Category: Science and technology
Education: Peninsula High School
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Parents: Ed and Dana
Activities/Achievements: 14 AP classes; AP Scholar with Honor; AP Scholar with Distinction; Key Peninsula Science Education Foundation co-founder, elementary school workshop and event organizer and instructor; KPMS weather balloon projects (multiple years); PSD tech department intern; licensed ham radio operator; computer building and repair; Phoenix Literary Art Magazine co-editor; Peninsula Progressives (Young Democrats) current chair; taught KPMS students C# programming; National Honor Society (honorary member)
Sky Bressette has been immersed in numerous activities focused around his passions for science, technology and the environment. Teaching fifth-graders about engineering and middle schoolers about coding, designing long-term science experiments, backpacking across the Olympics several times, making computer circuits, building and repairing computers for community members, working as an intern for the school district’s tech department — these are just some of the interests he’s explored.
Even in middle school, Bressette was “mature beyond his years and totally engaged in learning about science and the environment,” according to his Key Peninsula Middle School science teacher, Richard Miller.
“He is academically gifted, very personable, shows great integrity and is committed to making the world a better place,” Miller says.
He built his first computer when he was in seventh grade and became a licensed ham radio operator at 13.
As a KMPS student, Bressette became involved with a weather-balloon project — and he’s gone back to KPMS every year since then to help middle schoolers with the project. He taught them how to program probes and microsensors and helped them plan the project.
After graduating from KPMS, he helped Miller found the Key Peninsula Science Education Foundation (KPSEF). One of its projects was to organize and present a hands-on bridge-engineering session for fifth-graders, which included building bridges out of popsicle sticks and measuring their strength by applying pressure with a special device.
KPSEF’s projects have been funded largely by Bressette, his father and his teacher.
“Our goal is to raise money and eventually get more projects to more people,” Bressette says.
Bressette has taken 14 advanced classes — possibly the only student at school with this feat — and will need to spend one year less in college as a result. He says that he wasn’t motivated by grades but rather by the desire to learn.
“I don’t have the highest grades but I feel like I’ve learned a lot,” he says. “It’s about having a good experience in class, not about the grades.”
He considers his community service his highest achievement of high school. His more than 150 hours of community service have earned him an honorary membership in the National Honor Society.
“My personal achievement is being able to look at myself and say that I’ve helped people and I’ve been able to give back to my community,” he says.
Bressette will attend Western Washington University to study environmental science. He hopes to teach environmental science to high school students. He says his teachers as well as his love for working with kids inspired his career choice.
Favorite teacher: “All of my teachers have had a huge impact on my life … but if I had to choose one, my eighth grade science teacher, Mr. Miller, taught me how to use my knowledge to teach others.”
Best thing about high school: “It has given me and my peers an opportunity to thrive in a learning environment that helps those who are struggling through an extensive support system while still pushing those who are ahead through challenging and rigorous courses.”
Category: Community service
Education: Peninsula High School
Parents: Iliana and Keith
Activities/Achievements: More than 700 hours of community service; volunteer for FISH Food Bank, GHPD Police Explorers, LCS Summer Camp, Stonecrest VBS Camp, Young Life and others; track and field, cross-country Scholar Athlete, Most Improved; GHPD Explorer of the Year (2016); part-time job
Josh Nicholas has been giving back to the community since he was in sixth grade, and has volunteered for more than 700 hours throughout high school. He says he loves Gig Harbor and considers it a great experience to be able to serve the people in a community that he describes as amazing.
“People think you have to be older to give back to the community because you have more experience, but you can start young,” he says. “I think it’s one of the most rewarding things you can do.”
Every summer since sixth grade, Nicholas has been traveling to New Jersey with his family to help at a vacation Bible school for two weeks. When his church here asked for volunteers to help out at FISH Food Bank, he signed up — and loved it. He’s been volunteering there every week whenever he can and he loves seeing “the glimmer of hope” in the eyes of the people FISH helps.
Young Life has been a big part of his life for the past three years. Nichols says he not only made many friends through Young Life but also built his character.
“Young Life is a big part of who I am today,” he says.
His biggest time commitment outside of school and sports has been through the Gig Harbor Police Department’s Police Explorers Program, where he has the rank of post lieutenant. Through the program, he has been training with police officers at an Explorers academy, as well as volunteering at many events in the community.
“As an Explorer, Josh has been exemplary in his service to our post,” says GHPD Sgt. Darius Aldridge, program adviser. “Aside from his invaluable leadership within the post, Josh treats others with respect and compassion and is very true to himself and his family.”
Nicholas says that respect and compassion are two aspects that the general public doesn’t often associate with police officers because the public doesn’t realize how much the officers care.
“Officers go out of their way to help people but most people (only) think of police as tough guys at a scene,” he says. “They care about your safety above their own, and it doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done.”
Nicholas plans to pursue a career in law enforcement. Since he’s not eligible for that career until age 21, he will attend college in the meantime, starting with community college then transferring to a four-year school. He’s still deciding on a major but is considering business.
Favorite teacher: “I cannot pick one teacher because each one has impacted my life in so many positive ways.”
Best thing about high school: “The teachers — they are so supportive and caring. They are genuinely concerned for your well-being and want you to succeed in everything you do.”
Education: Gig Harbor High School
Parents: Kristin and Greg
Activities/Achievements: Girls varsity soccer First Team All-Narrows (defender), First Team All-South Sound, team captain, state qualifier, league champions; girls varsity basketball state qualifier, league champions; varsity fastpitch state qualifier; WIAA Outstanding Scholastic Award (3 sports); 9 AP/Honors classes; volunteer for Tacoma Marathon, Hands on Art and others; PAA basketball and soccer referee; Washington State Soccer referee
Abigail Nordquist is a three-sport star athlete who consistently pushes herself to do better. She’s star in the classroom, too — maintaining a near-perfect GPA while taking many advanced classes, volunteering in the community, working as a referee for games and often playing two sports during the same season.
Nordquist is also a leader who was voted unanimously by her soccer teammates to be one of the captains this school year.
“This is evidence by how well respected she is by all of the players,” says coach Stephanie Cox. “Abby gains this respect by her work ethic on the field, always displaying her maximum effort.”
A soccer player since she was 5, Nordquist follows in her brothers’ footsteps. She also followed a family tradition in another sport: Her father played baseball, and Nordquist began playing softball in elementary school, as well as basketball.
She plays soccer year-round with a club or high school team. During peak times, she practices as many as 15 hours a week for two different sports. Nordquist says she likes soccer the most, both because it’s competitive and because she’s made many friends through the team.
“Abby loves the competitive nature of sports, and others around usually recognize this right away,” says her English teacher Todd Nordstrom, who is also the head boys soccer coach.
One of her goals since she was young was to play soccer in college. Nordquist has reached that goal and plans to play on the soccer team at University of Redlands. She considers it the highest achievement of her athletic career to date.
“You have to reach out to coaches to ask them to come to your games and tournaments … and continue to stay in touch,” she explains. “You have to be proactive.”
Not having much downtime contributed to Nordquist’s academic success, she says. She’s had to learn good time management so she could not only be involved and succeed academically but also find time to “hang out with friends and be a normal high schooler.”
She says she’s grown a lot since her freshman year by learning how to work with different individuals.
“I also learned what I wanted to be like and what not to be like, so people can look up to me,” she says, adding that she used her own upper-classmen as role models.
At University of Redlands, Nordquist plans to study pre-health or sports science with the goal of pursuing a career such as physical therapy.
Favorite teacher: Phyllis Payne, calculus, “because she is a fantastic teacher and she cares a lot about her students.”
Best thing about high school: “The teachers and coaches and peers are always wanting to help and see others succeed.
Category: Overcoming adversity
Education: Gig Harbor High School
Parents: Tracy and Kathryn
Activities/Achievements: Community Inclusion Program youth leader, volunteer for various events and projects, co-founder of CIP at GHHS; MDA camp counselor; Key Club; volunteer for GHHS Summer Bridge Program, Scarecrow Festival, Family Fun Fest, Relay for Life and others; more than 600 hours of community service; United Way varsity letter in community service; part-time job
Gabrielle Stevens has dedicated more than 600 hours to community service, earning a varsity letter from the United Way. She’s focused her efforts on individuals with special needs.
After learning about the Community Inclusion Program three years ago, Stevens “fell in love with it” and became involved in many activities. The program helps individuals with special needs and their families by hosting monthly events and teaching participants leadership and communication skills.
“I used to be incredibly shy and this got me out of my comfort zone,” she says. “I’ve learned a lot.”
The leadership role came naturally, according to CIP Peninsula coordinator Sharon O’Neil.
“Gabrielle’s positive attitude and the joy that she exudes is contagious to those around her,” O’Neil says. “Coupled with her compassion, this trait has made her invaluable to an organization like CIP, where an inclusive environment means working alongside those who have special needs.”
Stevens immersed herself in community service as a way of overcoming adversity. A star runner in middle school, she had never lost a competitive race. Shortly after being recruited to the high school running team, she was diagnosed with a genetic disorder that could lead to death if she didn’t minimize strenuous physical activity. Her running career ended.
She says she was both devastated and angry at first, feeling that she let her parents down. She decided to focus on other people, which brought her to volunteering.
“I started thinking about my self-worth and identity not being based on myself but rather on helping people,” she says. “Volunteering makes me feel good about myself.”
Another organization she found rewarding is the Muscular Dystrophy Association, where she volunteered as a camp counselor for two years. Each summer, she spent a week helping a boy with rock climbing.
“Being able to be by their side is truly rewarding. It’s the best week of my year,” she says. “I love to see how happy they are to do the activities they’ve been told they couldn’t.”
While volunteering numerous hours and working part-time, Stevens has maintained an excellent GPA.
“Gabrielle (is) committed not simply to earning a grade but more importantly, to mastering the material,” says her German and English teacher, Patricia VanDragt.
Stevens plans to continue volunteering while attending St. Michael’s College, where she hopes to be part of the volunteer, student-run EMT rescue squad.
She will study biology, and her goal is to go to medical school, following in the footsteps of her father.
Favorite teacher: Patricia VanDragt, German and English. “I have always connected with her and I will truly miss her next year.”
Best thing about high school: “The teachers — they are so supportive to everyone. They are so open and so kind. I have loved every teacher I have had.”