Gateway: News

Bright lights shine on Students of Distinction

It’s not easy to get around Gig Harbor High senior Brendan Laughlin’s bedroom.

There are BMX bicycles hanging from hooks in the ceiling, in the closet — even parts of other bicycles strewn about the room.

Laughlin wouldn’t have it any other way. The teenager is surrounded by objects that have not only helped him learn how to work with his hands, but more importantly, helped him enrich the lives of others.

Laughlin was one of seven students selected as a Panelists’ Choice as part of the 2015 Students of Distinction banquet May 20 at Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church in Gig Harbor.

“I didn’t expect it at all,” he said. “It was a surprise.”

Laughlin was selected in the category of Community Service for his efforts over several years to acquire, restore and donate bikes to foster or military children through his charity, Bicycles4Kids. Since he started working on bikes at age 12, the senior estimates he’s donated more than 4,500 bikes.

“(A bike) gives a kid a sense of freedom,” said Laughlin, who will attend Western Washington University in the fall. “And if they are a foster child, it’s something that is theirs and they can take with them.”

The banquet was the culmination of nine weeks of student profiles — 36 in all — from Gig Harbor, Peninsula and Henderson Bay high schools that ran on the pages of The Peninsula Gateway.

“I’m just in awe of these students,” stated Tim Rockwell, therapy services manager at St. Anthony Hospital and a presenter in the category of Science and Technology.

After being served dinner, students were called up to the stage in their respective categories and handed a medallion signifying their achievement before participating in a short question and answer panel before returning to their seats. Panelists’ Choice selections received an additional scholarship bonus for being selected. In addition to Laughlin, those selections included:

Founded in 2003 by The Peninsula Gateway, the Students of Distinction program has honored more than 380 graduating seniors from the Peninsula School District. The program became a sponsored fund of the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation in 2013.

Sponsors for this year’s program included Kitsap Credit Union (2015 lead sponsor), Peninsula Light Company, The Peninsula Gateway, Olympic Property Group, Umpqua Bank, Franciscan Health System and the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation. Sponsors have provided more than $10,000 in scholarship funds annually over the past 12 years.