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Lukas Werner

This year’s valedictorians are Reuben De Souza, Mary Loeb, Aidan O’Brien, Nyah Torbert, and Seth Wobig, and the salutatorians are Dom Burkhart, Jonny Hortaleza, and Emma Olson.

After Four Years Together, Five Valedictorians and Three Salutatorians Share Their Paths to Earning Their Titles

June 1, 2022

Each year, La Salle’s valedictorians and salutatorians are chosen by the administrative team and Academic Council, “a group comprised of teachers who are department chairs of the nine academic departments,” said Vice Principal of Academics Ms. Kathleen Coughran. “The group also includes Ms. Poteet and Ms. Coleman and is facilitated by me.”

This decision is primarily based on cumulative weighted GPA, before other factors — overall course load, grades earned, and level of course rigor — are considered. 

“This year’s group of valedictorians and salutatorians are an amazing group of young people,” Vice Principal of Academics Ms. Kathleen Coughran said. “They have showed determination, grit, and tenacity in the face of a global pandemic amid their high school careers. We could not be more proud of their accomplishments.” 

Mary Loeb, Nyah Torbert, Aidan O’Brien, Seth Wobig, and Reuben De Souza have been named valedictorians for the Class of 2022, while Dom Burkhart, Emma Olson, and Jonathon Hortaleza have been named salutatorians.

Here’s a look into the high school journeys of each of the valedictorians and salutatorians of the Class of 2022 — how they got to where they are today, their reflections on different aspects of high school, and their plans for life after La Salle.

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Lukas Werner

“The most important thing about me, I’d say I like to take my time and reason through certain problems…or everything I approach in life,” valedictorian Reuben De Souza said. “A lot of times I’ll remain quiet and just be thinking about what’s happening and not speak before I think.”

Valedictorian Reuben De Souza

Valedictorian Reuben De Souza didn’t grow up in Oregon. He moved here the summer after his dad got a job here before seventh grade after spending the majority of his life in Arizona, where he was born. 

He loved spending time and playing games with his neighbors because he lived in a big neighborhood. He also had traditions with them. “On Halloween, we’d go trick or treating around — and there was like 30 houses at least — so we’d go take a whole loop, he said. “We also had a little greenbelt — it’s like a strip of grass — that we’d go play soccer on, and we had a little rec team that played there.”

When he moved, it was a hard transition because he left behind everything he knew. “I had to leave all my friends in Arizona, and then when I came here it was during the summer so I didn’t really have a good way to meet people so it was kind of hard,” De Souza said.  

At the beginning of seventh grade, De Souza started at Happy Valley Middle School, where he graduated two years later. He started making friends through school and track which he really enjoyed. 

School was different in Arizona compared to Oregon for De Souza. “I liked it more in Oregon than I did in Arizona because in Arizona there was more pressure I’d say, it was a lot more strict… where here, school [is] more relaxed and I could just learn how I wanted to,” he said. 

A challenge for him — especially in elementary school — was trying to live up to the pressure of academics. 

When he was applying to high schools, he chose La Salle because “it was just a lot smaller and my parents felt that I would get a better, more holistic education here,” he said.

Going to high school was a smooth transition for De Souza. “It wasn’t that difficult,” he said. “I knew some people from my middle school going and also, I played soccer which went through the whole summer so I met a ton of people from the camp.”

De Souza’s favorite subjects have always been math and science. “I’ve always liked science and that kind of thing, and then I’ve just been naturally good at math,” he said. During his freshman year, he took Honors Algebra II which was his only really difficult class that year. 

As a sophomore, he was able to venture into even more honors classes. “Sophomore year, Honors English II was a real challenge because Mr. Krantz was very hard,” De Souza said. He also took AP Physics which was his elective. “It was hard, but I felt fine with it, especially because my other classes weren’t that difficult.

He particularly enjoyed his classes with math teacher Mr. Larry Swanson. His Calculus AB class — which he took during his junior year — was one of his favorite memories from being at school.

“Even though it was online, we still had a good group dynamic and I think Mr. Swanson kind of set that up … so it was like we were learning math, but it wasn’t focused so much on the math that we forget other people are there,” De Souza said. Mr. Swanson was a great teacher figure to him. “He’s someone that’s always there for you,” he said. 

De Souza also enjoyed his classes with Mr. Kyle Voge, who was his science teacher for three years. After taking Mr. Voge’s AP and honors classes for the majority of his high school career, De Souza formed a great relationship with him.

“You can do learning from him, but it’s also like he’s one of your friends,” he said. 

Despite De Souza always excelling in math and science — taking classes like AP Chemistry, AP Calculus BC — and many others, he has also enjoyed taking honors and AP English classes. His English classes and teachers at La Salle helped him grow a lot in writing.

His sophomore and senior English teacher, Mr. Chris Krantz, has really inspired him. “Though he’s really hard — Mr. Krantz — he has really pushed me to not only get better at English but also just in life,” he said.

When the pandemic hit, De Souza — with all students at La Salle — had to adjust to an online learning environment. “It was kind of tough,” he said. “Not because school was hard, but I just didn’t really have a ton of motivation to do schoolwork and stuff … so I would just end up sitting at home not doing anything.” 

Though online classes were easier academically for De Souza, he said it felt like a pointless year. “I don’t think I got as much out of the time that I could have,” he said. “It was kind of a waste of time.” 

He felt like he missed out on the fun parts of high school away from the classroom. He missed “social activities, through school and not through school, because freshman and sophomore year I wasn’t that social anyway, because I was really focused on school and I thought I was content with just having school friends, I guess,” De Souza said. “But then junior year, when I didn’t have any more school friends, I was like ‘wow, I need to actually go hang out with people outside of school and stuff like that,’” he said. 

Many of De Souza’s friends have been made through playing on La Salle’s soccer team for all four years of high school.

He’s been playing since he was little and always enjoyed the sport, so he decided to continue on at La Salle. He played on JV before moving up to varsity this year and helping win the state championship for boys 5A soccer — which is one of his favorite memories from his time at La Salle.

“It helped build my teamwork and sense of competitiveness and urgency,” he said. “There are a lot of core values that are important for someone in a competitive job that I felt like I got from soccer.”

Trying to balance school, soccer, and work was a challenge for De Souza. Between AP classes, practice, and his job at Chipotle, he had a lot on his plate this year.

“Typically I just will go straight to practice after school and then after that, I’d go home, settle down and do my homework,” De Souza said. Especially with college applications, time management was important. “I had to really plan out when I have to do these things and what I was doing these days, so I can get it all done,” he said.

Next year, De Souza plans to attend Oregon State University where he will study electrical engineering. He chose to go into engineering because it’s a combination of both math and science — two subjects he enjoys. He was also encouraged by his dad who is an engineer. 

In college, De Souza is looking forward to “meeting a lot of people and also just experiencing new social events,” he said. He is also excited to take more specific classes to his own interests.

If De Souza could give advice to any incoming freshman, he would advise that “time moves faster than you think it does, just enjoy your whole high school experience because it’ll be over really soon,” he said.

%E2%80%9CI+have+learned+a+lot+of+math+and+learned+a+lot+of+science%2C+and+I+have+grown+as+a+writer%2C+but+I+feel+like+I%E2%80%99ve+also+grown+as+a+person%2C%E2%80%9D+valedictorian+Mary+Loeb+said.+

Lukas Werner

“I have learned a lot of math and learned a lot of science, and I have grown as a writer, but I feel like I’ve also grown as a person,” valedictorian Mary Loeb said.

Valedictorian Mary Loeb

Even as she moves to Newton, Massachusetts to attend Boston College, valedictorian Mary Loeb strives to make connections and listen to other people’s stories. Whether it’s through service work, tutoring, or journalism, “one thing that has been reinforced for me throughout high school was just the importance of having empathy and compassion for others,” she said. 

Loeb said that this human-focused interest stems from participating in service. An example of this was when she started the bone marrow drive at La Salle her sophomore year. Eight years ago, Loeb’s family friend, Jess, was diagnosed with leukemia — and in order to survive, she needed a stem cell transplant. 

“For most people who need this treatment, there’s this registry called the bone marrow registry,” Loeb said, where patients can look for donors that are a genetic match to them for a transplant. 

Jess found a match from her brother, but most people fail to find their matches on the bone marrow registry, especially people with more diverse ethnic backgrounds.

Jess is part Puerto Rican and part Hawaiian, “so had her brother not been able to provide her with the bone marrow transplant she needed, it’s likely she wouldn’t be here today,” Loeb said. “My motivation for organizing the bone marrow drive at La Salle was to help bring more diverse donors to this registry so that more people like Jess are able to receive life-saving transplants.” 

In addition to the bone marrow drive, another form of service for Loeb was participating in the JoinPDX immersion during her junior year. Typically, this immersion is an overnight trip, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was converted into an online book group. For the immersion, Loeb read “Voices From the Street,” which “was just super influential to me,” she said. “I can’t really fully understand the challenges that people experiencing homelessness go through, and I just learned how important their perspective was.”

On top of that, Loeb volunteered at the Rahab’s Sisters Shelter two to three Fridays every month during the COVID-19 pandemic with her mother and sister, working in either the clothing closet or in the kitchen.

“I was grateful that Rahab’s Shelter was offering ways to volunteer for people,” Loeb said. “It was just a really rewarding mode of service during a pandemic when it felt like there weren’t a lot of super safe ways to help, but there was a lot of help that was needed.”

This sense of service is also reflected in Loeb’s journalism work. Loeb has been a part of The Falconer for five semesters, and this year is an Editor in Chief of the publication. 

At first, Loeb was nervous to conduct interviews, but now, “I’ve just felt like it’s a real privilege to get to listen to others’ stories and be able to share them with the broader community,” she said. “I was encouraged by Mr. Kane and others in the class to take on stories that interested me, … and after having the initial opportunity to speak to different people I never really had the opportunity to talk to, I just found it really interesting.” 

Loeb has not only grown in her classes at La Salle, but “I feel like I’ve also grown as a person,” she said. “I feel like I’ve not only learned how to write an essay or how to do well on a test or solve a complicated problem, but also on how we can begin to kind of focus on things like social justice issues and the importance of cultivating inclusivity and equity within my own community and the broader community.”

Loeb said that her teachers are the ones to credit for this, and that “all my teachers have definitely had an impact on me … that’s one of the things that I really value the most about my time at La Salle.” 

This year, Loeb is enrolled in five AP courses, but she has especially appreciated her AP Chemistry and AP Calculus BC courses, because “they’ve been super influential in deciding my future career path,” she said.

In AP Chemistry, “the tests in that class were some of the most challenging I’ve taken in my time at La Salle, but I also found that they were super rewarding, and that class as a whole is just super rewarding,” she said. “[Science teacher Mr. Matt Owen] is just so willing to help stay after school [to] support students on topics that they need help with.”

And in AP Calculus, Loeb appreciated working on the whiteboard with her “math family” on complicated math problems. “It just made it a really great learning environment for me,” she said. “I feel like, a lot of times doing corrections can become tedious and less of a learning experience, and more of just doing the corrections to get the points, but doing them in my math family, I always felt like I really learned a lot.”

If Loeb could give a piece of advice to the incoming freshman class, it would be to “try to take advantage of the unique opportunities that there are at La Salle,” Loeb said. “I know high school can be challenging and a rough time for some people, but I also feel like La Salle has really great support systems and really good opportunities for extracurriculars.”

For Loeb, this meant participating in volleyball at La Salle during her freshman and sophomore years and being a part of La Salle’s swim team since her sophomore year. 

Through volleyball, where Loeb played as a defensive specialist, “I was able to meet a lot of my current friends and just kind of form initial connections that made starting at a new school a lot easier,” Loeb said. 

And as for the swim team, at first, “I just never really saw myself doing swimming in high school,” Loeb said, but she joined the team with a friend and found that she enjoyed it. “I just really appreciated the community and the environment,” she said. 

Overall, “I would definitely just encourage people to get involved in what they’re interested in, or what they think they might be interested in,” Loeb said. “Getting involved has helped me grow a lot and learn what I’d like to do next.”

While Loeb said she is nervous to move far away from her family for college, she heard that Boston College has a new program for sciences and engineering, which is part of why she chose the school. “I feel like their engineering major, which is called human-centered engineering, is really unique and will be cool to be a part of,” Loeb said. “It has a focus on addressing problems through a humanistic lens, and focusing on engineering for certain issues and for people, not just to engineer things.” 

Valedictorian+Aidan+O%E2%80%99Brien+is+very+family+orientated%2C+having+grown+up+with+two+brothers.+%E2%80%9CJust+as+a+kid+we+always+enjoyed+hanging+out+with+each+other%2C+you+know%2C+playing+outside%2C+going+to+the+park%2C+swimming+in+the+summer%2C+and+then+we+attended+St.+Ignatius+School+until+I+came+to+La+Salle%2C%E2%80%9D+he+said.+

Lukas Werner

Valedictorian Aidan O’Brien is very family orientated, having grown up with two brothers. “Just as a kid we always enjoyed hanging out with each other, you know, playing outside, going to the park, swimming in the summer, and then we attended St. Ignatius School until I came to La Salle,” he said.

Valedictorian Aidan O’Brien

Whenever valedictorian Aidan O’Brien needed to be entertained as a child, his father would sit with him in the yard with a bunch of whiffle balls. And when that wasn’t enough, the O’Brien family would take a trip to Goodwill.

“Whenever we get the chance, like stopping in a new town as we’re traveling, we’ll go in and see if we can get our hands on any sports equipment or anything else that catches our attention,” O’Brien said. 

Thus, it was no surprise when O’Brien’s first word was “ball,” and it also came as no surprise when he and his two brothers grew up playing soccer, basketball, track, and baseball. 

“Throughout my entire life, especially just having brothers, we would always just be outside playing,” O’Brien said. “Just because we loved it.”

And if O’Brien wasn’t outside playing, he was often tagging along with his mother, Principal Ms. Alanna O’Brien, on the La Salle campus. 

“My mom has worked here for as long as I can remember,” O’Brien said. “So I’ve always been around La Salle, just coming to all types of sporting events throughout my entire life, like my dad taking me when I was a baby, all that stuff.”

However, when O’Brien arrived at La Salle, he quickly realized that sports were not the only thing he wanted to get involved in. For example, during freshman year, he decided to take an art class with Ms. Cha Asokan, focusing on pottery.

“When I started off, you can’t really do much more than make bowls,” he said, but as O’Brien sharpened his skills throughout his time at La Salle, “I tried to focus on how I could elevate shape and line and use color, and so elevating that to try and see if I could dissect different pieces and figure out how to have multiple forms work with each other, those are probably some of my favorite pieces,” he said. 

In addition to his art classes, O’Brien has enjoyed his math and science classes at La Salle. “Just understanding how things work is always something that I’ve tried to go after, and that’s engineering, and physics and math all ties in with that,” he said. “Also just diving a little bit deeper into certain topics, like taking a little more specified classes, is something that I’ve really enjoyed.”

O’Brien said that he credits his teachers for a lot of this experience. 

“It has felt a little bit more relaxed this year compared to junior year, even though I’m taking a few more AP classes,” O’Brien said. “All the people that are in the classes understand what the drill is. So we all want to dive in and keep learning, and so that’s what we’ve been doing all year, and we’ve definitely made a lot of progress.” 

To manage his courseload, “I just work whenever I can,” O’Brien said. “I feel like one thing that I’ve noticed throughout my time in high school is that if I’m able to get one task done earlier in the day, I’ll be able to just keep working through all the rest … Just getting in a groove.” 

O’Brien hopes to take this skill with him to Gonzaga University next year, where he is considering studying Kinesiology. O’Brien also hopes to travel in college, potentially studying abroad, but he is also excited about the community at Gonzaga University.

“It just seemed like everyone was a part of something bigger,” O’Brien said. 

O’Brien said that what he will miss most from La Salle is the relationships that he has had here.

“All my friends just pushed me to be as best as I could, working on projects with them, editing each other’s papers,” he said. “I just want to thank everyone that pushed me to get to this point, and I wouldn’t be able to do it without the support that I have.” 

If O’Brien could give one piece of advice to the underclassmen at La Salle, it would be to “just enjoy your classes,” he said. “I remember just going into freshman year, my mom told me, ‘You’ll probably reach a limit at some point, just don’t worry about grades, just try and learn as much as you can from the classes.’ And so that’s what I’ve tried to do throughout my time at La Salle.” 

Additional reporting for this piece was contributed by Assistant Editor Megan Snyder.

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Lukas Werner

“I feel like senior year has really shown me how much I’ve grown since freshman year,” valedictorian Nyah Torbert said. “I think that as a freshman, I was really worried about what other people thought of me. And now, I’m a lot more confident in who I am, and I feel like it shows, you know — people are gonna say things, people are going to do things, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter.”

Valedictorian Nyah Torbert

Ever since valedictorian Nyah Torbert was little, she has had a full schedule. 

“I just enjoy having a lot of tasks to do,” Torbert said. “I’m pretty self-driven, so I’ve figured out a system that works for me, and I’m able to work efficiently, but also plan my time in a way that I am able to get everything done and work around my schedule.” 

Torbert is taking five AP courses this year, and in addition to that, she models, dances, is a part of the student council, and leads the Communicare and Black Student Union clubs at La Salle. 

However, between all of her activities, dance is what Torbert said she would remember most about La Salle because of the community she helped create. “We started the team my freshman year, and we hadn’t had a team in over 10 years,” Torbert said. “And I think that I have had a unique privilege as opposed to other people who just join a sport, I got to create this team.”

The team started with about six people during Torbert’s freshman year, and this year, there are over 20 members. “Looking back to freshman year, I didn’t think that we could have done that in such a short amount of time,” Torbert said. 

Torbert said that her dance coach, Ms. Nikki Meyer, has especially made an impact on her. “She has the brightest personality of anyone I’ve ever met,” Torbert said. “She’s made the team what it is.” 

In addition to Ms. Meyer, Torbert has fond memories of many of her teachers at La Salle, including Mr. Chris Krantz, who taught her AP English IV class this year, and her Honors English II class her sophomore year. “My favorite part of his class is that he chooses the books that we read really, really well,” Torbert said. 

In addition to Mr. Krantz, Torbert said that Ms. Adriana Noesi, who is the Director of Community & Student Leadership, has heavily influenced her time at La Salle. Ms. Noesi teaches the Leadership class that Torbert joined in the second semester of her senior year after previously being involved in student council. Through this class, members of La Salle’s student council plan La Salle’s dances, assemblies, and masses. 

“She’s been really great to work with,” Torbert said. “We’ve been able to plan a lot of really fun things, especially now that we’re back in person.”

Other than student council, another group that Torbert is involved in at La Salle is the Black Student Union, which she joined her freshman year. “It’s been a really good experience for me,” Torbert said. “I mean, first of all, connecting with people who have had a similar experience that I have, but also just getting more involved in social justice issues.” 

Junior year, Torbert was one of the students in the Black Student Union who worked with religious studies teacher Mr. Tom Mac on the Rest in Power crosses, which were labeled with the names of Black people who died due to police violence and planted in the school’s front yard. “There were over 100 crosses, and that was really powerful,” Torbert said. 

Now, she is a co-president of the club — but that is not the only club she is helping to lead. Torbert is also leading the Communicare club this year. As part of the larger organization Communicare, the club at La Salle follows a process of creating a mission statement, fundraising, and interviewing and selecting nonprofits to receive grants. 

“Communicare and BSU have really helped my passions for justice and being able to help the community,” she said. This year, La Salle’s chapter of Communicare focused on giving its grant money from fundraising and the Schnitzer Care Foundation to victims of sexual assault. 

Torbet values this sense of community and it’s ultimately what led her to the University of Notre Dame to continue her education.

“That’s what I have taken most from my experience here, is how strong of a community we have and how connected you are, not only to your peers but to your teachers and the staff,” Torbert said. “And so I’m hoping that that’s the sort of experience that I get out of Notre Dame, because, from all the people that I’ve talked to, that are currently there or are alumni, that’s the common theme, is community.” 

While attending the University of Notre Dame, Torbert plans on studying Psychology and Spanish. “I have always been interested in psychology,” Torbert said. “I’m specifically really interested in child psychology. I’ve grown up around younger kids — I’m the oldest child, oldest grandchild, oldest cousin. And so kids have always been in my life.”

If she could give one piece of advice to the younger students at La Salle, it would be that “you shouldn’t care what other people think about you, because high school is only four years of your life,” Torbert said. “And, you know, eventually you’re going to be moving on, and you shouldn’t stop your growth or stop pursuing your interests because it doesn’t fit with what the friend group that you want to be in is doing.” 

Additional reporting for this piece was contributed by Assistant Editor Megan Snyder.

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Lukas Werner

During all four years of high school, valedictorian Seth Wobig has been a member of La Salle’s boys basketball program. His favorite memory from his time playing basketball was when this year’s varsity team defeated Wilsonville, which was a major feat for the program.

Valedictorian Seth Wobig

For valedictorian Seth Wobig, the idea of becoming valedictorian has been a subconscious goal of his since he was just a freshman. He didn’t go to bed every night imagining that he would receive this title, but as he worked to follow in the footsteps of his family’s impressive academic legacy, the achievement of becoming a valedictorian followed as a result of his actions.

“I don’t want to say I was going for it since freshman year, but it was more like I desired to be taking all of the hard classes from freshman year and getting A’s,” Wobig said. He knew that a rigorous course load was a crucial aspect of getting into a distinguished college, which he was inspired to do by his parents and brothers. 

“I always kind of wanted to go to a prestigious school,” he said. “Both of my parents went to Stanford, and then my brothers went to UCLA and UC Berkeley, so I was kind of like ‘Oh, I want to achieve similarly.’”

Since Wobig was a young kid, he has been an academically inclined person. He recalled his perfectionism in elementary school on spelling tests, explaining that before each test students would take a “pretest.” If they scored 100% on the pretest, they would not have to take the actual spelling test — this became the benchmark for him.

“There was this one time that I didn’t get 100% on the pretest, and I cried,” Wobig said. “Like a lot.” 

This level of academic discipline became a standard in Wobig’s life, and holding himself to this standard for the entirety of high school is what ultimately allowed him to achieve the award of valedictorian.

Aside from Wobig’s desire to live up to his family’s impressive educational background, he also wanted to attend a reputable college because he saw that as a path to a successful career. After his diligent work throughout high school, Wobig felt that taking these next steps would validate all of the time and effort he put into his academics at La Salle.

“Because I worked so hard in high school, if I didn’t go to a prestigious school or I didn’t get a lot of money, what was all of that work for?” he said.

Although a lot of Wobig’s goals are rooted in the example that his family has set, he stressed that his parents never pressured him to reach a certain level of success, as long as he was putting forth the best effort he was capable of giving. 

“If my best was a B, they would be fine with that, as long as I was trying my best,” he said. “There’s an expectation that we always try our hardest. My parents strongly encouraged us to do sports and music, but if we hated it, they weren’t going to make us do it.”

Despite his impressive academic record throughout high school, Wobig said that the college admissions process was very difficult for him. Applying to 13 different colleges, many of them being extremely competitive, “was a lot of work and a lot of essays,” he said. “I started studying for the SAT over junior-year summer, then basically like all of first semester I was working on essays almost every weekend.”

In the fall, Wobig will be attending the Georgia Institute of Technology. Boasting a 21% acceptance rate and an average SAT score of 1450, Georgia Tech is by no means an unimpressive school; however, this end result was not what Wobig had originally imagined for himself.

“I wasn’t super excited when I got into Georgia Tech initially, because it wasn’t like — it’s not a bad school by any means but it’s not like ‘Oh my God, Georgia Tech,” Wobig said. 

Wobig was admitted to a variety of other impressive institutions, including the University of Washington and the University of California in both Santa Barbara and San Diego, “but then my reach schools, I didn’t get into any of them, and to be honest, I wasn’t super excited,” he said.

Although the rejections that Wobig received did make him feel somewhat discouraged, he recalled the process of actually completing the applications as being the most grueling part of the whole college admissions process. 

“When I got the rejections I didn’t cry that much,” he said. “It was actually the application process — just writing the essays was crushing me. I cried so much while writing.”

Writing in general — not just on college applications — is something that Wobig admitted he has struggled with more than he has struggled with other subjects. He acknowledged that most people would not see an A- as a major disappointment, but when he earned an A- in Mr. Chris Krantz’s Honors English II class as a sophomore, “it was pretty soul-crushing,” he said.

Classes that center around science and math topics have always been Wobig’s favorite, but while creating his senior portfolio, he said that it was gratifying to see the progression of his writing throughout high school. “Looking at past works, I can just see that I’ve gotten better as a writer,” he said. “That in itself is rewarding.”

His English classes have allowed Wobig to really grow as a student, but when it comes to the classes he most enjoys, math has always stood out to him. This year, he took Multivariable Vector Calculus with Ms. Margaret Erich, alongside one of his fellow valedictorians, senior Reuben De Souza, and one of this year’s salutatorians, senior Dom Burkhart. This is the most advanced math class that La Salle offers, and is typically taken by a limited batch of students who excel in math.

As a junior, Wobig took AP Calculus BC, which was taught by his favorite teacher at La Salle, Mr. Larry Swanson. “My favorite classes have been Calculus AB, and BC, and Swanson taught me for both of those,” he said.

Another teacher that Wobig admires is Mr. Matt Owen, who he took AP Chemistry with this year. “I liked chemistry, but I think it might just be because I liked Mr. Owen a lot,” he said.

Although he is unsure of his feelings towards chemistry in particular, science will continue to be part of Wobig’s life after high school, as he is pursuing electrical engineering. At Georgia Tech, he hopes to participate in either an internship or a co-op, to “explore the field a little bit, and get some insights,” he said.

Wobig also hopes to carry some of his hobbies from high school into his free time at college, one of these being his love for basketball. 

During all four years of high school, Wobig has been a member of La Salle’s boys basketball program. His favorite memory from his time playing basketball was when this year’s varsity team defeated Wilsonville, which was a major feat for the program.

“It would have been like six years since our team had beat Wilsonville, and we were the team to do it,” he said. “That felt really good because I knew that I had an impact on the game because I started in it.”

Wobig is interested in playing on an intramural basketball team at Georgia Tech, and he is also considering joining some sort of extracurricular that is related to computer science. 

The club disbanded earlier this school year, but while they were still together, Wobig was a member of La Salle’s Computer Science club. “I found out I really liked computer science, so I think in college I’ll join some kind of club related to engineering,” he said. “I know they have an electric car competition team where they build electric cars then race against other electric cars. I’ll probably join a team like that in college.”

Since fifth grade, Wobig has been playing the drums, which he learned as part of his own contribution to his family’s tradition of playing instruments. His musical abilities led to him being part of La Salle’s jazz band, and to him being a member of the Metropolitan Youth Symphony, which he joined as a junior after auditioning and being cut as a freshman.

This let down was one of multiple disappointments that occurred in Wobig’s life just before he began high school. During the same week that his MYS audition went south, he was also cut from La Salle’s soccer tryouts — both of these occurrences adding to his already high level of stress and anxiety.

When he entered high school, Wobig knew only two people who would be joining the freshman class with him. “I knew no one,” he said. “That was challenging, just making friends and meeting people, but I think a lot of people had that problem.”

As a senior, Wobig feels that he has finally come out of his shell, but he expressed some regret that he did not do this sooner in high school. “Some people I was so intimidated by,” he said. “But there was no reason for me to be intimidated by this person.”

Wobig also encouraged that students “don’t ask other people for homework,” he said. “You’re always going to learn best by yourself. Stealing someone else’s homework is never going to help you.”

Even for students who do not aspire to achieve being valedictorian or salutatorian, Wobig’s advice still stands. No matter what academic standard a student wishes to hold themselves to, confusion is inevitable, and help will always be needed from time to time. He counseled that in these circumstances, forming good connections with teachers is key.

Wobig also attributes a portion of his success to the teachers with whom he has formed these relationships. “In most of my classes, I did need the teacher’s help to get the A,” he said. “If you don’t understand something, always go talk to the teacher. Always go get help. Teachers are really nice if you talk to them, actually.”

%E2%80%9CI%E2%80%99m+excited+for+what%E2%80%99s+to+come%2C+but+I+feel+like+it+went+by+fast+in+retrospect%2C%E2%80%9D+salutatorian+Dom+Burkhart+said.+%E2%80%9CAs+it+was+happening%2C+it%E2%80%99s+so+slow%E2%80%A6+but+when+I+look+back+at+the+last+four+years+its+like%2C+%E2%80%98oh+wow+that+went+by+really+fast.%E2%80%99%E2%80%9D+

Lukas Werner

“I’m excited for what’s to come, but I feel like it went by fast in retrospect,” salutatorian Dom Burkhart said. “As it was happening, it’s so slow… but when I look back at the last four years it’s like, ‘oh wow that went by really fast.’”

Salutatorian Dom Burkhart

For salutatorian Dom Burkhart, his journey through La Salle has had a “huge” impact on the person he has become. 

Previously attending the Portland Waldorf School, Burkhart had the choice between Cleveland and La Salle for high school. He ultimately chose La Salle, one reason being his friend was also attending, and “I remember when I had my Falcon shadow day, I just really liked the classrooms,” Burkhart said. “And [I] remember for the remainder of my eighth-grade year, I just couldn’t wait to get out of my middle school.” 

Burkhart remembers his first day of freshman year to be exciting and fun as he ran around with his friends for the freshman link day.

“Coming from my middle school, I had been going to school with the same 14 kids for eight years,” Burkhart said. “And La Salle [had] a lot of new people with different stories and that was eye-opening.”

Burkhart also remembers fighting for a spot to sit at lunch, because before COVID-19, most students would sit in the cafeteria. “[It] was like everybody ate in there and we’d be shoulder to shoulder on most benches,” he said. 

While he did not know many people coming into La Salle, Burkhart made many friends through soccer, which he played during his freshman and junior years. 

“I really liked freshman year because it was me just goofing around on JV2,” he said. “And no one’s under any pressure. I’m pretty sure we lost almost every game too, but it was still fun.”

Burkhart took most of the standard freshman classes, but was also in Honors Algebra 2 and took a computer science class as an elective. Overall he most enjoyed Physics his freshman year, as he felt its curriculum would be applicable to the real world. 

“[La Salle] has had a huge impact,” Burkhart said. “I was a completely different person coming in freshman year. I met a lot of different people with different experiences.” 

During his sophomore year, Burkhart found a love for STEM. He most enjoyed his AP Physics and Chemistry classes even though they had a larger workload. 

“It was really fun because there was a lot of little lab-based stuff,” he said. “So we’d be trying to figure out problems together.”

Due to a broken collar bone his sophomore year, Burkhart was not able to play soccer, but he was able to continue his other hobby of skiing after he recovered.

For service hours, Burkhart would go up the mountain to volunteer with the ski patrol. He went every other weekend during the ski season to help ski patrollers “[make] sure people didn’t do dumb stuff,” he said. 

During this time, Burkhart was able to learn about first aid, while also learning about general safety on the slopes. For Burkhart, the best part of volunteering was being able to skip a lot of lines. 

Then, during his sophomore year, the COVID-19 pandemic began. 

“So junior year started online,” Burkhart said. “I really hated the whole Zoom thing. I wouldn’t really pay attention, to be honest.” 

His biggest struggle with his online classes was staying motivated to do work. There was no one there to push him, which made it really easy for him to fall behind. 

Burkhart’s biggest accomplishment throughout online school was being able to get his grades up by the end of the semester even when they began to slip in the beginning. 

Burkhart recalls that at the beginning of the pandemic it was hard not to see his friends, as he was strict about not seeing anyone. 

“And then I started hanging out with some people outside, at a park or something,” Burkhart said. “I also got my driver’s license right around then, so there was at least some freedom to go do stuff.” 

For Burkhart this made his junior year “a little weird,” but the pandemic also allowed him to create new friendships. 

“I started hanging out with more people — different people — and sort of branched out a little bit more,” he said. “Which seems counterintuitive, but I guess it just forced me to explore other friendships.” 

A key part of Burkhart’s junior year academic experience was his research paper, which he wrote on nuclear power.

He chose this topic because he sees nuclear power as a feasible solution to climate change as it is “relatively clean,” he said. Burkhart also liked doing the research aspect of the paper, especially seeking out different articles to reference. 

Overall, Burkhart’s favorite memory from his junior year was making the varsity soccer team. “I sat the whole year on the bench, but that was really fun because we were a really hype bench, just screaming and cheering people on,” he said. 

Burkhart describes his senior year as “pretty normal.” 

However, with all of the college applications he had to get in, Burkhart said his first semester was a “little weird.” “I feel like I was sort of thinking ‘oh that’s in the future,’” he said. But then as the Nov. 1 deadlines approached, Burkhart felt that they “really snuck up on me fast.”

Another part of the college application process that was challenging for Burkhart was that most of them asked what he wanted to major in. Burkhart had always seen that question as something that would be answered later on and at the time he had no idea what he wanted to do. 

After not having the chance during his junior year because of the pandemic, this year Burkhart had the opportunity to go on the annual Journey retreat. 

“I was trying to think, ‘what could it possibly be?’” he said. “It can’t possibly be that fun or whatever, but for me it was. I really liked it.” 

Something that Burkhart will be taking away from his senior year experience is that it is still important to stay on top of school work, even when colleges already have transcripts. 

As for advice for his fellow seniors, Burkhart says, “Follow your dreams, stick with it. And if it doesn’t work the first time and you really want it, go for it a second, third, fourth time.” 

Burkhart thinks the best aspect of La Salle as a whole was the small classroom sizes. He felt it was easy to get the teachers’ attention and that they actually cared for students. 

A teacher that stood out to Burkhart was math teacher Mr. Larry Swanson, whom he had sophomore and junior year. 

“He was one of the best teachers just teaching-wise, like materials, but also he was just super awesome to be around,” he said. 

Burkhart was not planning on being the salutatorian, but “it just happened,” he said, as his only goal was trying to get good grades for college. 

All of that hard work led Burkhart to get into his dream school, The Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 

“I had been working for that for quite a while, so that was fun to finally see it pay off,” Burkhart said. 

Burkhart had been dreaming of going to this school since he was a kid. At that time, he wanted to become an astronaut or fighter jet pilot and those dreams never went away, as he still wants to become a pilot. 

“I can’t really see myself sitting at a desk all day, doing that sort of stuff,” Burkhart said. 

Burkhart was also inspired by family members who followed similar career paths, especially his older cousin who also attended the Air Force Academy. 

Looking towards the future, Burkhart is hoping to experience new things, like possibly traveling abroad. In five years he sees himself graduating from college and becoming a pilot. 

Reflecting on his experience at La Salle, Burkhart feels that he learned the importance of consistency and hard work. 

“You don’t have to be the best at everything, but if you just do everything and do it well, you will get there,” Burkhart said. 

After+departing+from+La+Salle%2C+salutatorian+Jonathan+Hortaleza+looks+forward+to+Chapman+University%2C+where+he+plans+on+studying+Biology.+Once+he+earns+his+degree%2C+he+wants+to+become+a+physician%E2%80%99s+assistant.+

Lukas Werner

After departing from La Salle, salutatorian Jonathan Hortaleza looks forward to Chapman University, where he plans on studying Biology. Once he earns his degree, he wants to become a physician’s assistant.

Salutatorian Jonathan Hortaleza

Salutatorian Jonathan Hortaleza, who commonly goes by Jonny, is extremely competitive in every aspect of his life. From academics to the track field, he finds joy in being a part of the best of the best.  

Now, Hortaleza has a title to show for the dedication he has demonstrated. 

But, he was not always as driven as he is now. When Hortaleza started attending kindergarten at Christ the King he felt “like an outsider immediately,” he said. “Everyone already knew everyone else from preschool or family friends. And I came from a different preschool than everyone else and my parents didn’t know all the other parents.”

Although he said he was picked on in kindergarten, “I did make one friend,” Hortaleza said. “Akhil Casper.” When Casper gave Hortaleza the chance to be friends, he slowly but surely started becoming more established in the CTK class. “We just developed this Christ the King bond I guess,” Hortaleza said. 

Hortaleza attributes his academic competitiveness to Casper. “Akhil has always been a scholar and one of the smartest in the class,” Hortaleza said. “And since he is my best friend, I can’t let him beat me, you know?” 

Since he surrounds himself with people who push him to constantly improve, it was only natural that Hortaleza joined a club track program — Rose City Track Club (RTC) — in 2020, when there were slim opportunities to practice otherwise. “I joined and I guess I never looked back since,” Hortaleza said. 

When Hortaleza first started doing track in 4th grade, he said he was one of the slowest on the team. “I remember my very first race,” he said. “I go off to start, I look up immediately, and everyone else is five meters, ten meters ahead of me. I’m like, ‘What am I doing?’” he said.  

When 6th grade came along, “that’s when I kind of broke out a little bit,” Hortaleza said. Coming out of middle school, “I was feeling pretty good,” he said. “I think I was the second or third fastest on the team.” 

But once the high school track season came around, Hortaleza said he felt humbled. He remembers being surrounded by people like James Menor, La Salle’s star running back at the time. “Oh my God, he was so fast,” Hortaleza said. He had a similar experience when he started training with RTC. “I felt so behind and I just wanted to catch up with them as fast as I could,” Hortaleza said. 

As a senior on La Salle’s track team, Hortaleza said that he was a leader, but not a typical one. “I’m not one to unite and call people together and inspire,” he said. “But it’s kind of weird. In a way, I did have a leadership role with the team, just not a vocal one.” Hortaleza led by example, and noticed that his “effort dictates the effort of the rest of the team,” he said. 

One practice stood out to Hortaleza in particular. He said that he was giving around 80-90% of his maximum effort, “relatively hard,” he said. “When I go hard, everyone else goes hard.” About halfway through the workout, Hortaleza’s leg started cramping and he “collapsed, basically,” he said. No one else was able to finish the workout after that, even though Hortaleza said that they were only halfway done. 

One of Hortaleza’s favorite things is winning. Since he had not really won anything before middle school, Hortaleza finds fulfillment in being successful. “I was really grounded and humbled to see myself finally succeed and win and compete with some of the best — and beat them too sometimes,” he said. “It means something to me.”

Next year, Hortaleza will run track for Chapman University in Orange, California. He realized that he had the ability to run in college around six months into running with RTC. “The first meet of the club season, I really shocked myself,” Hortaleza said. He earned a personal record, cutting his time down by over a half of a second. “I was like, “Wow. If I can improve that much in that amount of time, imagine where I can be by the time I graduate,” he said. 

For Hortaleza, learning online during his sophomore and junior years was extremely difficult. Before the pandemic, Hortaleza found it easy to stay on task in class and did not need to put in a lot of extra effort in order to earn good grades. Fighting habits of procrastination, Jonny was recommended a studying technique from a friend called the Pomodoro technique

This technique allows you to focus on one task for a set period of time, and then there is allocated time for a break. Hortaleza does 25 minutes of work with 10-minute breaks in between. “That’s what helped me study and be focused,” he said. 

On the day that Hortaleza found out that he was one of the three salutatorians, he was shocked. “I was like, hyperventilating,” he said. “I was surprised that I was one of the few salutatorians.” 

Becoming a salutatorian is not what motivated Hortaleza throughout high school, though. His real motivation was a deal that he made with his mom. “She said if I get all A’s, all throughout high school, she’ll buy me a car,” he said. 

He thinks what sets him and the rest of this year’s group of valedictorians and salutatorians apart is that they were “mentally strong,” he said. “To keep up with this workload and other things like extracurriculars like sports and all that so I think we are just mentally strong and we just know how to manage our time.” 

Hortaleza said that he had the most fun in Physics during his freshman year. While doing a lab, Hortaleza had to record his distance per second. “Jack Sharp wanted to race me for the running trial,” he said. “So, we started by the library doors, and then someone says ‘Ready, set, go,’ and we go. And we keep running. Me and Jack, we were really close, and I’m competitive so I wanted to beat him.” 

As the two reached the doors at the end of the science wing, Sharp started to slow down. But not Hortaleza. He remembered thinking, “this is my chance to win,” he said. “So I kept going … and when I tried to stop myself at the door, I put my hands up, and the door just cracked instantly.”

Hortaleza is happy with his commitment to his grades in high school. He advises others to do the same, attributing his scholarship from Chapman to his grades. “For me personally, I don’t think track was enough to get me a scholarship,” Hortaleza said. “I think my grades helped me a lot.” 

Soon, Hortaleza will set his sights on Chapman University, where he plans to study Biology. Once he earns his degree, he wants to become a physician’s assistant. 

Before he starts his new chapter though he looks forward to one final summer with his friends. “Gotta make the most of our time together,” he said.

%E2%80%9CTaking+my+first+AP+class+sophomore+year%2C+it+was+kind+of+a+reality+check%2C+salutatorian+Emma+Olson+said.+Realizing+like%2C+getting+a+C+on+a+test+is+a+really+good+thing.+

Lukas Werner

“Taking my first AP class sophomore year, it was kind of a reality check,” salutatorian Emma Olson said. “Realizing like, getting a C on a test is a really good thing.”

Salutatorian Emma Olson

While salutatorian Emma Olson has always strived to achieve the best grades she could, the title of salutatorian has never been a specific goal she had in mind.

Olson has been working to have more balance in her life, taking time to do other things she enjoys.  

“I definitely think that [it] is so important to have things other than school that I like, things that make you happy no matter what because while school can be a really positive wonderful thing,” Olson said. “It’s also really draining and can be hard to just manage on its own. So having those positive blocks of time that are set in your schedule are just so helpful.”

Since sophomore year, for example, Olson has become a part of theater in various ways, from joining crew to becoming set organizer. She remembers staying until 9 or 10 p.m. in the theater, creating “the most wonderful things with absolutely lovely people.”

Forcing yourself to be a part of something, Olson says, is one of the biggest takeaways from her time at La Salle. Even things far outside of your comfort zone can lead to productive learning experiences. 

For Olson, choir was something she thought she could never be a part of. Even still, when a friend told her she should consider joining, choir quickly became an important part of her morning routine. “And it was this crazy world,” Olson said. “I was like, ‘Oh my god, did I join a cult?’ But it was also so fun.” Especially as a morning person who loves to get on her way to school at 7:30, choir became the perfect fit.

Despite her involvement in these activities and more, school has become essential in Olson’s life. Her commitment to school is not out of responsibility, but rather Olson’s natural curiosity, which has led school to become an enjoyable place rather than a chore. This has also helped her tutor those in the counseling department, something Olson has participated in since freshman year. “I just love learning things.” Olson said. 

With curiosity as a big motivator, Olson has found she does not need to study in a hardcore fashion. Instead, she simply pays attention in class and keeps track of how she uses her time. This curious attitude is further bolstered by her enjoyment of school.

“[I‘m] always looking forward to break like anybody else, but I’m also like, two days into summer vacation and missing school already, because it is kind of my favorite thing,” Olson said. “Even though I’ll complain about it like anybody else.” 

Despite being agnostic, Olson’s natural curiosity has interested her in Catholic teaching and in religion classes at La Salle. Especially in world religions this year, Olson finds learning about others’ belief systems to be interesting from a neutral perspective.

“[Religious studies teacher Mr. Tom Mac] is just the most wonderful teacher,” Olson said. “So passionate, it was just so much fun every day to learn and just experience new things and new ideas, or even just new ways of thinking like it’s just super, super interesting.”

Olson’s main points of academic interest are art and STEM fields. And, even though many might consider these disciplines as polar opposites, she considers them both to be inextricably connected. 

“In my brain, they’ve always been really interconnected because of how they kind of work together,” Olson said. “I don’t remember the last time I created something that didn’t have to do with the environment or involved nature, very literally.”

Much of Olson’s art involves botanical dye work, meaning that she collects plant matter, puts it into a pot, which creates dye, and works with dyeing natural fibers like yarn or paper. 

“It feels kind of like a science lab or a scientific study each time I’m doing this process because of how specific and detailed it is,” Olson said. 

As someone invested in environmental justice, nearly every piece of art Olson makes has some connection to nature. Because of this passion, Olson sometimes attends climate protests and considers herself politically engaged — especially when it comes to climate action. 

This has inspired her to continue her education in environmental science and study Art at Willamette University in Salem. 

As a small school, close to home, and located in an environment that interests Olson, she found Willamette University to be a perfect fit. Though she is nervous, she’s also excited about the new opportunities available in college and learning about even more specific and nuanced scientific topics. 

For those who will still be attending high school next year, Olson said to keep in mind that it’s not the end of the world to not have straight A’s. 

“It’s also okay to prioritize other wonderful, fulfilling things in your life,” Olson said.

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About the Writers
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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.

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Brooklyn Chillemi, Editor in Chief

Senior Brooklyn Chillemi moved to Oregon from Colorado about five years ago, and loves the rainy weather and vibrant greenery here.

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Elsie Buczkowski, Editor

Senior Elsie Buczkowski has lived in Oregon her entire life. Previously attending Happy Valley Middle School, she decided to attend La Salle for high school...

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Anna Waldron, Assistant Editor

Senior Anna Waldron has lived in Portland, Oregon her whole life, in the same neighborhood as nine members of her extended family. 

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Josephine Robinson, Assistant Editor

Sophomore Josephine Robinson is the third generation of her family to attend La Salle. 

She loves all of her classes and teachers but especially loves...

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Andrew Clair, Editor

Andrew was born in Chandler, Arizona, but has lived near Portland nearly his whole life. He loves the temperate weather in Oregon, and often takes walks...

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