Category: Science and technology
Education: Gig Harbor High School
Parents: Richard and Lee-Ann
Activities/Achievements: 8 AP/Honors classes; varsity swim, Tide Pride award; TSA state conference and 3rd place, nationals; various summer academies/programs and internship; STEM Club secretary; speaker at Math Science Leadership Summer Program; National Honor Society secretary; Reach/WAYS vice president; Ambassadors Club secretary, activities coordinator; volunteer at St. Joseph’s Hospital, blood drives and Goodman Tech Club (mentor); altar server at church
Renee Seguban has explored her interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through a variety of activities, and has also used that interest to give back. A scholar athlete, she has maintained a near-perfect GPA while taking leadership roles with several clubs.
As part of STEM Club, she competed at state and national levels. Recently, her four-person team won first place in the biotechnology category at the state Student Technology Association competition, and she also placed third with a partner in the children’s stories category.
“I love science and I thought that through the club I would get exposure to new things,” she says of the STEM Club. “I liked trying new events like children’s stories, which are more creative.”
For the past five summers, she was part of the University of Tacoma Washington Math-Science Leadership Program, where she has distinguished herself as a leader. Seguban says she was scared of science in middle school but the summer program helped her open up to the STEM field.
Her projects ranged from sequencing DNA and programming robots, to developing cyber safety resources for teens. According to the program’s director, Amanda Figueroa, the professional scientists and engineers who reviewed Seguban’s research posters “were impressed by her innovation, enthusiasm and ability to communicate her work.”
Figueroa says that of hundreds of students she’s worked with in the summer program, Seguban was in the top 5 percent.
“Renee has excelled in a learning community that requires individual initiative, critical thinking and problem-solving in teams,” she says.
For three years, Seguban has been a mentor for the technology club students at Goodman Middle School, volunteering every Thursday. She considers that the highlight of high school because it helped her gain self-confidence while helping the middle schoolers become more confident at the same time.
“Seeing them succeed in competitions made me proud, and I’m glad I’ve been part of if,” she says.
Seguban considered a career in writing when she was in middle school. But thanks to her growing passion for STEM and her desire to help others, she plans to become a nurse instead — following in the footsteps of both her parents. She’s also gained some first-hand experience as a volunteer at St. Joseph’s Hospital in the family birth center, helping the nursing staff.
“I really enjoyed seeing a lot of different people in the community,” she says.
Segubans will study at Marquette University in Wisconsin, where she plans to pursue a four-year degree in nursing.
Favorite teacher: Brittney Thomas “because I feel like she really cares about her students; she’s honest, funny and relates to students well.”
Best thing about high school: “The wide variety of things people can get involved in — there are clubs, plays, performances and sports for everyone.”
Category: Music, art and drama
Education: Henderson Bay High School
Parents: Joyce Bowen and Russ Widders
Activities/Achievements: Leadership, Interact Club, Student of the Month, Blue Mouse Theater performances, part-time job
Nora Foss is a talented artist who has developed a unique style of art. Painting since she was 4 years old, she largely taught herself, and has been selling some of her art to friends. Her favorite medium is watercolors.
Her Henderson Bay High School art teacher, Tate Lenkaitis, says Foss is confident in her work yet is always looking for ways to expand her skills and learn new techniques.
“As an artist, Nora has developed a very distinct and creative style that is completely unique to her,” Lenkaitis says. “Nora is constantly creating and developing new ideas in order to improve upon her artistic expression.”
She also enjoys performing. Twice a month, she “shadowcasts” the Rocky Horror Picture Show as a volunteer at the Blue Mouse Theater in Tacoma.
Foss has struggled with personal challenges, including bullying and the divorce of her parents. Her struggle with depression and anxiety eventually led to drug abuse and mental health issues.
Although she’d failed classes previously, at Henderson Bay High, Foss has maintained good grades.
“I’m proud to be graduating because I didn’t think I was going to,” she says.
She’s thankful for the support of her friends, who encouraged her to not give up. She says that the teachers at Henderson Bay also helped her succeed academically because they genuinely cared.
Foss not only did not give up on school, but also became involved in leadership and the community service club Interact.
“I like that Interact Club brings a sense of community to people, and I like giving back to the community,” she says.
She’s had near-perfect attendance since she turned her life around and has been succeeding academically while working nearly full time to support herself.
“Nora continues to remain motivated to overcome the adversity that life throws her way,” Lenkaitis says. “She has worked through difficult situations in many aspects of life and done so with confidence and integrity.”
Foss is considering taking a year “off” to travel to Europe to learn about other cultures and about other people’s passions.
“I’ve always liked traveling as a kid and moving places. I liked the experience of being in the new places,” she says.
She hopes that this yearlong travel experience will help her decide on a career path. One of her interests includes cosmetology, which she considers an art in itself.
Her long-term dream is to sell her art in a gallery.
Favorite teacher: Tate Lenkaitis, art, “because she is always pushing me to be a better artist.”
Best thing about high school: “How we can talk to teachers easily and how they support us because it helps a lot of kids.”
Category: Overcoming adversity
Education: Peninsula High School
Parent: Donald Anker
Activities/Achievements: Mentor for freshmen, inspirational speaker, volunteer for PHS teddy bear drive and Bishoff Food Bank, working two jobs
Tacoda Anker has been inspirational to everyone who knows his story. According to Peninsula High Principal Dave Goodwin, there are few examples of such a success story because Anker overcame a tremendous level of adversity few students do.
He was a young boy when he and his siblings were placed in foster care because of their parents’ substance abuse. His grandmother became his guardian but died of cancer when Anker was 10. That started a downhill spiral that led him to drugs and alcohol, and by age 12, Anker’s addiction landed him in jail.
Middle school didn’t get any better, and Anker consistently skipped classes and was expelled various times. He failed his freshman year in high school, was suspended in 10th grade and spent the few days when he was at school in and out of administrators’ offices.
He recalls perfectly the day he decided to become sober — July 4 — after arguing with his father and being told he didn’t deserve anything because at age 17 he wasn’t doing anything with his life.
“I wanted to make my dad proud and I knew I wanted to make something of myself,” he says.
Anker says he was also feeling the effects of drugs on his brain and knew that he was “becoming a vegetable” after seven years of drug use. He cut off ties with all his friends and became drug-free. He returned to school when he should have been a senior and had zero credits.
Today, he’s a completely new person. He made up all his high school credits in two years, taking extra online classes while working two jobs — and maintaining A’s and B’s. Last semester, he had 11 classes, finishing with one B-plus and A’s. He’s saved nearly enough money to buy a car, and he plans to do something he never thought he would: go to college.
His teachers describe him as intelligent, compassionate, resilient, accountable and determined.
“His story of redemption is unmatched in my years as an educator,” says PHS Dean of Students Andrew Hosford. “If I every write a Hollywood screenplay about a young man going through incredible struggles and fighting back through adversity, Tacoda will be the protagonist.”
Anker has been sharing his story with his peers and others, speaking to classes and in the community, and has frequently been asked by parents to mentor their teens. He’s also been a mentor formally at PHS, for a freshman class through Communities in Schools, after being nominated by several staff members.
He plans to attend Washington State University and continue working part-time to support himself. He hasn’t selected a major but is considering communications, criminology and engineering.
Favorite teacher: Kimberly Napier, English, “because she is the most intellectual person I know and she has helped me tremendously throughout the semester.”
Best thing about high school: “The inclusiveness because every individual is accepted for who they are.”
Category: Music, art and drama
Education: Gig Harbor High School
Parents: Tim and Jill
Activities/Achievements: Performances in 4 musicals, including “The Adams Family,” nominated for 5th Avenue Awards’ Best Ensemble; concert choir; Meistersingers; Vocal Motion Jazz Choir; Bella Voce; song leader for youth group and Vacation Bible School; Jazz Solo Night; National Honor Society; varsity golf captain, league and district golf; National Leadership Conference; 4 AP/Honors classes; volunteer for mission trip, fundraisers, community events/projects; part-time job
Emily Geringer has been an integral part of Gig Harbor High’s choral program all four years and has used her talents to give back. She’s also an athlete and leader in the classroom, on the field and in the community.
“Her attitude toward academics, her enthusiasm for learning, her work ethic and her dedication to serving others are exceptional,” says math teacher Joyce Kilner. “She … stretches herself to learn and do as much as possible.”
Geringer has been singing since elementary school. She’s performed in four school musicals, at her church, and with every choir group at GHHS. As a freshman, she received the Director’s Award for her “outstanding work and positive attitude” in the choral program. She even took online summer classes so she can keep up her busy choir schedule during the school year.
“She has been an integral member of each of the choirs,” says choral music director Wayne Lackman. “She leads by example and constantly encourages others to reach their highest potential.”
A highlight of her music career was her trip with a group of Gig Harbor and Peninsula singers last fall to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
“It was amazing to be able to perform where so many people have, like Frank Sinatra, who’s my idol,” she says. “It was almost overwhelming.”
A longtime golfer, Geringer was selected by the coaches to be the co-captain of the varsity girls’ golf team this year — which she considered a high honor.
While putting academics first, maintaining excellent grades as well as working part-time, Geringer has a long list of community service, including through her church. She says that going on a mission trip to Mexico made a special impact on her.
“Giving up my life in America for a week and being able to see how other people live opened up my perspective of how lucky I am in this country and the opportunities I have,” she says.
At her church, she’s been a leader in the children’s and youth ministries.
“Emily has a deep and personal Christian faith which she lives out in a variety of ways,” says Mark Toone, senior pastor at Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church.
Geringer has also been active with a youth group called NOMADS, No More Average Disciples, which helped her discover her passion for sharing her Christian faith and influenced has career choice. She plans to study at Seattle Pacific University and is considering a major in theology with a focus on missions. Her goal is to work for a nonprofit organization.
Favorite teacher: Wayne Lackman, choir. “He has provided an excellent environment to grow my talents and stretch myself as a musician over the years.”
Best thing about high school: Choir. “I get to start my day off with zero-period Vocal Motion Jazz Choir and end it with music in sixth-period Meistersingers!”