Alec Willard-Herr

This year’s valedictorians are Otso Barron, Paige Martin, and David Jensen, and the salutatorians are Nathan Henry, Sam Luft, Ryan Rosumny, and Ben Scott-Lewis.

La Salle’s 2021 Valedictorians and Salutatorians: Seven Seniors Reflect on High School and Look to the Future

June 2, 2021

As an academic year unlike any of its predecessors draws to a close, seven La Salle students have been named valedictorians and salutatorians for the Class of 2021. 

Despite the abnormality of this school year, these honors have been awarded for this year’s graduating class just like they have in previous years — in evaluating a group of students with the highest GPAs in the class, administrators and Academic Council members review transcripts and individual situations to determine the recipients of the entirely academic-based awards.

Otso Barron, David Jensen, and Paige Martin have been named valedictorians for the Class of 2021, while Nathan Henry, Sam Luft, Ryan Rosumny, and Ben Scott-Lewis have been named salutatorians.

Here’s a look into the high school journeys of each of the valedictorians and salutatorians of the Class of 2021 — how they got to where they are today, their reflections on different aspects of high school, and their plans for life after La Salle.


Alec Willard-Herr

Despite Barron’s academic success at La Salle, he did not have any specific goals going into high school. “I was just trying to survive, week by week at La Salle,” he said.

Valedictorian Otso Barron

After a year filled with Zoom meetings, online workloads, and digital extracurriculars, most people are ready to shun their screens and delete Zoom from their computers forever.

But for valedictorian Otso Barron, the transition to a completely digital world during the beginning of the pandemic led to a different understanding and appreciation.

As companies, schools, and services all around the world replaced in-person interactions with digital meetings and online methods of communication last March, Barron sat at home, observing the increasing role of technology in the world as he completed computer science assignments and worked to program his own games and websites. 

“Seeing everything change during the pandemic showed how much there still is to go,” Barron said. “If only in a year’s time, we can change everything to be online, we can change so much. I think there’s definitely so much potential for making innovative things that can help people.”

A year after the pandemic started, Barron is now planning to bring his skills from two years of computer science classes at La Salle to Oregon State University, where he hopes to make a positive impact on humanity through innovations in technology. 

Barron currently spends an average of an hour each day working on computer science projects, such as websites or digital games. Although attempts to replicate games like Pac-Man marked the beginning of Barron’s exploration of computer science back in middle school, he still finds fulfillment in coding online games, sometimes playing them with his friends after their completion. 

“For some reason, I keep going back to games,” he said. “It’s very satisfying to do something and be able to play it.”

When Barron is not in front of his computer monitors programming online card games or designing gaming websites, he divides the remainder of his time between soccer, piano, and other schoolwork. 

Barron has played club soccer and completed three years of soccer with La Salle, noting that he has made most of his friends through the program. He also practices piano regularly, with the same piano teacher he has had for around ten years now. 

Recently, an organization that donates pianos gifted Barron’s family a baby grand piano that “we got to bring into our home,” he said. “It definitely motivated me to play more.”

As Barron navigated a rigorous course load throughout high school, including multiple AP classes and advanced math courses, he said it was activities like soccer, computer science, and piano that helped him stay focused. 

“I think they were something to look forward to every day,” Barron said. “You have this work on the side, but then you can focus on soccer or computer science as that’s what’s actually driving you. It kind of motivated me.”

Despite Barron’s academic success at La Salle, he did not have any specific goals going into high school. “I was just trying to survive, week by week at La Salle,” he said. 

Alongside his positive experience taking Advanced Topics in Computer Science at La Salle, Barron’s high school education is characterized by the close relationships he developed with teachers, and the range of courses offered at La Salle. 

“Oh my gosh, the teachers here are crazy amazing,” he said. “We hit the jackpot.”

Barron enjoyed having Mr. Larry Swanson as a math teacher, as “he doesn’t really care if his students are good or bad at math — he’s still going to be really nice to them,” he said.

English educator Mr. Paul Dreisbach is also a favorite teacher of Barron’s. Although Barron typically prioritized STEM classes like math and computer science at La Salle, he appreciated the “really deep thinking” involved in his AP English courses. 

“I think they’re completely different types of classes,” Barron said, referring to the English and STEM classes he has taken. 

Barron said he has always appreciated this difference, enjoying the constant critical thinking and evaluation involved in English, and feeling rewarded by grasping math topics quickly in class. For English classes, “you go in, and there’s always an essay to work on or be thinking about,” he said. “At least for me, math classes and STEM classes, it’s more like, you kind of get the work done inside of class, and it’s less of a load on your brain.”

When classes — in English or STEM subjects — got difficult for Barron, he was grateful for the opportunity to turn to computer science, soccer, or piano as an outlet. As advice for other students, Barron suggested finding a hobby or activity that acts as a release.

“Definitely find something you like to do,” he said. “I was really glad that they had the advanced topics computer science course… I guess I was really lucky to have started in middle school and to have liked programming and computer science and coding.”

Barron also attributes his academic accomplishments to his decision to take advanced courses early in high school. “If you do courses in high school that are going to help you in college,” Barron said, these actions will “compound, like a snowball rolling,” and ultimately make you better prepared for the future.

Next year, when Barron will start at Oregon State University, he is considering “trying to work on some projects, or trying to get an internship somewhere with a tech company.”

“I mean of course, in college, there are probably a million things, opportunities to have fun,” he said. “Especially Oregon State, there’s a lot of stuff you can do.”

In the meantime, Barron will continue expanding his computer science knowledge each day, finishing long-term projects and returning to his early endeavors of creating games. “I look forward to it every day,” he said. 


Alec Willard-Herr

“Regardless of what other people are expecting, I like to do what I think is good work,” valedictorian David Jensen said.

Valedictorian David Jensen

For David Jensen, becoming valedictorian was not a goal heading into high school.

“I wasn’t consciously thinking, ‘This is why I’m… actually putting in work,’” he said. “Coming in, I was not like ‘This is what I want to do,’ so much as take classes and see what happens.”

During his four years at La Salle, some of his favorite classes have been AP Physics, which he took sophomore year, and his junior and senior year English classes. AP Physics, he said, was very hands-on. “Because that class is so physical, the structure of it really capitalized on that, so it was really fun,” he said. “We get a problem and a group of like three of us would just kind of go and try to figure it out, and you can see things happening.”

Part of what made those classes enjoyable was the combination of the content and the social aspects of the classroom. “Those classes had a good balance of stuff that I was interested in, and that the whole class was interested in, and so people were involved and engaged,” he said. “But also, it’s just the people that were in it were just fun… and same with the teachers.”

Jensen was able to take higher level classes, and La Salle was “very accommodating,” he said. “I think that was definitely helpful, just having people that are like, ‘Hey, if you want to try that, go ahead and take physics your sophomore year as your elective.’”

For example, he and some classmates took a combined math course of Calculus BC and Multivariable Calculus his junior year, allowing him to take a linear algebra course online this year through Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“When I add it up, I’ve taken probably five years of math and six years of science,” he said. 

For his linear algebra course, Mr. Larry Swanson teaches the class, but Jensen said that between the students and Mr. Swanson, “we all don’t understand it together… Mr. Swanson kind of guides us, but we’re all trying to figure it out together,” he said.

Jensen has had Mr. Swanson as a teacher in math classes for two and a half years, and said that “he’s just awesome.”

“Some people are going to enjoy math, and they’re going to be good at it, other people are going to struggle with math more,” he said. “That is irrelevant to Mr. Swanson. He’s going to teach everybody the same way and make the class just as fun or supportive. He is really good at separating your ability in math and just you as a person.” 

“I think that is really important and valuable for creating a classroom,” he continued. “There’s a reason why people show up in his classroom and hang out.”

Jensen said that Mr. Swanson’s approach to teaching is also something that he appreciates, and that “he’s just very genuine in everything he does.” In an instance of cheating in a class, for example, Mr. Swanson’s attitude wasn’t angry — “he was sad because the fact that someone was cheating made him feel that he wasn’t teaching them well enough,” he said. 

Part of Mr. Swanson’s teaching philosophy, Jensen said, involves considering how he might increase his support for students, rather than place blame — and that is valuable to him as a student. 

Throughout school, Jensen said he didn’t necessarily draw motivation from a specific source, but rather found himself creating his own standards to reach. “I think I’m definitely pretty competitive in just everything,” he said. “Regardless of what other people are expecting, I like to do what I think is good work, for most things… I want to do what I know as good work, not what other people expect.”

In the age of digital learning, he said that it has been easier at times to put less effort into online classes, and that the mindset where “if you don’t have to, you’re not going to,” can be easy to get caught up in. 

Jensen related poet William Stafford’s thoughts on writer’s block to the situations where it can be tempting to put in less effort. 

“He said, when you have [writer’s block], just lower your standards and keep writing,” Jensen said. “And I think you can kind of… lower your standards and keep whatever it is. Just keep on doing it, even if you’re not up to your standards at that point. It’s important that you’re still doing it.”

At La Salle, Jensen was on the soccer and swim teams for three years, and played baseball for all four years. Out of the three sports he played, he said baseball is his favorite, though all of his teams allowed him to broaden his social circle and experience an environment different from the one he experienced in the classroom.

“Having those different circles… is really cool because they’re people you wouldn’t know if you were just playing baseball,” Jensen said. “It just kind of gives you a better perspective and gives you different contexts in which you can get to know people.”

Jensen said the environment that made baseball so enjoyable is also attributed to his coaches.

“The environment that the coaches, the baseball coaches, create, it’s just awesome,” he said. “Just showing up to practice everyday, it’s just fun, regardless of what we’re doing.”

For Jensen, playing sports created an outlet to give himself a break from school or other stressors — especially during the period of digital learning. “During online school, people are like, ‘I do school all day, and then I go straight to homework and that just sucks.’ And I think it does suck, because… you don’t have a break,” he said. “But [if] you’ve got sports after school… it’s a good time to kind of do something physical and reset, and you don’t have to think about whatever is going on.”

Outside of La Salle, Jensen has gained experience with photography and videography, and even uses drones to capture aerial scenes. He said that growing up, remote controls were always of interest for him, and freshman year, he bought his first drone with a camera on it. “It was kind of an impromptu thing,” he said. 

In his free time, he goes out and flies his drone, sometimes with his brother, and this year, he also got a more traditional camera for photo and video. 

Jensen said that he has done some projects for other people, and getting paid to create film or photos can push him to produce better results. “It’s more interesting because it’s a challenge,” he said. “Someone wants you to do something, and you’re trying to do that, so I think that aspect of it is appealing.”

For Jensen, working on things that have a “purpose” makes them more interesting. At the charter school he went to before La Salle, for example, he took Lego robotics materials and created “functional” pieces, like an iPad stand. 

“That’s kind of the same thing with drone and video,” he said. “Just to have it and go out and film stuff spontaneously is a little less interesting to me… So I think that’s where… doing it for someone else as a job or going to a basketball game, there’s a purpose behind what I’m doing, which I think makes it easier because you know what you’re trying to do.”

Between a challenging academic course load, athletics, and other hobbies, Jensen said that it is likely his “teachers taught me more than I realized” about time management. “Throughout high school, I’ve always been playing sports and doing school, and so it seems like that’s just how I do it,” he said. “But I think in college… when I do have that free time, I’ll hopefully be thanking my experience in high school, knowing how to kind of manage myself and give time to do other things besides school.”

Next year, Jensen will be attending Montana State University’s Honors College, where he is considering studying actuarial sciences or mechanical engineering. He said his baseball coach is an actuary, and that it seems like an “interesting” job, where “you’re always kind of learning and getting better.” 

But, Jensen said it is possible that his interests could change. “This is all what I feel like right now,” he said. “Who knows a year from now.”

In reflection on the last four years, he said that it is important to value who you’re doing things with. “You can have a class, regardless of the teacher, and you’re in it with a good group of people, it’s just going to be a fun class, no matter what you’re doing,” he said. 

For students, he said that academic success is not the only thing to be striving for in high school, and that “there’s more important things than getting A’s on assignments” — finding the things that you enjoy, for example, and pursuing them.

Using the things that you are passionate about, he said, can be the motivation to get through the more difficult moments in school. “If you have things you care about, and know what those things are,” Jensen said, “you can use that as motivation.”

“You do the school to be able to go play sports, or go act, or whatever it is,” he said. “So I think to have those things that you do care about makes the things you don’t care about easier to do, just because you’ve got a reason to do it.” 


Valedictorian Paige Martin said she has been influenced by “so many teachers” during her time at La Salle. “They’ve all impacted me in some sort of way to the point where that’s what I’m most grateful for at La Salle, is the fact that I’ve had so many classes and so many teachers who have impacted me so close to heart,” she said.

Valedictorian Paige Martin

On many early mornings during the pandemic, valedictorian Paige Martin would find herself walking through her local park to watch the sunrise. 

After weeks of sitting in front of a bright screen for nine-hour days — learning from monotonous Zoom classes during the school day, participating in altered digital extracurricular activities after, and laboring over college applications through the night — Martin found it necessary to build some balance into her life. 

“COVID was both an evil and a blessing for me,” Martin said.

“Spending all that time working on college apps, plus going on Zoom for four classes a day or three classes a day has been exhausting, I won’t lie,” Martin continued. However, “there was a point, probably around the time second semester started, where I finally realized, I don’t think this has to be my everything,” she said. 

After this realization, “I was able to take this time in COVID to physically take myself away from the computer, make that conscious decision to step away and do something else,” Martin said. “I think that is what saved me.”

Of all the memories and lessons that make up Martin’s high school experience, the ones that stand out most are the experiences that encouraged her to spend more time strolling through the park during sunrise, or blasting music on drives with her friends. Rather than giving her all to every activity and class she was involved in, Martin is grateful to have learned how to create a balance. 

“I’ve just learned not to stress about things too much,” she said, “and not to put too much stock in every single thing that I’m doing.”

Martin’s journey to find this balance has been marked by achievements in both extracurriculars and academics.

Through founding the Hands for Hearts club, participating in volleyball and tennis, and becoming involved in Oregon Health and Science University’s Partnership for Scientific Inquiry program, Martin has derived fulfillment from her education while managing to maintain stability in her life.

During her junior year, Martin created the Hands for Hearts club to instruct students and members of the La Salle community on CPR and other lifesaving techniques. As part of her work for this club, she received La Salle’s Dare to Dream grant, which allowed her to purchase equipment to aid the training sessions. Martin hopes to bring this club to college, as it was “a pretty cool project to work on,” she said.

Martin also participated in three years of volleyball at La Salle, and tried tennis for a few weeks during her junior year, just before the season was canceled due to the pandemic. Although Martin had never played tennis previous to the spring of her junior year, “it was honestly some of the most fun practices I’ve ever been to on any sports team ever,” she said. 

This year, Martin was encouraged by her counselor to participate in the Partnership for Scientific Inquiry Program with OHSU. As part of this program, Martin attended weekly sessions, listening to various types of doctors give presentations, and reading through medical journals with other student participants. 

“It was enlightening to hear from these doctors of all different professions and all different perspectives,” she said. “Everyone was just there to learn and grow together.”

Martin has also taken a variety of advanced courses while at La Salle, and has been able to develop close relationships with many teachers. 

Completing AP Spanish V this year, Martin has had both Ms. Lisa Moran and Ms. Amy Gantt as Spanish teachers at La Salle, and said she has loved every minute of her experience in language classes.

AP Spanish V was enriching for Martin because “it’s a small class,” she said. “It’s a class where everyone can work on more of your conversational skills, and more of your cultural awareness skills, too.”

Martin also took AP Chemistry with Mr. Matt Owen this year. “AP Chemistry has been pretty tough, but it’s also been one of the most rewarding classes,” she said. “Seeing, ‘Hey, I’ve made it to the end of the year, we’re there, we made it,’ has been really, really rewarding in that class.”

Throughout all of the classes Martin has taken, she said that “there’s so many teachers who have impacted me at La Salle.” 

“They’ve all impacted me in some sort of way, to the point where that’s what I’m most grateful for at La Salle, is the fact that I’ve had so many classes and so many teachers who have impacted me so close to heart,” she said.

Taking with her many cherished experiences and lessons from teachers, courses, and extracurriculars, Martin will attend Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon next year as a Stamps Scholar, receiving tuition, fees, and room and board as part of the most prestigious and generous undergraduate scholarship offered by the university.

At UO, Martin plans to major in Biology, minor in Psychology, and possibly also minor in Spanish. 

As a future career goal, Martin has “settled on either being a pediatric dermatologist or a physiatrist, and I’m very much leaning towards being a pediatric dermatologist,” she said. Martin has seen multiple dermatologists for skin conditions she has struggled with. “I think what they’ve done for me, I kind of want to do back for other kids my age who have skin conditions, who have to live with that,” she said.

Martin’s experience with the Partnership for Scientific Inquiry program has also played a role in encouraging her to pursue a career in biology. In addition to listening to medical professionals as part of the program, she also wrote a research paper on genetic diversity in skin conditions for the PSI program.

Martin not only learned the importance of “equitable treatment instead of equal treatment” from writing her research paper, but she was also driven to consider partaking in more biological research projects sometime in the future.

Once in college, Martin expects that she will return to her understanding of the importance of not putting “too much stock” in all of the activities that she participates in, she said.

With plans to complete medical school after graduating college, Martin has many years of education ahead of her. “The next kind of big stuff that I’m predicting at the moment is that it never ends — it feels like it never ends,” she said. “Now I’ve got to start the whole cycle again for the next four years, and then another four years after that in medical school.”

“You have to take in that there is going to be an endgame, there is a purpose to all of this madness,” she said. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I think that’s definitely going to help with my study habits, and then also just trying to gauge when it’s time to take a mental health break, or when it’s time to maybe just push a little harder to get one or two more assignments done.”

In further reflection of her high school experience, Martin emphasized that “it’s not all just about taking the most AP classes and getting the best grades, it’s about actually trying to find value in your academic experience,” she said. “We’re here for a reason, and you might as well put it to good use.”

Martin thinks she could summarize her entire experience at La Salle by saying, “it was challenging, but rewarding in the end. And not because of the grades that you get on a test, but because you can see the fact that this was challenging, and I got through it,” she said. “I think pretty much everyone in the school can say that too, and no matter what classes they’re taking, no matter what their study habits are — we all made it.”


Alec Willard-Herr

Salutatorian Nathan Henry most enjoys math and science classes. “I enjoy pushing myself and pushing my limits,” he said. “But I wanted to find my talents.”

Salutatorian Nathan Henry

Headphones in, head down, phone timer set for 15 minutes — Nathan Henry is ready to study. This is the routine that one of the salutatorians followed to achieve laser focus and maintain his grades throughout high school.  

Another way that Henry said he found success in high school was by finding the parts of school that he has a knack for. “I enjoy pushing myself and pushing my limits,” he said. “But I wanted to find my talents.”

Those limits were particularly pushed in Henry’s math class this year, which came as a surprise to him since math is one of his favorite subjects. “This last math class, Introduction to Linear Algebra, I just kind of hit a wall with it and barely understood things,” he said. “It was fun to blindly really have a hard time understanding something. Now I know my limit.”

Math and science were subjects that Henry discovered a liking for in high school due to the common definiteness in the problems. “The thing about math and physics is that there’s always a set answer,” he said. “It’s always like this is the answer. No debate. And that’s what I really like about it. It’s just a solid answer.”

To keep himself organized and stay on top of his schoolwork, Henry uses a method that some might call old fashioned. “I’ll have posty notes — I’ll just write everything I need to do on them, and then kind of stick them on my wall,” he said. “I can cross them out when I finish, and crossing things out when I’m done is a really satisfying thing to do… that’s motivation.”

Henry will be attending Oregon State University in the fall and will major in engineering, which he feels will leave him with a broad range of career options to explore. 

Oregon State’s engineering program ranks highly among other programs, which is what ultimately led Henry to commit to the school. “They’re known for their engineering program which is one of the main reasons I chose there,” he said.

Henry plans to focus on electrical engineering in particular, and said that he is interested in numerous jobs in that field. “Anywhere from radio communication to robots to software to power supply to renewable energy, there’s so many things you could do with electrical engineering,” he said.

When he is not studying or going to school, Henry enjoys playing table tennis. He has a ping pong table at his house and uses the activity to destress, have fun, and spend time with his family.

Henry hopes to continue this activity in college, and plans to join Oregon States’ club or intramural team. “I think it would be really fun to get better at it, and get really good at table tennis,” he said. “It’s always been a fun thing to do.”

Something else that Henry plans to continue doing in college is running. He ran cross country during all four years of high school, which he said helped him meet the friends he is still close with now.

“I’m not competitively joining a cross country or track team, but just running to stay fit,” Henry said. “I’ll definitely keep doing that.”

As Henry steps into a new chapter of his life, he is looking forward to the prospect of adulting. “Over this past year I’ve gotten pretty independent at doing my own thing and not really relying on other people,” he said.

Henry commutes 35 minutes to La Salle each morning, so he is also looking forward to the easy access he will have to the resources at Oregon State. “There’s freedom and kind of everything is near you,” he said. “Everything’s on campus.”


Alec Willard-Herr

Throughout high school, salutatorian Sam Luft focused on taking the courses he enjoyed rather than the ones that would boost his GPA.

Salutatorian Sam Luft

Salutatorian Sam Luft didn’t start learning English — reading, writing, and speaking conventions — until second grade, when the Spanish international school he attended, Chiquitos School, shut down and he started at Holy Family Catholic School.

At Chiquitos, his school days had been entirely in Spanish, so “I could speak English, but not very well,” Luft said. He suspects that perhaps that’s why, years later, English was the most challenging subject for him throughout high school.

“It’s really difficult for me,” Luft said. “I have to put a lot more effort into English than I do any other class.”

And yet, English is still one of his favorite subjects — along with Spanish, computer science, calculus, physics, and world religions.

“I enjoy school,” he said. “I don’t really think I have a favorite class… I really like courses that I can take, then afterwards, be able to identify somewhere where I can apply them. So, it needs to be something that I can see myself using practically — computer science is a good example of that.”

As for the subjects that he doesn’t enjoy as much, he doesn’t bother with taking advanced classes or stressing over tests and projects. While some students might try to cram their schedules with as many AP and honors courses as possible, aiming for the GPA boost provided by the higher levels of classes, Luft built his course schedule based on what interested and challenged him, not what scored him the most points in the academic system.

“I kind of made a rule for myself that I would take the courses that I actually enjoyed,” he said. “I didn’t take any AP history courses, because I generally don’t like them… I don’t see it as something I will use in the future. It’s definitely something useful, but it’s not something I enjoy doing.”

For Luft, being good at something isn’t a requirement for liking it. That’s why, even though he considers himself “bad at English,” he still enjoys the class — instead of a discouragement, he sees his room for improvement as a “challenge,” he said.

Like English, another thing that Luft enjoys, but said he isn’t the best at, is running. Though he isn’t the fastest, running became a regular part of his schedule during quarantine, and he came to enjoy it — so much so that he joined the cross country team during his senior year, participating in La Salle athletics for the first time.

His interest in running was sustained not so much by a motivation for fitness, Luft said, but by a routine with his dog and by his love for burritos. Though burritos and running aren’t typically associated with one another, they are for Luft — he frequently runs to his favorite Mexican cart, Taco Express, where he gets two burritos — one for himself, and one for his dog, Leo.

“I really sucked at running, but I liked running to my local food cart,” Luft said. So, he thought, “‘Hey, I kind of enjoy this,’” he said. “‘Maybe I could do a sport.’ So it was like my senior year experiment — I did cross country, and I enjoyed that.”

He said that participating in the sport through La Salle helped him improve.

“I definitely got better during cross country,” Luft said. “I was very slow at the beginning, and then I got faster. And then after [the season] ended, I kept on doing the burrito run, and I’m back to where I started.”

In addition to cross country, Luft participated in the robotics club at La Salle during his sophomore, junior, and senior years.

Luft likes robotics club because “it’s being able to collaborate with a bunch of people who like STEM, and then making a final project at the end,” he said. “That’s really fun.”

Luft credits his interest in robotics, as well as his overarching affinity for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), to two aspects of his younger years: Legos, and his middle school math teacher.

Luft said he remembers playing with Legos for hours on end as a child, which he said was the start of his interest in engineering.

“Legos are pretty awesome,” Luft said, recalling his younger years of Lego play with his childhood friend, La Salle senior Xavier Santiago. “Xavier and I would sink at least four hours looking through Lego buckets together, and that’s what we constituted as a playdate.”

Luft no longer plays with Legos, trading them in for more complex hardware in the robotics club and intricate software in his Advanced Topics Computer Science class. Still, he said, “Legos are timeless.”

“I don’t [still play with them], but I love them,” Luft said. “My kids are going to have all of my old Legos. My dad gave me his old Legos, I’m going to give my kids my old Legos — that’s generations worth of Legos.”

Math, meanwhile, was not Luft’s strong suit as a younger student. But his prowess and interest in the subject shifted with the help of his math teacher in middle school, Ms. Mary Thatcher.

“I sucked at math in elementary school,” Luft said. “And in middle school, I would get C’s and D’s on all my tests. And then, I’d go to Ms. Thatcher after school for, like, an hour and a half every single day after school, and she would help me with math. She was so dedicated to me and everyone else.”

By the time he finished middle school and entered high school, Luft had developed a true interest in STEM subjects, thanks largely to the support he received from Ms. Thatcher.

“She encouraged me, even though I wasn’t very good at math,” Luft said. “Her enthusiasm for it sort of affected my own enthusiasm, and I grew to really like it.”

Now, Luft is headed to Oregon State University to major in civil engineering. He looks forward to continuing his education, eventually getting experience with internships and making connections with professors who, like Ms. Thatcher, are enthusiastic about the subjects they teach.

“It’s a good feeling, going to Oregon State next year,” Luft said, “I’m excited to narrow the focus to just STEM, and then narrow that even further to engineering.”

Though Luft will focus more on STEM topics than on liberal arts, he joked, “I probably could use a couple more English classes… I recognize that I need to get better at English.”

Whether or not he ends up expanding his reading and writing studies, Luft will continue to take courses and pursue paths based on what he enjoys rather than what might embellish his academic record — and, he would recommend others do the same.

“Don’t be overly concerned about your grades, and just take the classes that you like,” he said. “And hey, if you do well in them, that’s a bonus. But at the end of the day, if you’re able to pass all those courses, if you’re not overly concerned about where you go to college, I wouldn’t stress about it too much.”


Alec Willard-Herr

Salutatorian Ryan Rosumny feels that high school has shaped the individual he is today in preparing him for life ahead.

Salutatorian Ryan Rosumny

Four years ago, Ryan Rosumny didn’t attend La Salle — he went to Union High School in Camas, Washington where he devoted his time to academics, athletics, and friendships. While he still spends most days focused on these aspects of life, Rosumny has since transferred schools, finding academic success at La Salle and being named salutatorian.

Rosumny had a memorable experience at Union, which he referred to as a “big-time” school, up until the end of his sophomore year when he left.

“Before I transferred, I was having a great time in high school and it was really fun just because I went to school with all of my friends that I grew up with,” he said. “We all live really close to each other, which is kind of what is different about La Salle people — they’re everywhere.”

Rosumny’s initial decision to leave the friends he grew up with and a place where he found solace behind was driven by his dedication to football and his ties to Coach Aaron Hazel, who he grew familiar with through a program called Air One Football Academy.

“I always did this football training with Coach Hazel,” he said. “I loved him as a coach and I wanted to play for him… I didn’t really know anybody here at all, other than him.”

Although Rosumny had set his sights on a rejuvenating high school experience, entering an unfamiliar environment brought on a new set of challenges, which were especially difficult after leaving somewhere he had fit in with ease.

“It was hard — it still is kind of hard just because it’s hard to come into a school where everyone knows each other for a long time and nobody knows you,” he said. “It’s hard to just walk in there and be yourself and make friends.”

Now, Rosumny is satisfied with the experience he had at La Salle due to the fact that he established new connections, made even more friends, and kept in touch with the old ones — all of which he said was a “win-win.” Rosumny also appreciates all that he learned, both in the classroom and on the football field.

“I’m really happy with it still because I ended up making a lot of friends that I would have never met,” he said. “I’m happy with the education, and the athletic experience was great — I wouldn’t have traded that for anything, I had a great time.”

On just the second day after Rosumny made the switch to La Salle, he was already offered a chance to bond with his teammates, as they were traveling to California for their first football game of the year. This is one of many moments from high school that he looks back on fondly.

Rosumny said that, as part of the journey, the team took a charter bus to Northern California, stopped at the University of Oregon along the way to explore the campus, and stayed overnight in a hotel to catch some rest before their game the next day. While they fell short in the game they played, Rosumny felt that this was an enjoyable way to begin his experience at La Salle.

“I knew the football players already, but I wasn’t super close with them yet just because I just got there,” he said. “That really helped me feel more comfortable with everyone and it kind of brought us all together, even though it wasn’t a win… It was [a] really good bonding moment.”

Rosumny also recalled the bittersweet cap to his high school football career when La Salle defeated Ridgeview High School.

“It was all of us seniors’ last high school game and it was just a really dramatic win,” he said. “It was a really close game and we won, and it just felt like a storybook ending.”

After the game, Rosumny said that he and his teammates sat themselves at the top row of the stadium bleachers and allowed the milestone to settle in.

“I’ll remember that forever just because,” he said, “we just embraced the whole moment and it felt really good.”

During his time at La Salle, Rosumny also immersed himself in the basketball program, where he played on the varsity team. 

When Rosumny was a junior, they trekked to central Oregon for playoffs, and on the way, he recalled being crammed into a van with too little room to comfortably accommodate an entire basketball team. Rosumny said the experience was “insanely tight” and that there was “literally not enough width of the van for our shoulders to all fit.” However, he feels that this made the trip more memorable and even more difficult to forget. 

“It wasn’t comfortable…, but it was like, if you’re going to be shoulder to shoulder with people for six hours, you’re definitely going to become closer over that — that’s just how it goes with sports,” he said. “I feel like you get put in these… situations with other people, and because of that, that’s how your bonds become so close.”

For Rosumny, football and basketball are highlights from his high school experience because they offered him “a platform to bond with a lot of people,” especially after discovering La Salle and during his search for belonging in a new community.

“Once you are super close with a group of people like that, it makes it that much more exciting to go be with them every day at practice and games,” he said. “There’s nothing better than playing a sporting event when you’re close with your teammates because you’re playing as a team and for each other… It’s just a really cool feeling that can’t really be matched anywhere else.”

However, managing a strict athletic schedule created a barrier for Rosumny, as he said that balancing homework and AP classes on top of his other commitments was not easy. 

“It did definitely make it harder,” he said. “Sports are a big time commitment… You have practice and you have games and all that, but that’s like 1% of the time that I spend on sports. There’s so much more time spent lifting and going to the field.”

This year, Rosumny took four AP classes and has been allocating most of his free time to preparing for an athletic career at the collegiate level, which allowed him to focus on what matters to him most and cut out parts of his life that were not offering long-term benefits.

“It’s really hard to get everything done,” he said. “I found myself wasting a lot of time sometimes either on my phone looking at stuff that’s pointless or playing video games or going to parties that I’m not even enjoying that much anyways.”

To keep on top of his studies and athletic endeavors, Rosumny found that time management was a helpful skill.

“Whatever you prioritize is what you’re going to see results in,” he said. “I always prioritized football and school… That’s just kind of always been what I’ve done.”

Another fundament that allowed Rosumny to find success in the classroom simply had to do with finishing his tasks well and in an efficient manner, which he said required him to find the strength to persevere at times and a will to avoid the temptation of procrastination.

“I always just stayed on top of my assignments,” he said. “I never let myself get behind, which I think is really important in keeping your grades up just because once you get behind then it’s easier to lose motivation,” he said. “I always just took my grades really seriously and my classes. I wanted to try to get into a good college.”

The news of being named one of La Salle’s salutatorians came as a surprise to Rosumny. While he said that he recognizes the hard work he put into his accomplishments, he never thought about the honor throughout high school.

“It feels pretty good,” he said. “It’s like a pat-on-the-back kind of moment. I wasn’t really expecting it… It makes me happy because I’ve tried really hard in school.”

Rosumny credits his parents for being individuals to lean on leading up to this achievement. He said that he especially appreciates his father for sharing advice and support for all the sports he participated in, and his mom for pushing him to stay on top of his schoolwork.

“They’ve helped me over the years to become more self-sufficient in my time management,” he said. 

Looking back on the last four years, Rosumny holds onto regret for skipping out on his last season of high school basketball, which he stepped away from to put a heavier emphasis on football. He also said that he wishes he would have been more outgoing in terms of making friends at La Salle.

“I’m graduating already and there are so many kids that I literally couldn’t even tell you their names,” he said. “I kind of regret that just because I didn’t really try as hard as I can to meet a lot of new people.”

Rosumny said that high school in general has shaped the individual he is today, as it has prepared him for life ahead. The banner “push your limits and prepare for life” is a value that he said will resonate with him beyond La Salle since the pressure of keeping on top of his responsibilities isn’t “going to end after high school.”

“It’s good to get that experience in high school and balance a lot of things and be stressed because it’s not going to get easier,” Rosumny said. “High school is not the peak of your life.”

Next year, Rosumny will attend Pomona College in Claremont, California, where he will not only work toward a degree but simultaneously play for the football team. Before heading off to college, he hopes that others at La Salle have a similar takeaway to his own.

“The most important thing that I took from high school was learning over time how to grow up and do stuff by yourself,” he said. “After high school, whether you’re going to college or not, life starts to get more independent… Not that you have to be independent in high school, but it’s teaching you the skills of how to — how to balance your time [and] how to balance a lot of things on your plate.”

In the fall of next year, Rosumny will study mathematics, and possibly economics as well, because recently, he’s found interest in following the stock market and economy as a whole. 

“I’ve always been a math thinking person,” he said. “I kind of say that a lot when people ask me why I’m choosing economics, but I just feel like everyone’s brain works differently — the way they think about things… The way I think about things is a lot of times is in a math way, which is kind of weird, but that’s just the way I function. I feel like it’d be a good fit for me.”

Although Rosumny has yet to officially determine a specific career he wants to pursue, he is continuing to explore different options and plans to keep his window of opportunity open. 

“I could get into finance where I could be a financial advisor and help other people with their money,” he said. “I could work for mutual funds and help allocate stocks to diversify people’s portfolios. I’ve looked into quantitative analysts, which is a really hard job to get, but they’re the ones working on Wall Street… There’s a lot of options — it’s hard for me to just say one right now.”

As Rosumny moves on from La Salle and onto continuing his education and football career at Pomona College, he hopes other students don’t make the same mistake he feels that he did before completing high school.

“Make friends with as many people as you can, which I wish I did more,” he said. “The more people you meet, the more connections you’ll have and the more memories you’ll make.”


Alec Willard-Herr

“Life is short, and this is, like, maybe the coolest time ever,” Scott-Lewis said.

Salutatorian Ben Scott-Lewis

Ben Scott-Lewis is someone whose academic success is merely a product of a genuine love for learning. He now dons the title of salutatorian in a way that is almost ironic, as receiving the honor is an accomplishment he said never crossed his mind. 

Scott-Lewis noted that in conversations with his friends who have achieved equally prestigious academic honors, competitive tension was absent from their relationships. “Some of my closest friends are all other valedictorians and salutatorians,” he said. “We weren’t fighting to be number one… that was not even a consideration.”

In college, Scott-Lewis hopes to continue living by these same principles, which led him to choose Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. He feels that the environment at Carleton will promote intellectual growth and a culture of support from peer to peer. “It’s not like you’re there to be the best or trying to prove yourself,” he said. “I think it’s more of, you know, you’re fostering actual learning.”

When choosing his course load at La Salle, Scott-Lewis chose the classes that he felt would keep him interested and able to learn as much as possible. The AP and honors classes that he was enrolled in did ultimately lead him to receive the salutatorian award, but he said that the decision to take them was not influenced by that fact.

“I took the challenging classes because I felt a little bit more stimulated in them,” Scott-Lewis said. “I’m someone who genuinely enjoys school, so when a class moves at a slow pace it can be a bit frustrating.”

A notable part of Scott-Lewis’ growth during his four years at La Salle is his gradual opening up to English and the more artistic side of academics. Scott-Lewis said that when he was an underclassman, he was generally drawn to STEM-related subjects, but this has since changed.

“I think one thing a lot of people do when choosing their favorite subjects is how easy it is for them,” Scott-Lewis said. “So for a long time, math and science were my favorite subjects and to some extent still are, because I’m good at them.”

As Scott-Lewis progressed through his education at La Salle, he said that he began to realize how much he could gain from the classes that caused him more difficulty. “Classes like English, which I comparatively struggle in… it’s frustrating to me, and now I’m realizing how awesome literature is,” he said.

Scott-Lewis said that he has also opened up more to social studies, and that he plans to bring some aspect of the subject into his future profession in conjunction with a STEM focus. “I’m trending towards the more humanities-focused things, but I’d say I’m still more of a science guy,” he said.

Collaboration and group effort is something that Scott-Lewis said he prioritizes in his education, as it allows him to learn from other’s ideas and thinking. “Even if you’re not actually directly working together, you’re bouncing ideas off each other,” he said.

That collaborative energy is something Scott-Lewis said he actively sought out in colleges when he was deciding where to attend. “I wanted a particular vibe of students that was non-competitive,” he said. “One of the things that has been best about my educational style, I think, is that I’ve got a pretty close group of friends who were in a lot of my classes, and we’re able to do a lot of collaboration.”

Another stand-out aspect of Scott-Lewis’ education was his newfound openness to faith-based thinking. Being raised in a secular household, he said that he entered La Salle with reservations about the values of Catholicism and organized religion as a whole.

“I was actually kind of reluctant to be going to a Catholic school based on the religious component, and the fact that I do disagree with the Catholic Church on issues pretty strongly,” Scott-Lewis said. 

In time, these reservations turned into appreciation, as Scott-Lewis said that he found endless amounts of lessons to be learned from all religions, not just Catholicism.

“I think if I was a Christian, I would see Buddhism and I would be like, ‘Oh, that’s an interesting other way of doing things,’” Scott-Lewis said. “But for me it’s like, ‘Oh, this is how a huge percentage of the world population sees that… Whoa, I can totally see myself thinking in that way.’”

Scott-Lewis is currently taking Mr. Tom McLaughlin’s World Religions class. “It’s my favorite class I’ve ever taken at La Salle,” Scott-Lewis said. The class focuses on the ideas and ways of thinking of religious traditions in all parts of the world.

Learning about concepts at La Salle that other schools do not teach is something Scott-Lewis said he feels grateful for. “I think of things in terms of biology, like osmosis,” he said. “I feel like I’m absorbing things from the cause and I’m able to understand Christians in a way I wouldn’t have been able to if I had gone to another school.”

As Scott-Lewis enters a new chapter of his educational journey, he looks forward to the memories that have yet to be made. That being said, he advises those who are younger than him to savor every moment they have left of high school. 

“Life is short, and this is, like, maybe the coolest time ever,” Scott-Lewis said. “You are not paying rent, in the vast majority of cases you do not currently have to provide your own income, you might have a car that you get to drive because your parents are letting you, you are getting access to an amazing education, and you’re young.”

In a final word of guidance, Scott-Lewis recognized that in high school, people are capable of more than they might recognize. “I think a lot of people just see high school as a waiting period,” he said. “They’re waiting before they can get out there and do stuff, but you can do stuff.”

Leave a Comment
About the Writers
Photo of Olivia Galbraith
Olivia Galbraith, Editor

Olivia is a senior at La Salle. She is a co-captain of the dance team, and also dances at Pacific Dance Academy. In her free time, she loves to go thrifting,...

Photo of Maddie Khaw
Maddie Khaw, Editor in Chief

Maddie is a senior at La Salle. She plays on the varsity soccer team and loves to read and write. She also likes to travel, hang out with friends and family,...

Photo of Mary Loeb
Mary Loeb, Editor in Chief

Senior Mary Loeb has spent five semesters in journalism. Outside of her interest in writing and reporting, she is part of La Salle’s swim team and Service...

Photo of Avery Rush
Avery Rush, Editor in Chief

Avery Rush is currently a senior. She has moved eight different times throughout the course of her life, all while staying in the Portland area.


Photo of Carlie Weigel
Carlie Weigel, Editor in Chief

Carlie is a senior at La Salle. She is the Vice President on Executive Council and a member of the National Honor Society. Outside of school, she loves...

Comments (0)

We'd love to hear your thoughts! Let us know what you think about this story by submitting a comment below. We welcome respectful comments that engage in conversations.

Comments are moderated, and won't appear until they are approved. An email address is required, but won't be publicly displayed. The Falconer's complete comment policy can be viewed on our policies page.
All The La Salle Falconer Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *