory at RHS was placing in the District 4 2B cross country tournament hosted at Onalaska her junior year, clinching an eighth-place finish.
During her tenure, Beadle also competed in track and field, FFA, FBLA, was the sergeant at arms for ASB, was a state qualifier in the knowledge bowl, was the Spanish Club’s vice president, and served as both the secretary and vice president of the National Honor Society.
The thing she’s going to miss most about high school is the supportive community, she said. Outside of the classroom, she enjoys surfing, creating outfits and listening to music.
The ongoing health crisis has taught her that each day you need to “light your own fire and take care of things yourself.”