Category: Overcoming Adversity
Education: Peninsula High School
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Parents/guardians: Melanie and Alejandro Fleites
Activities/Achievements: Varsity swim team captain, Most Inspirational, Most Improved, Captain Award; tennis; choir section leader; musical theater; 9 AP classes; Younglife student leader; certified lifeguard; swim coach; SPSL Scholar Athlete; WIAA Outstanding Scholastic Award; AP Scholar with Honor; childcare job; volunteer for fundraisers and events; National Honor Society; HOSA Club; Harbor Christian Center Malibu work crew
Claudia Reutercrona has an impressive list of achievements that include a near-perfect GPA, leadership roles, athletics honors and community service. What’s remarkable is that she’s stayed the course of success while facing tremendous personal and family challenges throughout high school.
A swimmer since she was a baby, Reutercrona has been swimming competitively starting in sixth grade. In high school, she received many athletic awards as well as serving as the captain of the girls varsity swim team.
“I’ve always loved the feel of the water,” she says. “I also loved the people I met and my coaches.”
Described as authentic, selfless and compassionate, Reutercrona has given many hours to volunteer activities while also serving as a student leader in Younglife, performing in the choir and musical theater and taking many AP classes.
“Claudia is one of the finest all-around young women I have had the opportunity to know,” says English teacher Andrea Kurtz. “What sets her apart from her peers is her intrinsic motivation and ability to make managing a demanding schedule look effortless.”
When she was a freshman, Reutercrona was devastated after her father suffered a severe stroke and became partially paralyzed. Since her parents had been divorced, as the oldest of two sisters, she had the added weight of caring for her father.
“Claudia loved her father well during these difficult years, taking on added responsibilities while encouraging her dad to work hard at his recovery,” says Tracy Haugen, Peninsula Younglife leader. “All this time, Claudia continued with her normal activities, never faltering, even when pushed beyond her limits.”
Reutercrona says that her love for her father — whom she considered her best friend and role model — kept her going through that time. When he lost his fight and died last year, she struggled at first to regain her drive.
“I realized all the strength I pulled out of myself for him was also for myself, and I got encouragement from my friends and my youth group and the drive to do well,” she says. “I have faith that I still need to do well for him because in a sense I am his legacy, as is my sister.”
The experience of spending many hours in the hospital with her father and seeing the physical and emotional impact that the stroke had on him inspired her to pursue a career in medicine. Reutercrona plans to attend the University of San Diego honors program to study biology or behavioral neuroscience. She hopes to work in a field like psychiatric nursing or neurology.
Favorite teacher: Alison Ellis, choir/musical theater. “Her constant determination to enjoy the life she is living and bring a smile and energy to her classes is incredible. She brings lights and love with her everywhere she goes; nothing she does is halfhearted.”
Best thing about high school: The community. “It may not be perfect, but every face that walks down the hall is cared for immensely, even if they don’t realize it, and that is incredible.”
Education: Gig Harbor High School
Parents: David and Jennifer
Activities/Achievements: Sprint canoe U.S. Nationals gold medalist (C-1 200m), Olympic Hopes Regatta bronze medalist (C-2 500m), U.S. Sprint Nationals 5-time team champion, Team USA member, Americas Cup silver medalist (C-2 500m); piano, Young Artists competition winner; choir, Bella Voce, Meistersingers, performance at Carnegie Hall; 4 AP/Honors courses; Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team summer camp assistant coach; dragonboat team
Olivia Crocker is an accomplished paddling athlete who aspires to qualify for the Olympics in a few years. She’s maintained an excellent GPA while immersing herself in the sport of canoe racing as well as pursuing her interest in piano, performing in the choir and giving back to younger athletes.
She participated in several sports in elementary and middle school but when she discovered paddling at age 12, she found her niche. That was the first sport that inspired her to compete.
“I fell in love with it instantly,” she says.
Crocker has watched paddlers in Gig Harbor Bay and when she tried it herself for the first time, she was hooked. She realized it was a competitive sport several months later, but it took her two years to intensify her training.
Since then, she has become an accomplished athlete who has competed nationally and internationally. Among her medals was bronze at Olympic Hopes Regatta in Hungary in 2016, which is considered a step below junior world championships.
“You race the fastest kids your age in the world,” she says. “It was the hardest race I medaled in.”
She began training with the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team in a kayak but soon switched to canoe stroke, a more challenging type of paddling.
“Women canoeists are considered pioneers due to the fact that until now, they have been largely ignored on the national and international stage,” says GHCKRT head coach Alan Anderson. “Olivia has been part of the struggle to bring women to the state internationally, and this resolve has made her very successful in her sport.”
Crocker says the sport requires her to motivate herself to work hard. She spends as many as four hours a day training, which could also include running at the gym.
When she’s off to college, Crocker will have to motivate herself even harder. She’ll only train with her team in Gig Harbor on the weekends. During the week, she’ll be paddling alone on American Lake.
As an adult, her next goal will be to go to the World Cup and world championship.
“Every year you get older, it gets harder because you’re racing all the adult athletes instead of your age group,” she says.
As she continues to train and aspire to work her way up to the Olympics, Crocker will attend Pacific Lutheran University. She will major in communications and minor in music and is considering a career such as communications, linguistics or marketing.
Favorite teacher: Wayne Lackman, choir, “for giving me confidence in school and always supporting and challenging my music”
Best thing about high school: “All of my teachers who have supported me — they genuinely care about the well-being of their students and have made GHHS a safe place for me.”
Education: Peninsula High School
Parents: Ross and Stephanie
Activities/Achievements: AP Scholar; SPSL, PHS and National Football Foundation Scholar Athlete; 8 AP/Honors classes; track; basketball C-team captain; football captain, 1st team All-League defense, 2nd team All-League offense, 2nd team All-Area defensive back, Tacoma Athletic Commission Football Player of the Year nominee; Gig Harbor Living Athlete of the Month; Gateway Athlete of the Week (3); PAA basketball assistant coach; PYF football camp counselor; PHS football freshman mentor; National Honor Society treasurer; lead role in musical; part-time jobs; volunteer for various events; ASB treasurer, senator
Jack Filkins has been described as a born leader with a larger-than-life charisma. He’s amazed his teachers with his ability to balance academics, athletics, leadership responsibilities and community service.
“Aside from Jack’s accomplishments, what sets Jack apart from his peers is his ability to use his gifts in a way that truly makes the world a better place,” says his and play production teacher, Kara Beloate.
He’s used those talents to coach younger athletes, volunteer for many school events, mentor freshmen and serve as football captain and ASB leader — while also maintaining a near-perfect GPA and working part-time.
“He shines in front of the student body and makes a continuous effort to make sure everyone feels like an important member of the PHS community,” says English teacher and ASB adviser Danielle O’Leary.
Filkins maintained a 4.0 GPA until he was hospitalized for two weeks with a collapsed lung in his sophomore year. He says that he prioritized academics before sports while taking AP classes to challenge himself.
“It’s been a difficult process because I do so many activities but it’s also helped me find value in a strong work ethic, and I applied that to academics,” he says.
He learned a lot about teamwork and leadership through football.
“Football also taught me about never giving up,” he says.
He says that his parents influenced him to try many things, and he constantly thinks about what else he could be doing. He’s most proud of how busy and active he’s stayed.
“I think a lot of students try to take the easy road and stick with one thing in high school,” he says. “I tried my best to be part of many things.”
As a freshman, Filkins was “scared to try out new things,” but he overcame that fear as he met new people and developed new skills. One example is his lead role in a musical. Filkins says he didn’t have the courage to try acting but finally took the leap in his senior year and auditioned for the fall play.
“As the leading man in our production of ‘The 1940s Radio Hour,’ Jack has set an example for the rest of cast,” Beloate says. “He is unafraid and willing to try anything.”
He’s been working since age 16 at Edible Arrangements, moving his way up to his current position of weekend manager. He’s also been an undercover agent for the state gambling commission.
Filkins plans to study communications at Washington State University’s Honor College, and hopes to become a film or television producer.
Favorite teacher: Kara Beloate, play production class. “Joining Mrs. Beloate’s class has been one of the greatest experiences of my high school career. Every day that I walk into her class, she fuels me with the motivation to strive for success in everything I set my mind to.”
Best thing about high school: “Peninsula is a home where students of diverse personalities, ethnicities, races or sexual orientations can walk through the school doors with a smile on their face and a sense of safety and hope in their hearts.”
Education: Gig Harbor High School
Parents: Paul Forecki and Gail Pedersen
Activities/Achievements: 8 AP/Honors classes; Key Club; Rotary Student of the Month; DECA 4th at area, state competitor; National Merit semi-finalist; part-time job; club soccer; leadership class teacher’s aid; volunteer for Boys and Girls Club, Easter egg hunt, food drive and others
Ethan Forecki has placed his main focus on academics, but while doing so he also distinguished himself as a leader and community servant. He’s maintained a near-perfect GPA while taking challenging classes and working part time.
“Ethan is personification of how tenacity, hard work and dedication have caused him to grow as a person,” says teacher Karen Floyd. “One of his greatest strengths is that he strives to challenge himself academically, physically and in meaningful extracurricular activities.”
One of his interests is business and he joined the marketing club DECA to explore that interest. He competed with his partner at state, receiving the highest scores in the buying and merchandising category.
“It was fun to go through the sorts of ideas that people in business have to go through,” he says.
Forecki says he’s naturally talented at academics, so he began taking advanced classes as a junior to “ratchet up the challenging aspect.”
“I work hard for harder AP classes,” he says. “The other thing that’s helped me with academics is the fact I hold it so important to me.”
Last year, he got the highest score of 5 on all tests for his AP classes, which Forecki considers his highest achievement of high school.
“It was a tough thing (to take all those classes) and after I got the scores, it was a good payoff for all the work I did,” he says.
A top-ranking National Merit Scholar, he says another one of his top accomplishments was the improvement of his SAT score. After scoring 1,470 last year, he studied for many hours — and the result was a 1,560 score on retake.
“He is an inspiration to others, is self-motivated and can be relied upon to get a job done,” Floyd says. “He leads by example and demonstrates maturity beyond his years.”
Forecki says that as a freshman, he didn’t have any goals. As he matured, so has his drive for accomplishment.
“Now I’m better at setting goals and working toward those goals, and I think that’s helped me get into the colleges I wanted,” he says. “I think it will also help me achieve what I want once I get to college.”
While his vocational plans are open, Forecki is considering a major either in business or economics. If he pursues a business degree, his hope is to someday own his own company, like his father.
Favorite teacher: Todd Northstrom, world history, “because he makes me laugh.”
Best thing about high school: “It feels like a real community that can come together.”