It’s the end of an era at Coupeville High School, where the class of 2023 is soon to bid farewell to their secondary education.
The commencement ceremony will take place at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 10 on Mickey Clark Field. While the COVID-19 pandemic gave this year’s crop of graduates an interesting start to their high school careers, they managed to rise above their challenges and excel in academics, arts, athletics, service and more.
Coupeville High School’s top 10 graduates reflected on the last four years and shared their plans for the future.
Abigail Ramirez is one of two valedictorians of the Coupeville High School class of 2023. With a perfect 4.0, Ramirez said maintaining good grades over the last four years despite facing different problems in life is the greatest accomplishment of her high school career.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing; Ramirez said she will remember the stress she often felt finishing assignments at the last minute her senior year. But her hard work paid off, and she will be attending the University of Washington in the fall.
While the COVID-19 pandemic prohibited her from participating in all the extracurricular activities she wanted to, she still was involved in various organizations. Ramirez spent two years on the Coupeville High School executive board and two years in the National Honor Society.
She encouraged underclassmen to “just go for it, because you will never know unless you try.”
The graduating class’s other valedictorian is Helen Strelow. Another 4.0 graduate, Strelow said athletics were a major part of her high school experience.
Strelow ran cross country for four years and served as team captain. She also played tennis for three years and was recognized as the most valuable player.
She said she considers qualifying for the state championships in both of these sports her greatest achievement of the last four years.
Her athletic experience also made up some of her funniest memories; she recalled telling jokes with her cross country teammates as they ran together through town.
Strelow will attend Montana State University in the fall.
Salutatorian Carolyn Lhamon kept busy with lots of extracurricular activities and athletics during high school. She played soccer and basketball and served as captain of both teams; ran track; participated in the National Honor Society, the executive board and the captains club; and even edited the yearbook her junior year.
Learning to balance her extracurricular and academic responsibilities and maintaining high standards in all areas are the achievements she said she’s most proud of from her time in high school.
Lhamon earned a 3.995 GPA. Her advice to underclassmen was to apply themselves and live in the moment, because high school goes by quickly.
“Cut yourself some slack,” she said. “It will all work out in the end.”
When asked her funniest memory from high school, the graduate simply said, “I plead the fifth.”
Lhamon will study biomedical engineering at Colorado School of Mines this fall.
Jillian Prince finished high school with a 3.989 GPA and will attend the University of Washington to study classics.
The graduate played two years of softball and four years of volleyball. She said serving as volleyball team captain for two years is the high school accomplishment of which she is most proud.
“I have learned more life lessons from being a part of that team than any other time in my life,” she said.
Prince did not have a typical high school experience; her first two years were marred by the COVID-19 pandemic, and she spent her junior and senior years off campus participating in the Running Start program at Skagit Valley College. But she said her unusual high school journey taught her self discipline, time management, mental health awareness and the importance of reaching out and making connections.
“Know that it is okay to take breaks, to not show up to something when you know you need to focus on your mental and physical health, to say no, and to think of yourself,” she advised upcoming classes. “Never let the fear of other’s opinions rule your actions and always stay true to your own values.”
Athletics were an important part of Scott Hilborn’s secondary education. He said winning his first state baseball game was his greatest accomplishment of his high school career.
Hilborn played baseball for Coupeville High School for three years, two of which he served as team captain. He also played four years of football and said his athletic seasons are what he will remember most about his senior year.
Hilborn was also a two-year member of the National Honor Society. Though he admitted the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult to stay motivated, he still earned a 3.988 GPA and will attend the University of Washington in the fall.
He encouraged underclassmen to try hard in school but remember to make time for friends, as well.
For graduate Nathan Farnworth, the COVID-19 pandemic was a blessing in disguise; the graduate said stepping away from a traditional education structure boosted his mental health and set him up for success, especially once he enrolled in Running Start.
Farnworth earned a 3.978 GPA. He said he was proud of the essays he wrote on literature and sociology. He will go on to study political science this fall at Western Washington University.
Farnworth ran track for one year, but he said what he will remember most about his senior year was forming a rock band with his friends and performing at a high school band concert.
He advised younger students to exercise understanding when in conflict and not to allow anyone to dissuade them from pursuing their dreams.
“Never let anyone tell you to plan for a future you don’t want,” he said.
Brenn Sugatan said his senior year was the best school year he’s ever had.
“I will always remember how much my peers and teachers made me smile and laugh,” he said.
For Sugatan, his high school experience has fostered a lot of personal growth; he cited “finding myself” as his greatest achievement of the last four years and advised underclassmen to open their hearts.
“End concealing, try revealing,” he said.
Sugatan earned a 3.97 GPA and was a volunteer sports photographer for the yearbook his senior year. He will attend Central Washington University in the fall and major in computer science.
High school is all about trying new things, working hard and having fun, according to graduate Cristina McGrath. She participated in a number of extracurricular activities, including the National Honor Society, 4-H teen leadership group, track and cross country.
She said she will always remember how the whole girls cross country team got to compete at the state level and were the 1B/2B academic state champions her senior year.
Like her fellow Running Start students, her high school experience was largely online or otherwise off campus. She said earning her associate’s degree concurrently with her high school diploma is her greatest accomplishment of the last four years.
McGrath finished high school with a 3.959 GPA.
Alita Blouin plans to major in biochemistry at Western Washington University, where she will participate in the honors program.
She said the COVID-19 pandemic made her appreciate time spent in person with her peers, and she hopes underclassmen won’t take their high school experiences for granted.
The graduate played four years of varsity volleyball and three years of varsity basketball and served as captain of both teams. She said she is proud of how she managed to balance her sports with the demands of her AP classes.
She also participated in the National Honor Society and earned a 3.95 GPA.
James Hall got a “running start” in more ways than one. Besides earning an associate’s degree during high school, he also ran cross country and track and will go on to run cross country at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, where he will study physics and mathematics beginning this fall.
Running also brought him one of his funniest high school memories — the graduate recalled running six miles while passing an uninstalled window between himself and his friends.
“We’d found it on the side of the road during a long run, and we decided to bring it with us,” he recalled. “It’s currently installed in one of our houses.”
Hall earned a 3.95 GPA and shared his gratitude for the family members, friends, teammates, teachers and coaches who supported him and made his journey a fun one.