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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

May 31, 2023

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.”

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About the Writer
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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...

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