Ashley Hawkins

This year’s valedictorians include Carson Frick, Nate Dominitz, Ellie Sandholm, and Onni Barron. The salutatorians are Gabriel de Leon and Catie Tassinari.

The High School Journey in Academics and Beyond: Class of 2023 Valedictorians and Salutatorians Share Their Stories

May 31, 2023

As the 2022-2023 school year comes to a close, it’s once again time to wish our seniors luck as they get ready to move on from La Salle.

Following the yearly tradition, the administration has chosen seniors who have gone above and beyond in their academics to be valedictorians and salutatorians. These students have been chosen by the Academic Council, which is a group that includes the academic department chairs as well as Vice Principal of Academics Ms. Kathleen Coughran and Principal Ms. Alanna O’Brien.    

“As the Academic Council, we spend time looking at courses that students take both in terms of amounts of AP and honors classes and also grades within all courses,” said science teacher and academic council member Mr. Matthew Owen. “We take a look at GPA, both weighted and unweighted, and consider the academic achievements of the students.”  

This year Carson Frick, Nate Dominitz, Ellie Sandholm, and Onni Barron have been named valedictorians, and Gabriel de Leon and Catie Tassinari have been named the salutatorians.

“I think it’s a really great group of kids who have pushed themselves quite a lot during their time at La Salle, especially in terms of academics,” Mr. Owen said. “I think they’re very deserving of the award.”  

These students have shared their academic successes, passions, and reflections on their high school journeys with The Falconer, which are profiled below. 


Ashley Hawkins

On his way to becoming a valedictorian, Frick’s parents have always been supportive of him and encouraged him to succeed on his own terms. His dad in particular has always been there for him, asking him what he needs to thrive and what he can do to help. “They will support me, they want me to push myself, but they’ve never really had to be the ones that pushed me,” he said.

Valedictorian Carson Frick

Despite his love of fun games of all sorts, senior Carson Frick has his feet firmly rooted in the reality of rigorous coursework as he wraps up his time at La Salle and prepares for a cross-country move to Boston College to study economics and finance in the fall. 

Though he had always planned to attend his neighborhood high school, a fateful day of shadowing at La Salle with classmate Will Clem changed his mind. “I ended up wanting a smaller school and wanting better academically because obviously the academic side of school has always been very important to me,” Frick said. 

Although he is looking forward to the college experience, Frick is feeling a lot of anxiety about moving away to Boston. He described not being a fan of change and, even at the start of every school year, he would sometimes struggle with getting used to a new routine or having a new schedule and new classes with new people. Frick isn’t excited for the adjustment period but is looking forward to becoming friends with his new peers and having the independence that college offers. 

Frick is planning on majoring in economics and finance, as he appreciates the numbers and statistics involved with the major but also enjoys the practical application of the skill set that is required. Although he is planning on sticking with an economic-based major, Frick is open to the opportunity to explore his interests. He plans on taking a lot of classes his first few years in various subjects and if he finds something that really appeals to him, he can double major or change his major altogether.

Frick’s time at La Salle has been rewarding, as a member of the varsity basketball team and a participant in some of the school’s most challenging courses. That hard work has paid off, as he is following in the footsteps of his brother who graduated from Boston College in 2022 and now lives in the Boston area.

“It’ll be a very big comfort to have my older brother in town,” Frick said. 

He leaned heavily on Dylan’s advice in selecting his college and ultimately picked Boston College because it was a good fit, not just because it was also where his brother had gone to school. 

“We’ve always been very close, especially through basketball,” Frick said. “We both started playing basketball around the same time, and then we would play together.” 

His brother Dylan won’t be the only familiar face in Boston. A good friend and fellow valedictorian, Ellie Sandholm, is attending Wellesley College which is nearby. Frick noted that friends like Sandholm are part of what makes La Salle special.

 “I genuinely enjoy being here and around a lot of these people,” Frick said. “That is not something I could say about myself when I was an underclassmen.”

His basketball friends are another group of people at La Salle that have enriched his experience. “I love that group, they’re so much fun,” Frick said. “I’m so glad I got to play with all of them.” Seniors Finbar O’Brien and Nick Robertson have been close friends of Frick since his freshman year, and he felt especially grateful for getting to know and going through similar experiences in basketball with them.

“The three of us, a lot of times, gravitated towards each other in practices and stuff because we were the three freshmen on the team and everything was new,” Frick said. “I’m very close to a lot of the team, but I definitely really appreciate those two for going through such a similar thing as me. We definitely helped each other out just by being around each other.”

Frick and his teammates would get together in the off season and play together, and he hopes this will continue this summer as well as into the following years. “I want to stay close with a lot of the hoop kids, I enjoy being around them so much,” Frick said. “They have such fun energy.” 

Taking Chemistry with science department chair and science teacher Mr. Matt Owen his sophomore year and then again his senior year, Frick appreciates how Mr. Owen teaches and the environment he fosters in his classroom. “Talking to him about personal, random, non-school stuff is always nice just to get the feeling of like, ‘Okay, wait, this isn’t just a teacher, it’s an actual person who does care about me,’” Frick said.  

Although AP Chemistry moved quickly, he felt that Mr. Owen made it worth how difficult some of the material was. Additionally, Mr. Owen’s organization in the class helped him stay on track along with the fact that he never felt that studying was a burden because of how much he enjoyed the material. 

Science and computer programming teacher Mr. Kyle Voge is another educator Frick admires. A strong love for trivia is something that they share, and one of his favorite memories has been going into Mr. Voge’s classroom during Flex Time and participating in trivia for prizes which were usually Starbursts or other sweet treats. Mr. Voge has also been playing The Legend of Zelda video game recently, which is another fun thing he and Frick have been able to connect about. 

“It’s nice to talk to a teacher who has some shared interests,” Frick said. 

Frick has felt that throughout his life, he has had stereotypical “nerd interests” but hasn’t always loved using the term to describe himself, but has grown to love that part of himself.  “I’ve really embraced those kind of things, and it’s like I genuinely don’t really know what other word I would use, so I kind of just use it. It’s almost more of a term of endearment, because I do really enjoy those parts about myself and definitely have learned to embrace it,” Frick said. 

Frick has learned to change the meaning of the word “nerd,” as he grew up seeing it in movies when the jocks would bully the nerds. When he got older, he got more into basketball and pursued his own passions with video games and began to appreciate the balance he had struck. “It’s fun because I feel like I’m a fusion of both, which I really enjoy,” Frick said.  

Frick, along with his family, is very passionate about basketball, occasionally finds themselves eating meals together while watching games in front of their TV. Born and raised in Portland, Frick has always been a fan of the Blazers basketball team. His mother’s parents also grew up in the Portland area and live close to Frick and his family which he immensely appreciates. 

According to Frick, his family has always loved board games. A favorite they share is the game Quiddler, which he described as being similar to Scrabble but with cards instead of tiles. His family is competitive so when everyone is in town for the holidays, they have a blast playing together. Frick said that his aunt and uncle, both English teachers, make it especially enjoyable. 

Outside of his passion for board games and Pokémon, Frick also enjoys volunteering at an organization called Bustin’ Barriers and has been helping participate in the program since middle school. The organization runs a summer camp for kids with disabilities, and volunteers get to help the kids out with activities such as P.E. games or arts and crafts. Because Frick had personally known Andrew Yoshihara, the Executive Director of Bustin’ Barriers and former La Salle staff member, he was offered the opportunity to begin volunteering through him. 

“That’s something I really look forward to every summer, and it’s just a lot of fun to do,” Frick said.

Last summer, Yoshihara informed Frick that he would be moving up to a staff member position and would have the responsibility of checking in with more kids and overseeing volunteers helping campers out. This leadership role includes Frick setting up activities, leading games, and being able to help on a larger scale. 

To underclassmen, Frick offers his wisdom about hard work.

“Genuinely try to push yourself,” Frick said. “You can handle so much more than you really think you can. And there’s a lot of people, especially here, who are looking out for you and want to make sure that you can accomplish whatever you’re setting out to do. There are days it’s going to be hard and it is going to take hard work, but people can handle a lot more, I think, than they initially realize. Don’t sell yourself short, you don’t want to regret anything later.”


Ashley Hawkins

Valedictorian Nate Dominitz aims to pursue a career in the social sciences someday as, “I’ve loved history classes, so being able to connect that and sort of use that to understand how our world is today and how we can improve it,” is a goal of his, he said.

Valedictorian Nate Dominitz

Having lived in five different cities across the country, valedictorian Nate Dominitz is no stranger to moving around, but he is glad to have landed at La Salle — a place he’s flourished in both academics and athletics. 

Dominitz was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but moved to Maryland, New Jersey, Los Angeles, and eventually settled in Portland at the age of eight. 

“It’s probably easier to move around when I was younger than if I had moved in seventh grade,” he said. “I feel like that would have been a lot harder than having moved when I was like five or six.”

Despite being very young, some of Dominitz’s core childhood memories trace back to his time in Maryland and New Jersey, where he lived near Philadelphia for two years. 

“One thing that I really look back on fondly was, when we lived outside of Philadelphia, going to all the Eagles games,” he said. “I’m a big Philadelphia Eagles fan because of that, but it has also inspired having football [be] such a big part of my life, I guess, through high school.”

As a result of being inspired by professional athletes from a young age, Dominitz has played a variety of sports growing up, though the one he has taken most seriously is football. During his first years of high school, he played football for the freshman and JV teams at Jesuit High School. 

While he enjoyed his football experience at Jesuit, he wanted a change after the COVID-19 pandemic. “I never really felt like I had fully gotten into the Jesuit community,” he said. “It was just weird having not even been there for a full school year in person, and I felt like I sort of wanted a fresh start.”

From then on, Dominitz has been happy with his decision to transfer, as he appreciates the academic and extracurricular opportunities La Salle has offered him. In addition to playing on the varsity football team as a quarterback, Dominitz has also dedicated time to service outside of school. 

Since his sophomore year, he has volunteered at Blanchet House in downtown Portland, an organization that serves meals to those in the community experiencing houselessness and food insecurity. 

“When I first started, we would only plate and put together to-go orders,” Dominitz said. “But now this past summer, now that they’re back to actually serve meals in person, they have different roles, possibly like preparing food or plating food, but also serving guests, or cleaning tables, or [waiting] tables, or serving water.”

Along with extracurriculars and various honors courses, Dominitz has taken eight AP classes in total: one sophomore year, three junior year, and four senior year. Despite having a heavy course load, he feels it’s easier to stay motivated when he has a lot on his plate, and believes extracurricular commitments help him stay on top of schoolwork. 

“Generally, I feel like it’s been pretty manageable,” Dominitz said. “I think personally, I am better about managing my time and trying to not procrastinate and get things done when I have other obligations that I use to work around.”

With a large amount of work stemming from rigorous classes, Dominitz has occasionally struggled with procrastination. However, to combat that tendency, “I always try to set goals for myself,” he said, “Because, you know, it does feel good when you make progress and get something done.”

For Dominitz, freshman year before COVID-19 feels like a long time ago, and he feels that he’s changed a lot since then. “Going in as a freshman, especially at Jesuit where I knew very few people, at the very beginning I was a little intimidated,” he said. “I didn’t participate as much.”

Now, one way that Dominitz views his growth over the years is that he’s opened up more at La Salle, engaging and speaking more in class throughout his time at the school. “At La Salle, I feel like I’ve gotten to know the teachers better,” he said. “So I feel like there’s more comfort there in the classroom.”

Some of his favorite high school classes have been AP English III, AP Spanish V, and AP U.S. Government for reasons such as the content learned and each of the classes’ environments. 

English has particularly stood out for Dominitz because of the discussions that took place during class, as well as the junior research project because he enjoyed “being able to look at current events topics and really dive into them,” he said. 

On a similar note, AP U.S. Government has been Dominitz’s favorite subject due to his interest in politics and current events — something that originated back in middle school.

“Probably where it really started was the primary caucuses and the 2016 election,” he said. “So that would be the spring of fifth grade where I really started to follow, first American politics and the news, and then personally I’ve been very interested in more global current events and international affairs.”

Dominitz aims to incorporate this interest into his future plans by majoring in the social sciences at Rice University in Houston, Texas, which he will be attending in the fall. He also is considering double majoring in Social Policy Analysis, “which examines the policy decisions that better our society,” he said.

A few reasons he was drawn to this college was because of their strong academic reputation, variety of social science majors, size, and location. 

Dominitz has always wanted to attend a college located in a bigger city as opposed to a more rural area or small college town due to the wide range of opportunities found in cities such as Houston. “I think being in a city is really appealing just because of everything that you have access to.”

In order to get the most out of his college experience, Dominitz’s plan is to “take classes that are subjects that I’m very interested in, and then apply what I learned seriously out of the classroom,” he said. “Whether it be working on research projects, working with faculty to conduct research, or I think studying abroad would be really cool.”

Ideally, Dominitz would like to study abroad someday in a Latin American country so he can use the Spanish he’s learned so far. 

Despite wanting to attend college out of state, Dominitz knows that being far away from home will take a significant adjustment. “It’s partially exciting, but also I’m pretty much just starting all over on my own in a completely new area,” he said. 

Looking back on his time in high school, the achievements Dominitz is most proud of are being a National Merit Scholar finalist, being selected as valedictorian, and making an All-League Team for football this past season. “It was a nice way to close out my high school career,” he said.

However, one of the highlights of his entire experience has been “having groups of friends that I can talk to,” he said. “I can work together with them, and I feel like I’m not going through classes or anything alone.”

In fact, one of the most exciting parts of being a valedictorian for Dominitz was that he was selected alongside his friends. “[The valedictorians have] had a lot of classes together,” he said. “We hang out outside of school; for friends, it was pretty cool.”

Viewing his decision to transfer midway through high school as something he is incredibly grateful for, Dominitz’s biggest lesson learned through high school is that “I shouldn’t be afraid to take risks,” he said. 

Additionally, with experience in being involved in a lot through school, a piece of advice that Dominitz would give to underclassmen is to “manage your time well,” he said. “Take school seriously, but not too seriously, and just try to find balance.”


Ashley Hawkins

Throughout her academic career, valedictorian Ellie Sandholm feels her family has been a great source of support. “My family has definitely pushed me to be the best that I can,” she said.

Valedictorian Ellie Sandholm

After attending public school for her entire academic career, valedictorian Ellie Sandholm made the decision to transfer to La Salle from Clackamas High School her sophomore year. Sandholm found that La Salle not only provided her with the rigorous academics she was looking for, but also a place to find herself. 

Although transferring to a new school was “nerve wracking” at first, Sandholm sees La Salle as a fresh start where she was able to be more social and break away from the shyness she had growing up. 

Sandholm quickly found friends through people she knew prior to transferring to La Salle and through her classes. Over the years, and especially during senior year, these friends have become an important source of support for Sandholm as many are in the same classes as her. 

“Having people I can depend on has been really helpful because I’ve made some really close friends and we’ve been able to work on things together,” Sandholm said. “Or, even if it’s just like taking a break and both being like ‘hey, we need to take a break,’ things like that have helped [me] stay motivated and like continue wanting to come to school.” 

Sandholm has also appreciated the relationships she has made with teachers due to the smaller student to teacher ratio at La Salle. 

“It has made me want to have more connections with my teachers, like being able to talk and have more connections with my professors in college, especially because I’m going to a smaller college, I’ll have the ability to do that,” she said. “That’s been really important to me and it makes me enjoy being at school more.” 

Teachers that especially stood out to Sandholm were science teachers Mr. Matthew Owen and Mr. Ryan Kain, as they taught her favorite subject and their teaching styles paired nicely with the way she learns. 

This year Sandholm took AP Chemistry with Mr. Owen, which quickly became her favorite class and inspired her to consider pursuing a major in chemistry. Although the material was difficult, the class provided Sandholm with a relaxing atmosphere and a close community. 

And although Sanholm did not take classes with religion teacher Ms. Sarah Maher and Director of Community & Student Leadership Ms. Adriana Noesi, she said they also made a great impact on her time at La Salle. 

Throughout her high school career, Sandholm was not actively working to become a valedictorian, but felt it was a byproduct of her hard work and her goal to get all A’s in her classes.  

“I’ve always been motivated in my school work just because I think it’s been a part of my identity to work hard in my classes, that it feels weird not to,” she said. 

Sandholm enjoys learning and finds it “cool” to learn new things, but also admits that there is a stressful side to not knowing something, both of which play a role in her motivation to keep working hard in her classes. 

Another accomplishment beyond being named valedictorian for Sandholm was winning both the bronze medal for the Presidential Service award and Presidential award through La Salle. “It just shows how hard I’ve worked in all my classes to get good grades,” Sandholm said, as this was a set goal she had. 

Looking back, Sandholm said that she has enjoyed her senior year for the increase in independence she has, especially with her schedule. She also feels that although there was more work to be done during her senior year, with classes and college applications, among other activities, she found effective ways to balance it all. 

This came in handy because on top of all the demanding classes she was taking, Sandholm involved herself in many extracurricular activities.  

From an early age, Sandholm knew that she liked volleyball more than any of the other sports she had tried out and thinks of it as the most memorable part of her childhood. Growing up, Sandholm played on the same recreational volleyball team that her dad coached.

“I really liked it because it kept me motivated,” Sandholm said. “I had to go to all the practices and I knew when all the things were happening because he had to be there and he brought me there,” she said. Sandholm also enjoyed always having a source of encouragement through her dad. 

A common theme throughout her time playing volleyball was that it helped her become a more social person and form friendships. This year in particular, Sandholm feels the La Salle team was closer than any other year. “It was nice to have the competitiveness on the team because that pushed us to be better,” she said. “But then we could also have fun with each other.”

A favorite moment with the La Salle team was when they made it to the state tournament — a goal they had been working towards the entire season. “I think it was just really cool to be in that big of a competitive environment because it was more than a tournament,” Sandholm said. “It was just a one of a kind experience.”

Another extracurricular that Sandholm came to love during high school was participating in theater productions as a lighting technician. 

“I like the creative side that I get to see, and I also just like seeing the production of the show because I get to sit in the booth in the back and kind of watch it, which is always fun,” she said. 

Sandholm first joined the theater crew in her junior year during the production of the spring musical “Mamma Mia,” with the encouragement of her younger sister who is also involved in theater. Looking back, “Mamma Mia” was Sandholm’s favorite production to work on, as she got to watch the progression of the actors throughout the six shows and chat with other crew members about what was going on during the shows.

And although she was not a part of theater for long, Sandholm feels that the experience has inspired her to be more open to trying new things, especially now that she will soon be moving on to college.   

Sandholm found that in order to balance all of these different activities with all of her school work, it took planning and motivation to get work done when there was time. 

The schedule Sandholm created mostly came about playing volleyball in the fall. She would get as much homework done before practice started and then get the rest of it done right when she got home, before she would do anything else. While Sandholm’s other interests and activities allowed for a bit more flexibility with time she continued to use this strategy to stay on top of her work. 

For underclassmen, Sandholm advises that it is very important to learn how to balance everything within one’s schedule, especially by not putting the sole focus on academics. “Burnout is real and it’s rough to get through,” she said. “I think finding other things, whether it’s sports or an extracurricular or something outside of school like a goal you’re working towards that’s not affiliated with school or college or trying to get into college but something that you genuinely enjoy I thinks helps a lot with your motivation and mentality overall.”   

Sandholm feels that this lesson and the experience of taking demanding classes at La Salle will help her learn how to balance her schedule when she begins to take even more difficult classes in college. 

Next year Sandholm will be moving across the country to study at Wellesley College in Boston. 

Sandholm knew she wanted to move to the East Coast, but ultimately found that Wellesley was the right fit for her since it is a women’s college, which puts focus on empowering women and is also a school that focuses on “an encompassing education,” Sanholm said. 

Although she is unsure what career path she would like to take, Sandholm wants to study within the realm of science and plans to start off as a neuroscience major. 

“It’s kind of an intersection of biology and a bit of chemistry, and taking anatomy this year, the brain unit was my favorite,” she said. “It was the most complex, but it was really interesting how that sort of works. So I think I definitely want to go in and take classes and see how much I enjoy it.” 

Looking towards college, Sandholm is excited to be in a new environment and meet new people, as students from Wellesley come from all over. Sandholm admits that meeting new people will be a bit daunting, but she feels La Salle has prepared her for it. 

Although Sandholm is ready to leave the nest, she will miss the community at La Salle the most. 

“Being able to walk in and know that I could go to multiple teachers or people, or walk around the halls and knowing a fair amount of the people, I think I’m going to miss that,” Sandholm said. 

At La Salle, Sandholm was able to explore and discover the many interests and passions she now has, and create lasting relationships within the community.  

“I think [my] overall achievement has been definitely more abstract,” Sanholm said. “I think [it’s] being able to find more of who I am and make friends with people who I want to be friends with. Being here has helped me come out of my shell a bit and figure out more about who I am.”


Ashley Hawkins

Valedictorian Onni Barron is grateful for the support his family has provided throughout his academic journey. “They push me to do my best at what I try, but they’ve also definitely been the ones to remind me to relax,” he said.

Valedictorian Onni Barron

This year, valedictorian Onni Barron became the second member of his family to earn this title, following in the footsteps of his older brother who was named La Salle’s valedictorian in 2021.

As the youngest of four siblings, two of which had attended La Salle, it was natural for Barron to want to meet the standards they had set, which might appear to explain the origin of his academic rigor. 

However, this was not entirely the case. 

Despite the internal pressure to fill the shoes of his older siblings, Barron did not spend his high school years chasing this title in the wake of their accomplishments. Rather, he aspired to make a name for himself by setting his own individual goals and standards; thus, becoming a valedictorian was somewhat of a byproduct of his desire to push his own limits academically.

“As the youngest child, in some ways, I was always looking for a way to differentiate myself,” Barron said. From the beginning he knew that if he were to try to mold himself to fit his sibling’s narratives, that would be “unrealistic because they all did very different things,” he said.

That being said, Barron’s family — especially his siblings — helped pave the way for him, and played a very influential role in shaping the values and interests he maintains today. 

Throughout his childhood, Barron frequently tagged along with his siblings to whatever activities they happened to be occupied with at the moment. “It was kind of all over the place,” he said. “I didn’t really stick to one thing.” 

He did, however, take an interest in running, and though it was never something he pursued in high school, he and his dad have been training together for years.“We run 5Ks and 10Ks — not super competitively, but just to say that we have,” Barron said.

Barron’s family also played a role in helping him choose which high school to attend and were the source of some of his main academic interests.

As two of his siblings were already making the commute, the decision for Barron to attend La Salle in the first place was partially due to the convenience of having everybody in one place. “It was going to be easier for my family if we didn’t have to go to different parts of town just to go to school,” he said. 

Residing in northeast Portland, Barron would’ve attended the local public school he was zoned for, but his parents were adamant that he receive the best education possible. So, after touring both Central Catholic High School and Jesuit High School, Barron landed on La Salle. “When I shadowed here for a day, all the teachers seemed really nice,” he said. “I think that was a big thing.”

For Barron, the transition from his small public middle school, Winterhaven, to La Salle was a seismic shift. “Most of my closest friends went to Cleveland or some other PPS school,” he said. “It was a bit of a tough transition … especially since many other people seemed like they knew each other here.”

On the bright side, coming from Winterhaven meant Barron had a leg up in the math and science department, as that was one of the primary focuses of the school. That, combined with the fact that his family happened to be very math and science-oriented, helped Barron discover where he felt most at home within the walls of La Salle. 

With Barron’s dad working in computer science and his brother planning to enter that field after college, math and science have always been ubiquitous topics of interest within their household. 

Though computer science didn’t always captivate Barron in the same way, simply being surrounded by his family member’s passions gave him an outlet into that world that was impossible to resist. “The way that they talk about it makes even me interested in it,” he said. 

Wanting to explore the topic further, Barron took the AP Computer Science course offered at La Salle during his sophomore year. However, the structure of the AP curriculum was not as impactful as he had hoped. “I felt like what the class was focusing on and what [we] were required to learn was the most boring part of computer science,” he said. 

So, with the intention of making computer science more appealing to the greater community, Barron brought back the Computing Club after it disbanded with the departure of former Director of Technology David Heineck last year, a decision he described as “born out of the frustration” of the mundane material the AP course was centered around. Within this role, he wanted to present a version of computer science that was “much more interesting and much more applicable to people’s lives.” 

Though the AP Computer Science course didn’t live up to his expectations, Barron found other ways to expand his interest in math and science at La Salle and was able to enroll in courses at the highest level of difficulty in order to challenge himself.

For example, he has found great enjoyment in AP Chemistry, both within the material itself and the instructional methods. “There are other science classes I’ve liked, but chemistry was always the one that stood out to me,” he said. Barron also gives credit to Mr. Owen, who is in his opinion, an “absolutely great teacher.”

After taking the class his junior year, he liked it so much that he returned as a teaching assistant the following year, and spent that time helping other students develop their passion for chemistry.

In terms of his own passion for chemistry, Barron intends to further explore it in college. Come fall, he will be attending Carnegie Mellon University, where he plans to major in chemical engineering. 

In addition to the appeal of Carnegie Mellon’s strong engineering department, he was also drawn to its ideal size and location and has been able to become familiar with the school through his older sister, who studied animation there. “It’s nice to have that connection,” he said. 

Though it’s clearly a main focus of his, chemistry isn’t the only area Barron has excelled in throughout his academic journey; in fact, he’s pushed himself to do well in nearly every subject. 

His schedule this year was packed to the brim with AP courses, including AP Physics, AP English, AP Government, and AP Spanish V. In addition, he was enrolled in Linear Algebra, the highest level of math offered at La Salle.

Even for a student of Barron’s caliber, the workload resulting from those courses was difficult to manage at times, especially when things such as college applications were factored into the equation. “I’m definitely burnt out at this point,” he said. 

That being said, Barron is grateful for his teachers’ flexibility and accommodation throughout the year and has benefited from their ability to ease his stress rather than exacerbate it. “Many of my teachers have been really supportive,” he said. “They’ve made sure to emphasize the fact [that] the grade isn’t all that matters.” 

Now that Barron is finishing his senior year, he is glad to have learned the importance of taking time to focus on his mental health rather than worrying about his grades, though he wishes he had been able to utilize that skill earlier on. 

For the majority of high school, academics and grades were Barron’s top priority, and he set very high expectations for himself to achieve perfection in regard to schoolwork. While he’s proud of all of his hard work and accomplishments, he feels that there were times when he put himself under more pressure than necessary. 

“Looking back at it … I could’ve maybe relaxed a little bit,” Barron said. “I could’ve fit some fun things into my schedule as well.” 

Because of this, earning the title of valedictorian is a double-edged sword, and surfaces mixed emotions for Barron. While he mainly reflects on his work with pride, it also serves as a painful and frustrating reminder of the “destructive” habits that led to this achievement.

“I dropped so many of my interests and hobbies for the sake of, ‘school, school, school,’” he said. “There was a little bit of frustration; I didn’t want to be validated again for those habits.”

Looking back, Barron would approach high school in a very different way if he was given the opportunity, even if it meant not receiving the title of valedictorian. “I feel like that would have made me a much happier person than I was for the past three years,” he said.

However, Barron is looking forward to starting fresh in college, and he’s excited for the opportunity to try new things and experience all that Carnegie Mellon has to offer. “I don’t want to stop working now,” he said “But I do kind of want to let up and give myself room to enjoy things.”

Barron’s advice to underclassmen is to take advantage of the years ahead of them and experience all aspects of high school, not just the academics. “Relax a little bit,” he said. “Grades aren’t the end-all and be-all … of course they matter, but they shouldn’t come at the expense of what you enjoy.”

Even if Barron didn’t embody this philosophy as much as he had hoped, he’s proud that he can look back on his high school experience and mobilize to make a difference in all the aspects of his life — and of the greater community — that he wants to see change in. 

“People can change,” he said. “Coming into high school, I feel like I just did whatever I thought was right. Now, I feel like I’ve gotten to the point where I can actually think about what I think is right, and question why I believe that.”


Ashley Hawkins

Salutatorian Gabriel de Leon’s biggest piece of advice for students is to utilize La Salle’s teachers as a resource outside of class and build a relationship with them. “Many of our students are scared of approaching a teacher through their flex times, but it really helps if you put yourself out there with your teacher,” he said. “Being able to talk to your teachers [and] make relationships with them really helps with your learning.”

Salutatorian Gabriel de Leon

With his K-8 years spent at St. Ignatius School, salutatorian Gabriel de Leon was in some capacity familiar with La Salle long before his eighth grade graduation ceremony. De Leon estimates that about half his graduating class ended up attending La Salle — including many of his closest friends.

However, for de Leon and his twin brother Raphael, the thought of attending La Salle — or any private school, for that matter — was initially far-fetched. “At first we were thinking of going to David Douglas, public school, [to] save money,” de Leon said. It was his parish’s priest that convinced de Leon and his family to consider private school.

“He has some connections to Jesuit,” de Leon said. “He was telling us to go to Jesuit, talking about how we can get financial aid, [how] it’d be affordable.”

With such a strong pipeline from St. Ignatius to La Salle, Gabriel and Raphael also applied to become Falcons. Due to a shorter commute and a stronger sense of community, they chose La Salle over Jesuit.

In retrospect, de Leon has no regrets about his decision. He is especially grateful to have attended a private school. “I feel like my education would have been a lot worse [in public school],” de Leon said. “Public school would be a big change from a very tiny sheltered one — with so many people I would have been really terrified.”

While the idea of being a salutatorian was something that appealed to de Leon at the beginning of his academic career, it wasn’t his main goal as a student. Instead, he concentrated on taking as many AP and dual credit classes as possible in order to save money for college. Being named salutatorian was a byproduct of the rigor of his academic coursework.

“I was honestly really surprised when Ms. Coughran told me,” de Leon said.

Even though the title of salutatorian caught de Leon by surprise, this accolade is no accident.

He heavily stressed the benefits of having a strong mentality and sense of prioritization. “Balancing between practice, having a social life, and education, I prioritize education a lot more,” de Leon said. Despite the social sacrifices that de Leon has had to make for his academic career, he believes that he has made the most of his high school experience.

“Maybe I’m not living the fullest social life that I could have, but I have close friends [and] I can still deeply connect with them,” de Leon said. “Maybe I didn’t go to every basketball game or all the sporting events, but I did have a good education, and I did save money for college.”

La Salle’s teaching staff was also something to which de Leon accredited his academic success. “Take advantage of the teachers,” de Leon said.  “In a private school where it’s so community-based, all the teachers love their students, so they’ll be happy to help you and give you more time if need be.” Specifically, de Leon named religious studies teacher Mr. Tom McLaughlin and science teachers Mr. Ryan Kain and Mr. Matthew Owen as three teachers that have facilitated his academic journey.

“Instead of just building a teacher-student relationship, they go beyond that,” de Leon said. “They really build a connection with you and keep it entertaining.”

Swimming has been a part of de Leon’s life since he was four years old, and the sport is something that he has drawn strength from academically. “Being able to do sports was able to almost just awaken me [and] give me more energy,” de Leon said. “Now I’m like, ‘Oh, I already messed around with my friends doing sports,’ and then I’m able to focus on my schoolwork.” Extracurriculars in general are something that de Leon strongly recommends for any student.

“It’s really helpful to find something that helps you move on and get past your hard day,” de Leon said. “For me, it was sports.”

Additionally, de Leon named his powerful relationship with his twin Raphael as another catalyst for his academic and personal development. “It’s nice to have someone to talk to because we’re going through the exact same things,” de Leon said. “We’re both around the same maturity [level] because we grew up together, [which] is really nice.” 

Is there a sibling rivalry between the two? Not really. “People would kind of put that on us,” de Leon said. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a little bit of friendly competition between them. “At least for me, it helped me feel a little bit more like I needed to try harder,” de Leon said. “But it was just a friendly thing — we never really get into fights.”

From a very early age, de Leon was putting his brain to work. “My family tried to stay away from technology,” de Leon said. “So it was puzzles, reading a lot, going outside when possible.” That early tech-free environment is something to which de Leon attributes his academic aptitude. “Your development really happens when you’re a child,” de Leon said. “Having your parents push you to use [your brain] to problem-solve will help you later on in your life, even if at first you don’t see it.”

Despite the absence of technology in his early life, de Leon took a special interest in computers, and more specifically, coding and computer science. “I liked using my brain to solve problems, [and] coding is about problem solving — finding what’s most efficient.”

His interest in computer science truly blossomed during his time in high school, where he began with science teacher Mr. Kyle Voge’s Intro to Computer Science class during his freshman year. Computer Science II was not offered during de Leon’s sophomore year, so he jumped straight to AP Computer Science. He expressed some disappointment at only being able to take two computer science classes at La Salle.

Fortunately for de Leon, he will be able to expand his understanding of computer science at Oregon State University, which he chose due to its strong STEM program. At OSU, he will major in computer science, where he will look to pursue cybersecurity. One of his potential career avenues is ethical hacking, which was something that he first heard about at La Salle’s career day.

Aside from OSU’s strong STEM program, de Leon chose to become a Beaver due to the university’s affordability and location. While he didn’t want to move too far away from home, de Leon also wanted to have the chance to live on campus. He believes that having that independence better prepares you to become an adult.

“I just wanted to grow,” de Leon said.

While de Leon is excited for the college experience, he expressed some nerves about the transition. Oregon State’s massive student population is a contributing factor, especially compared to La Salle’s relatively small size.

Having a new level of responsibility is also a challenge that de Leon will have to get accustomed to. “You have the decision of when you sleep, when you wake up, what you do with your life,” de Leon said. “I don’t want to go, but I also do. It’s a mix.”

Becoming a salutatorian takes a great deal of academic commitment, but de Leon has still been able to get involved with the La Salle community. In addition to swim and cross country, de Leon is a member of La Salle’s Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) club. He also volunteers as a peer tutor each Tuesday morning.

An enduring memory of La Salle for de Leon was his time on the Journey retreat. While he went as a member of the Journey 85 group, he was also able to return for Journey 86 as a senior leader, which was “10 times better,” he said. De Leon had a “life-changing” experience at Journey, and he decided to come back to give that experience to his fellow students.

“I was able to create such a big change in their life,” de Leon said. “It helped me grow significantly as a person.”

La Salle’s interconnected sense of community is one of the biggest things that de Leon has cherished about his time in high school. “You’ll never find a close knit community [like] this,” de Leon said. “Being part of this big family is just insane.” 

It’s also something that he’ll miss as he moves to college. “That’ll be really interesting,” de Leon said. “La Salle just [has] a community focused aspect, [and] since it’s so small, in going to a public, big school, you won’t ever get that experience again.”

As he closes the book on his high school journey, de Leon had one last piece of advice for those still living the high school experience.

“Just make the most out of high school, because it’s a once in a lifetime thing,” de Leon said. “I feel like middle schools can’t capture it, and colleges are just way too big. High school is the perfect place to find your spot, really dwell in it, and just live it out.”


Ashley Hawkins

Salutatorian Catie Tassinari has always strongly valued time spent with her family, so she’s grateful that she’s going to be close by during her next four years at Oregon State University. “You’re still making your own way, but you’re close enough where you can go home if you need to,” she said.

Salutatorian Catie Tassinari

Though it wasn’t her intention, Catie Tassinari started the journey to becoming a salutatorian at a young age.

Growing up, she led a fruitful childhood alongside her two siblings, including her twin sister and older sister of three years, both of whom also attended La Salle. Together, they loved to explore different hobbies and interests, many of which stuck with Tassinari, contributing to the extensive list of extracurricular activities she maintains today. 

Much of Tassinari’s childhood was spent outdoors, which later led to her emergence into the athletic world. “We lived really close to my grandparents, so we were always taking a walk to their house or riding our bikes over there,” she said. That, combined with their large backyard suitable for outdoor activities, allowed Tassinari to be consistently active. 

By the time she reached high school, Tassinari had tried her hand at numerous sports. Some of the sports she participated in, such as ballet, swim, and tennis, were merely for recreational purposes, but others, like volleyball, she stuck with and played competitively throughout the majority of high school. 

Though she stopped playing volleyball junior year, she is still a multi-sport athlete as a senior, participating in both golf and cross country.

For Tassinari, cross country was a “one time thing,” as she only ran senior year, but she took an unexpected liking to golf after initially being required to play freshman year. “My parents always said that if we wanted to go to La Salle we had to do at least one year of golf … I just continued it,” Tassinari said.

Despite spending a significant amount of her childhood honing her athletic skills, Tassinari was also using this time to develop a love for academics, explore her creativity, and discover her passion in life. Though she didn’t know it at the time, the activities she was involved in as a child would later play a heavy role in shaping her future.

As a child, Tassinari loved to read, an activity that helped spark creativity and independence. Though she stated that it has been “a little bit harder to find time for [reading] in high school,” her creativity and independence have not faded over the years; in fact, those skills helped her discover her passion in life. 

In eighth grade, Tassinari participated in an independent learning project in which students had to research a topic and present their findings to the class. For her topic of focus, she chose geology.

“We had just had a science unit on volcanoes, and I was really interested in it,” she said. “I was looking for a mentor that could help teach me anything about that, and I found this lady that worked at an OMSI exhibit.” 

As it turned out, the woman was a geologist for USGS, a United States government agency specializing in geology and other sciences. Wanting to provide Tassinari with a hands-on experience, she brought her to the observatory, and Tassinari was fascinated. “I’ve been on the same path since then,” she said. 

Now, geology is one of Tassinari’s favorite subjects in school, and she plans to major in it at Oregon State University and eventually work on a field study of volcanoes.

But it’s not just geology that Tassinari has been focused on these past four years. Upon arriving at La Salle, Tassinari has taken interest in many different activities and subjects, ranging from rigorous classes to fun enterprises. 

Currently, she is the Co-president of the Asian American and Pacific Islander club, along with fellow seniors Raphael de Leon and Madeline Obuchowski. Their goal was to expand the club by meeting more often as an affinity group, which proved to be a bit more difficult than they thought.

“We’ve had a really hard time finding a moderator,” Tassinari said. “We’ve just been trying to plan new activities and keep the club going.” 

In addition to being a Co-president of the AAPI Club, Tassinari is the Student Body Vice President. Previously serving as the Officer of Community, she has lots of experience in Leadership and has enjoyed taking on a larger role this year under Leadership teacher Ms. Adriana Noesi and Director of Equity and Inclusion Ms. Kiah Mounsey’s guidance. 

“I kind of bounce around to different groups, seeing who needs help,” she said. “I worked on the Better Together fundraiser, [and] I’ve worked on dances and assemblies.” 

Tassinari’s main inspiration to run for vice president came from former council members Dakota Canzano and Amanda Rivera. “They were both really involved in [the] student council… they made so many new relationships and connections,” she said. “I was like, ‘I want to do what they’re doing. I hope I can be like them.’”

Besides her leadership positions, Tassinari’s list of extracurricular activities also includes working as a barista for Starbucks and participating in both Earth Club and Service Club. 

As for academics, her course load is heavy. This year some of her most challenging classes include AP Government, AP Statistics, AP Spanish V, and AP English, all of which require a considerable amount of work to keep up in. 

“I don’t regret it, but there’s just so much homework,” she said. “It can get overwhelming.” 

Despite a packed schedule, Tassinari consistently goes the extra mile with her schoolwork. For example, she completed the Spanish IV curriculum over the summer in order to jump ahead, as she felt it would be more beneficial. “It’s much more learning about the culture, and very conversational, which I think has helped me improve my Spanish more so than any other year,” she said. 

As Tassinari was merely working to improve her own skills and challenge herself academically throughout this time, she was shocked upon learning she received the title of salutatorian. In fact, when she was called down to the office to receive her award, she initially thought she was in trouble. 

“I definitely did not think I was going to get it,” she said. “There’s so many really smart people in our class.” 

While Tassinari is excited about the achievement, she in no way wishes to downplay the sacrifices it has taken to reach the position she’s in — balancing sports, work, academics, and clubs while still achieving outstanding grades has been no cake walk by any means. 

“I think I had a misconception when I came into high school seeing all these people graduate with a bunch of awards, like ‘Oh that’s so easy, they just did it because they’re really smart,’” she said. “I don’t want to glamorize what it took to get to the end because it was really hard.” 

That being said, Tassinari does not regret challenging herself and pushing her limits.

“I do think it was worth it, even if it was really difficult,” she said. “I feel prepared for college now. I know how to study, and I know how to budget my time.” 

In addition, Tassinari has grown more confident in her work, and no longer feels as much desire to achieve perfection in everything she does. “I remember freshman year I could not turn in an assignment without calling my friend and being like … ‘I don’t know if I did it right,’” she said. “This year … I don’t have to check in with people before I turn in projects or assignments.” 

Her advice to those who are looking to pursue a similar path and finish strong in high school is to surround themselves with a support system. “I know that I have so many teachers and staff and friends and family that I can lean on,” she said. “It really helps me.” 

Looking ahead, Tassinari is excited to see where the next four years at Oregon State will take her.

“I know that there’s definitely going to be challenges that I’m not expecting,” she said. “I’m excited to see how that goes.”

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About the Writers
Photo of Josephine Robinson
Josephine Robinson, Editor in Chief

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

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

Photo of Megan Snyder
Megan Snyder, Editor in Chief

Megan is a senior who is a student ambassador, President of Earth Club, and a member of the varsity tennis team. 

She is in her third semester of journalism...

Photo of Seychelle Marks-Bienen
Seychelle Marks-Bienen, Editor

Senior Seychelle Marks-Bienen was born in Missoula, Montana, but moved to Southeast Portland at the age of two. She is a member of the girls varsity soccer...

Photo of Lucy Loeb
Lucy Loeb, Editor

Born in Pleasanton, CA, senior Lucy Loeb’s deep-rooted admiration for the Bay Area has led her to aspire to move back there someday.
Lucy’s parents...

Photo of Brooks Coleman
Brooks Coleman, Assistant Editor

Brooks Coleman is a senior at La Salle. He has lived in the Sellwood-Moreland area of Portland his entire life.

Prior to attending La Salle, Brooks...

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