Oak Harbor High School’s top 10 graduating seniors are an impressive bunch. They range from competitive athletes to gifted singers, to talented engineers, to dedicated community volunteers.
The group includes seven students with perfect 4.0 GPAs, and the others are not far behind.
The class of 2021 had a unique high school experience, spending nearly half of it cooped up indoors because of the coronavirus pandemic, but each student worked hard to get to graduation.
Here is Oak Harbor’s top 10.
Lily Brandt had a busy high school career. She went to three different schools, played soccer, was involved with a variety of clubs and still maintained a 4.0 GPA. One of her favorite memories comes from playing soccer in the pouring rain, in classic Pacific Northwest style.
When she isn’t working to pay for school, she plans to travel this summer and will go back to San Diego, Calif., to see friends and family, and go on a road trip with her dad to visit his hometown in Illinois.
She plans to attend Skagit Valley College in the fall to begin the next stage of her life. She is open to possibilities and is excited to learn new things, in addition to her desire to become a writer.
She encouraged underclassmen to follow their passions and see where it takes them.
“If you put in the smallest bit of effort and are overwhelmingly, catastrophically passionate, you can never fail,” she said.
Logan Fowler said his favorite memory was the last day of school before the buildings were closed at the beginning of the pandemic.
“The energy that day was insane, and it was the last day of normalcy, so it really sticks out to me,” Fowler said.
Besides maintaining a perfect 4.0, he was involved in the Flight Club, Ecology Club, the Gender and Sexuality Alliance, and a club that welcomes new students to campus.
He encouraged underclassmen to take advantage of as many opportunities as they can, especially with extracurricular activities.
“Not only is it helpful for college applications, but sometimes you will find new hobbies or fulfillment in something you would have never guessed you enjoyed,” he explained.
His work paid off because he will be going to the University of Washington with a direct admittance into the computer science major. He hopes to become a software engineer.
Although Elisabeth Ince didn’t consider herself someone particularly interested in STEM at first, she said joining the robotics club was the best decision she could have made.
She’s traveled with the team to competitions around Puget Sound and Texas. The team has also let her travel internationally. She went to Monteverde, Costa Rica to start a robotics program at a local school with the team.
The well-rounded 4.0 student is also a gifted musician and sang in the choir for all four years. She’s also volunteered more than 200 community service hours and once gave a TEDx Talk called “Using Your Skills For Good.”
Ince encouraged younger students to challenge themselves and what they think they can do.
“Don’t be afraid to go out and find your people. I didn’t want to join robotics at first because I don’t think of myself as a STEM Person, but it was the best decision I could’ve made,” she said.
She is looking forward to some downtime this summer before heading to the University of Washington in the fall to study anthropology.
Octavia Prosser excelled across the board during high school. She played in the band club, jazz band, marching band and drumline, and was involved in the Key Club, National Honor Society, Skills USA and Liberty Club. To top it all off, she was also the student poet laureate.
The 4.0 student has a wide range of interests as exemplified in her post-graduation plans.
“While I wanted to at first join the circus and train bears, I became enamored with the idea that I must live in Seattle,” she said.
She plans to study engineering at the University of Washington. She is particularly interested in biomedical engineering and may combine her interests in cell and genetic engineering, and synthetic biology.
Her advice to underclassmen?
“Apply for scholarships earlier rather than later. Don’t try to think you can do them in a night, because after two cups of coffee and three Monsters, you’ll wish the clock could be reversed.”
Brenna Richard was involved in a variety of activities throughout school while keeping a 4.0 GPA. She was a member of a club that focused on community service projects and one that was designed to help new students feel welcomed to campus. She also was a part of the National Honor Society and Associated Study Body.
She worked hard during high school and said she is looking forward to focusing on music this summer.
Ever the comedian, she said her dream job would be “to be that person on the laugh track who laughs just a little too loudly so you can hear them above all the others.”
Or, she may become a marine biologist. She plans to attend the University of Washington.
Courtney VanGiesen’s favorite memories from high school come from trips with the cross country team and spending time with her teammates. In addition to cross country, the multi-sport athlete also competed in soccer, basketball and track.
She will continue her passion for sports by running cross country and track at George Fox University in Oregon, where she plans to study exercise science. She hopes to become a physical therapist.
She advised younger students to take advantage of every opportunity they can. In addition to athletics, VanGiesen was also active with the National Honor Society and Link Crew clubs, and maintained a 4.0 GPA.
“Four years goes by fast,” she said.
Samuel Peek made the most of an unusual high school experience filled with online classes and distance learning. He said his favorite memory was doing online classes in his recliner with his dog at his feet.
Peek earned a 3.983 GPA while also playing on the tennis and golf, and was an active member of the Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. He competed on the NJROTC’s academic team, the orienteering team, and the armed drill team.
He plans to attend Texas A&M University to study mechanical engineering with the goal of working for an engineering consulting firm someday.
Peek put in the hard work in school and encouraged younger classmates to do the same.
“Sometimes it’s more important to get good grades than to mess around with your friends,” he said.
Zach Badaouie’s advice to underclassmen was to “choose a path that emphasizes serving others.”
One of his favorite memories is from a community service project. He helped plant eight Garry oak trees at Oak Harbor Intermediate School while he was president of the Key Club.
Besides the Key Club, he was also active in the National Honor Society, Link Crew and DECA clubs as well as competing on the wrestling and cross country teams, all while earning a 3.98 GPA.
He will be moving to sunny California to attend the University of California, Los Angeles, where he plans to study business economics in the fall. He hopes to continue his interest in finance to become a financial analyst.
After graduating, Annie Salinger has plans to return to the classroom as a teacher. She will be attending Colorado Christian University to study elementary education with the dream of becoming a third grade teacher.
She made the most of her time in school and was involved in Link Crew, National Honor Society and Wildcats For Life clubs, while earning a 3.98 GPA.
She was also a gifted athlete and played varsity tennis and volleyball all four years. Her favorite memory comes from the high school send-off when the volleyball team went to the state competition.
She said high school offers many opportunities and encouraged underclassmen to try as many as possible.
“Explore them and you might be surprised (at) what you discover,” she said.
Dylan Salus suggested that younger students balance challenging courses and the pressure of college with classes that may be a little more fun.
“There’s no harm in not being a perfect student, as long as you’re not actively detracting from other people’s experience, and there’s no harm in taking a few fun classes over ones that look good for college,” he said. “One a year will give you some respite.”
Salus played in the jazz band and was a member of the NJROTC orienteering team. He also founded the high school’s debate club last year. He earned a 3.967 GPA.
He plans to attend Washington State University in the fall to pursue a degree in power systems engineering. He hopes to become a power systems engineer unless he discovers a new interest in college.