Sehome High School students Emma Clark and Zoe Dietrich have both received state recognition as graduating seniors this spring.
Clark received the Smart Choices scholarship as the top female student athlete in the state from the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA). The WIAA scholarship is worth $5,000 toward the higher education institution of her choice. She will attend Stanford University this fall where she plans to study elementary education and English as a second language.
Dietrich has been awarded the competitive, all-expenses paid, 3-week long National Youth Science Camp slot for which only the top two graduating seniors from each state are accepted. She is headed to Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine in the fall where she will study chemistry.
Clark and Dietrich took some time during their busy, final weeks of school to answer a few questions about these awards and their futures and to reflect on their student experience in Bellingham Public Schools.
Emma, how did you decide to go into education, and specifically, English as a second language?
My desire to become a teacher first started in fourth grade after witnessing the classroom atmosphere my fourth and fifth grade teacher Mrs. Tara Vodopich created. I couldn’t help but admire the passion and grace she displayed in all situations. Mrs. Vodopich created an innovative and dynamic learning environment that the whole class loved. We ran a fake economy, had “jobs”, and learned through engaging projects and discussions. I felt a true desire for coming to school to learn, not just to see my friends. As I began to reflect on my own experience with captivating learning, I realized that many children throughout the world will never have a chance to experience any formal education, let alone an inspiring one. I want to be the crucial person who helps to shape a child like Mrs. Vodopich did to me. My first goal upon graduating from Stanford is to travel overseas to teach children in impoverished countries, as well as to teach English as a second language. I hope to offer disadvantaged kids new knowledge and skills and even impact the adults or future teachers of that community. By teaching abroad I hope to impact lives around the world and improve education in whatever way I can. In addition, by teaching English as a second language I’ll be able to utilize my bilingualism in Spanish as well as develop my passion for other languages. I’ve always loved working with kids and I believe teaching is the best way for me to interact with them in a positive environment.
Zoe, why have you chosen to study chemistry and how did you decide on Bowdoin? And tell us about the impressive science camp this summer.
I would like to study chemistry because I believe it is the perfect blend of science, math, and creativity. I adored my AP Chemistry class at Sehome, and I just love the collaboration and intellectual engagement that chemistry inspires in myself and in those around me. I’m curious about chemical principles and find myself thinking about them throughout the day, even though I’m no longer in the class. AP Chemistry wasn’t enough! I’d love to pair a major in chemistry with coordinate majors in environmental science and education, as I love tutoring and have an interest in environmental sustainability as well.
I chose Bowdoin on the basis of a gut feeling. I’ve been in love with the school since Day 1. I looked into Bowdoin initially because I want to go to a college where I will be in classes of 15-20 students and have the opportunity to collaborate with and befriend my professors. As well as the small classes, Bowdoin has a tight knit, trusting, and friendly community that is situated on the coast of Maine in the adorable town of Brunswick. Portland, the biggest city in Maine, is a mere 25-minute train ride from the college, and Boston is two hours away. Bowdoin has incredible research opportunities, all of which are available to undergrads, as well as a 118-acre Coastal Studies Center 15 minutes from campus, and a remote island in the Bay of Fundy used for environmental science and biological research. As well as becoming engrossed in these research opportunities, I’ll be running track and cross-country, and participating in orchestra at Bowdoin.
There’s a bit of a story about how I learned of and applied for this summer camp. I first heard of the National Youth Science Camp from Ms. Amy Hankinson, my AP Chemistry teacher. She forwarded me an email about the camp, exclaiming that it was the “perfect opportunity” for me and that I “simply had to apply!” I planned to apply, but the deadline was during a very busy time of year for me (the week before our regional Science Olympiad Competition), and learning that only two students from each state were accepted made me believe I didn’t have a shot. I wasn’t planning to apply the day before the deadline, when I was surprised by a snow day! Wanting to chat with a few teachers, I headed into school, as the roads weren’t bad later in the day. As soon as I told “Hank” I wasn’t planning to apply, she said, “Are you kidding me?! You have a whole day and you’re not going to apply? That’s crazy! Just do it!” After a motivational and supportive pep talk, I headed out the door to a coffee shop where I worked on my application for the next ten hours. Leave it to Hank to make me feel as though I can accomplish anything I set my mind to.
Held during the summer in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia and in Washington D.C., this three-week-long camp is fully funded by the National Youth Science Foundation, and gives me and other delegates from around the country and world the opportunity to engage in exciting lectures, seminars and hands-on studies, learn from the country’s scientific leaders, and participate in an amazing outdoor adventure program focused on scientific research and discovery in a wide range of fields. As you can imagine, I’m very excited!
What I look forward to most about participating in the NYSC is collaborating with passionate and committed people of diverse backgrounds and interests within the scientific community. I will also benefit hugely from the lectures and seminars as they “expose delegates to current work across the spectrum of scientific disciplines.” The opportunity to meet and converse with scientists who are leaders in their fields will be invaluable to my passion for inquiry and will remind me that I can make a positive impact on my local and global communities through scientific research.
Emma and Zoe, as soon-to-be graduates, can you share a few thoughts about your experience in Bellingham Public Schools and who may have supported you along the way?
Emma: The teachers and staff members I’ve encountered through my time in the Bellingham School District have truly shaped me as a person. Obviously Mrs.Vodopich, who I mentioned already, played a crucial role in my life, as well as my first grade teacher Mrs. Knight who has allowed me to volunteer in her class for the last two years. She’s helped me understand techniques for teaching, grading, and prepping lessons, as well as given me real classroom experience. In more recent school years, my high school teachers and coaches have had a huge impact on my life. Mrs. Hankinson has not only been my AP Chemistry teacher but my mentor, friend, and even a shoulder to cry on in times of need. She’s always there for me and has truly helped me develop self confidence, passion, and an excitement for all types of learning. Similarly, Mr. Toney, one of my science teachers this year, has helped me become a leader and made me question topics and think deeply about concepts. Together they’ve also taught me how to live life to the fullest and how to prioritize events. One of my other main mentors is my basketball coach and teacher Mrs. Kirk. She’s showed me the benefits of hard work and determination and how through a can-do attitude anything can be achieved. I can always trust her to push me to be my best and support me through all my triumphs and downfalls. Finally, my cross country and track coach Kevin Ryan who turned me from a beginner runner to a State competitor, has played a major role in my athletics as well as my other track coaches. He believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. Through an injury and so much more, he’s always supported me and I can trust him to always be there for me.
Zoe: As you can probably tell from the story above, I have received an extraordinary amount of support from the teachers at Sehome. While I adore all of them, I owe special thanks to Hank, Toney, Ross, Desler, and Doud. In regards to the NYSC, I must acknowledge the entire Sehome Science Department. I look up to each and every one of the science teachers, even those who have not had me in class, and owe a large part of who I am and what I’ve accomplished to their consistent and outstanding support. They look out for and care about me not only as a student, but also as a person. They’ve challenged and encouraged me to grow from a quiet and timid freshman to a person who loves discussion, adores leading Sehome’s Science Olympiad Club, and even gets yelled at for being too loud! When I come to school, I look forward to chatting with them as much as I look forward to talking with friends, and I always seem to end up eating lunch with the Science Department at least once a week. Apart from being amazing teachers, they take the time to truly get to know their students and make every student feel at home in class. I love them to pieces and I have to say I consider them friends as well as teachers.
Emma and Zoe, as you head off into new frontiers, what do you think you will miss about your school and Bellingham?
Zoe: Next year, I’ll miss Sehome’s culture of unconditional support, collaboration, and hearty friendship. I’ll miss the teachers I’ve grown to love over the last couple of years, as well as the connections I’ve formed through sports, clubs and orchestra at Sehome. I adore all of the different communities I’m fortunate enough to be engaged in, and I’ll miss collaborating and laughing with my peers and teachers in Sehome’s familiar and loved halls and classrooms. I have so many happy and meaningful memories associated with the people and buildings that have been home for the last four years, and it’ll be sad to say goodbye to the possibility of making more.
Emma: I think the thing I’ll miss the most about Sehome, the Bellingham School District, and Bellingham itself, is the community atmosphere. All the teachers and staff are so welcoming and friendly to everyone that it’s hard to think of them as teachers rather than friends. On a normal day, I can joke with the principal, have a deep conversation with my physics teacher, say hello to the administrators, and stop into my coaches classroom to talk about practice for the day. While we’re rivals with Bellingham and Squalicum before games and meets, we take time to say hi to all our friends and catch up before we step onto the field or court. I have tons of friends from the other two schools and often times I think the three schools are more united than divided. Finally, the unique community of Bellingham with it’s casual hippies, passionate advocates, local and organic food, and so much more, I know I’ll miss it all. I’m so glad I grew up in this wonderful city, surrounded by the best people I know.
Clark and Dietrich shared that they have been best friends since sixth grade at Fairhaven Middle School when they were in the same math class and played on the same soccer team.
Congratulations to both of them and to all of the near 900 graduates in 2017!
- Emma and Zoe
- Emma and Zoe with Sehome science teacher Amy Hankinson, known as “Hank”
- Emma and Zoe work on junk cars in Mr. Toney’s science class