Category: Music, art and drama
Education: Peninsula High School
Parents: Renee Smith and Paul Marshall
Activities/Achievements: Performance in multiple plays and musicals including several leads; choir; chamber; Speech and Debate state competitor, team captain; Knowledge Bowl; freshman mentor; Waypoint Church worship team; Five 17 Student Ministries; intern at Grand Cinema and Audiophile Studios; HRMS debate teacher; Chinese Culture Festival organizer; Chinese Immersion Day teacher
Anna Marshall has performed in nearly 20 theater plays, following a family tradition that includes her mother and her sister. The family has been involved with community theater for many years, especially musicals.
“Performing is a really good outlet to get energy out, whether it’s positive or negative,” she says.
Her first role was at age 5, as Gretel in the “Sound of Music.” Since then, Marshall has been cast in many lead roles.
“I love being able to make a character your own,” she says.
Her favorite role was in “Les Miserables” as Madame Thenardier, whom Marshall describes as “crazy and inappropriate.”
“It was a hard role to play because she wasn’t like me at all, but it was fun because I got to be somebody completely different,” she says.
Marshall has also used her musical talents to sing in the choir and the worship team at her church. And she does it despite having a medical condition that affects her vocal chords.
“Performing arts is important to me and has shaped me as a person,” she says.
In addition to maintaining excellent grades and a busy performing schedule, Marshall is the captain for the second year of the Speech and Debate team. She has competed at state three times, and has also been teaching debate to middle school students.
“Anna’s incredible work has always impressed me,” says history teacher Kathryn Crabtree. “What is (especially) impressive is her ability to accomplish all that she has set her mind to while overcoming incredible adversity.”
Her numerous commitments include Knowledge Bowl, leadership activities at church and volunteer time for projects like the Chinese Culture Festival and the freshmen mentor program at school.
“She is a natural leader but does it best by inspiring others to step up and take a risk to try something new,” says Wendy Wojtanowicz, coordinator of Communities In School Peninsula, which runs the mentorship program.
Despite her many accomplishments, Marshall says the most important and lasting aspect of high school is her growth as a person.
“I’ve learned a lot as a person and the importance of friends and family and education,” she says.
Building off her experience in performing, speech and debate and four years of Chinese study, Marshall plans to pursue a major in political science. She’s especially interested in foreign policy.
She also plans to minor in Mandarin Chinese. Her dream job is to be an ambassador to China.
Favorite teacher: Kimberly Napier, English. She “has constantly inspired me to be more than ordinary. She not only expanded my knowledge and lexicon, but she helped me find out who I am as a person.”
Best thing about high school: The environment and the people. “I have never heard of a more loving and accepting school. Everyone supports each other and loves each other. I can’t imagine a better community.”
Category: Community service
Education: Gig Harbor High School
Parents: Marcie and Bryan Hershman
Activities/Achievements: Volunteer for Auto Safety Week, TideFest, MAD Week, Blue Heart Project, MAD Week and others; Association of Washington Student Leader Executive Committee; water polo; football “Mr. Awesome” award; freshman senator; ASB treasurer, president; Fun Squad member at Chaney Stadium; 7 AP/Honors classes; student representative on Washington State Board of Education
Baxter Hershman is a student leader who’s made a difference at his school and at state level. In addition to ASB, he has served as a student representative on the Washington State Board of Education, as well as a member of the student-led Association of Washington Student Leaders Executive Committee.
“I like being able to serve my school — that’s been a joy of mine,” he says. “I like trying to make a change in some shape or form.”
He ran for his first elected school role in fifth grade and has been active in leadership throughout middle school. At Gig Harbor High, over four years he progressed from a freshman senator to other ASB roles. He is currently the ASB president.
“His election to ASB president was uncontested,” says Kelly Indahl, ASB adviser. “It was widely believed that no one would be able to win against him based on his leadership skills and devotion to Gig Harbor High School and the continued development of its positive culture.”
Indahl encouraged Hershman to apply for student representative for the western region for the state school board. As part of the competitive process, he had to make a presentation on an educational topic.
“After his presentation, Baxter was unanimously chosen for the position,” Indahl says.
As a leader, Hershman says he has learned to step away from the spotlight and give others the chance to grow.
“I’ve learned a lot of lessons about me as a person — it’s not about taking the credit. It’s about the action you take and the results that come from it,” he says.
Hershman considers his two years with the two state groups the highlight of his leadership. That experience also served to inspire one of his career choices — politics, with the idea of running for a state elected position in the future.
“It’s been interesting to see how legislators impact the lives of people, like students in the education realm,” he says.
An athlete who’s played football since third grade, Baxter says his highest achievement was the ability to juggle everything while maintaining a near-perfect GPA. He attributes his academic success to the amount of effort he put into it.
“I’m not the smartest person but I constantly do my homework and work to improve as a student,” he says.
Besides politics, Hershman is considering a career in law and plans to double major or minor in linguistics or Spanish.
Favorite teacher: Kelly Indahl, math and leadership, ASB adviser. She “has taught me life lessons and has given me the opportunity to grow.”
Best thing about high school: The environment. “Gig Harbor is a generally welcoming school. Every school has its issues but GH is pretty well off.”
Category: Overcoming adversity
Education: Henderson Bay High School
Parents: Jayne and Jim Shaffer
Activities/Achievements: Henderson Bay Salon Day volunteer; CTE Student of the Month; Pierce County Library teen poetry competition 2nd place; Midday Rotary Scholastic Achievement Award; PSD CTE Student of the Year
Sarah Shaffer has turned her life around after going through a variety of challenges since she was young. She’s had to make up for failed classes and has focused her efforts for the past two years on academic success.
Although she is graduating from high school late, she is looking forward to going to college and is exploring a couple of career options.
“Sarah is a capable, hardworking girl with a huge heart,” says Henderson Bay High School math teacher Francesco Ortenzo. “Sarah’s dedication to academics, her resilience and her strength of character far surpass the average student.”
Shaffer struggled with bullying and by the time she was in high school, she lost her confidence and desire to get good grades. She became depressed, missed classes and eventually got in with the wrong crowd, partying and abusing drugs and alcohol.
“My high school career plummeted and I had a rough time at home,” she says.
After dropping out of two other high schools, Shaffer enrolled at Henderson Bay. She says she made the decision to graduate from high school after the first day of school there.
“I decided I needed to focus on my future,” she says.
She not only passed all her classes the first year at Henderson Bay, she was recognized by the school and the Rotary Club for her efforts.
“Over the course of her time at Henderson Bay High School, she has come to understand high school completion as part of the pathway to a successful career,” says teacher Peter Liljengren.
Her current GPA is 3.0 and Shaffer says she would not have been able to get on the path to success without Henderson Bay staff.
“I was getting the help I needed and I hit the ground running,” she says.
Shaffer has been working since 16, and is currently working full time while staying on track to graduate.
She considers the Midday Rotary’s Scholastic Achievement Award her highest accomplishment because it was a recognition by an outside party that she’s not involved with.
“The fact that they recognized how hard I was working, I was really proud of myself,” she says.
Shaffer loves hairstyling and is considering beauty school. She is also interested in a career in law enforcement, inspired by her EMT parents. She’s applying to the Gig Harbor Police Department’s Police Explorer program and may pursue a major in criminal justice.
Favorite teacher: Erin Tesdhal. “She’s been a huge support system and always has my back and has a shoulder to cry on when I need it.”
Best thing about high school: Family atmosphere. “There’s no judgment; we all help one another and lean on one another like a family.”
Education: Gig Harbor High School
Parents: Beth and Dan McKay
Activities/Achievements: 9 AP/Honors classes; varsity Speech and Debate numerous championships including 13th nationally in Lincoln-Douglas Debate and three bids to Tournament of Champions, team president, captain of Lincoln-Douglas Debate; APEX president; football; track and field; guitar; 2016 Democratic Caucus elected precinct delegate; PAA basketball coach; YMCA Camp Belknap Leadership Program staff; World AIDS Day speaker
Colin McKay is a top scholar whose resume includes a near-perfect GPA, athletics, community service and numerous achievements in speech and debate.
According to Speech and Debate teacher and coach Chris Coovert, McKay is one of the most successful competitors the school has ever had. As a sophomore and junior, he qualified for nationals, placing 13th nationally in Lincoln-Douglas Debate last year.
He’s only the second Gig Harbor High student to reach the elimination rounds in the Stanford Invitational Tournament, and he has qualified for the Tournament of Champions at the University of Kentucky, considered the most prestigious debate tournament in the country and the most difficult to qualify for.
Students need to earn at least two “bids” — top placements at designated tournaments — to qualify for the Tournament of Champions. McKay is the first GHHS student to receive three bids.
“Colin has spent countless hours working on his own over the summer, demonstrating a real determination to be the best he can be,” Coovert says.
McKay’s father was in the military, so the family moved every three years. One constant throughout much of this time was YMCA Camp Belknap in New Hampshire. After attending summer camp there for seven years, McKay was one of 16 campers selected for the leadership program from a class of 240.
“I wouldn’t be who I am now if it wasn’t for Belknap,” McKay says. “It’s probably one of the most influential things in my life.”
He says that’s where he learned to be a leader by example, as well as how to appreciate life, even in the little moments.
Academically, McKay is ranked No. 13 and he says his success comes from engaging with the material instead of doing surface work or rote memorization.
“Colin has a very unusual grasp of details in a wide variety of subjects,” says AP U.S. history teacher Jim Greetham. “Colin is the rare person who can retain, quickly analyze and actually apply a high quantity of very detailed information while analyzing a situation or resolving a problem.”
McKay plans to apply that analytical talent to a career in public policy. He hasn’t selected a college yet but is considering University of Washington’s Honors program.
He doesn’t discount the idea of running for political office some day, however, his current interest is in working to create policy and solutions, which he sees as an extension of his experience in speech and debate.
Favorite teacher: Chris Coovert, speech and debate. “Over my four years with him, he has taught me not only class materials but also mentored me in how to be a great debater and leader.”
Best thing about high school: The opportunities. “Many schools offer clubs and services, but Gig Harbor has provided me with real opportunities to showcase my talents.”