Students of Distinction


Keira Dooley, Editor-In-Chief

On May 17th, at Ocean 5, families and friends gathered to celebrate the students nominated for the Gig Harbor Foundation’s Students of Distinction awards ceremony. Teachers nominated graduating seniors from the Peninsula School District to be honored in one of seven categories: academics, athletics, career and technical excellence, community service, music arts and drama, overcoming adversity, and science and technology. Below are the twelve nominated students from Peninsula High School, four of which received the scholarship for their category.

Nominated for Academic Achievement were Grady Johnson and Olivia Simmonds. Johnson and Simmonds are both scholar-athletes who have participated in several sports. They are members of Peninsula’s Knowledge Bowl team and the National Honor Society and are involved in ASB, with Simmonds as the secretary and Johnson as the treasurer. Nominated for Athletic Achievement were Hanah Lee and Payton Knowles. Both students are scholar-athletes who have participated in multiple sports. Lee has participated in track, cross country, and soccer. She was the captain of her track and cross-country teams and placed 7th at the state track meet for 1600, 8th in the 800 meters, and 7th in the 1600 meter relay. Knowles was captain of his football team and nominated Most Inspirational by his teammates. In the fall, Knowles will play baseball for Gonzaga. Knowles was selected by the panel for the scholarship of this category. The panel chose him because of his leadership skills and his decision to stay at Peninsula High School to continue the legacy of his late friend, Caleb Wanaka.

Nominated for Career and Technical Excellence were Alli Kimball and Mackenzie Schuller. Kimball has taken three CTE courses at Peninsula; Human Body Systems, College Career Financial Exploration, and Marketing. Kimball said these CTE courses have helped her figure out she wants to major in kinesiology and become an athletic trainer. Schuller has taken many CTE courses through West Sound Tech, including food preparation, nutrition and meal planning, and dining room service. Schuller stated that these CTE courses have helped her find her passion for being in the kitchen. Schuller was chosen as the recipient of this categories’ scholarship. She was chosen because of how she used CTE courses to find the best ways for her to learn. Nominated for Science and Technology Achievement was Mia Stitt. As a junior, Stitt was one of eleven to win the Washington State STEM Rising Star Award, which recognizes high school girls who excel academically, demonstrate a passion, and develop STEM projects. After winning this award, she was a guest speaker for the annual American Association of University Women luncheon, a STEM camp for girls.

Nominated for Community Service Achievement were Avery de Maine and Josie Behrens. De Maine has acquired over 100 hours of community service from various activities and is Peninsula’s ASB president. Behrens has acquired 455 hours of community service from various activities while at Peninsula High School. She is also Peninsula’s ASB vice president and a school board representative. Behrens was chosen by the panel for the community service scholarship. The panel chose her because of how she has utilized the privelages she has and her humble recognition of those privelages. Nominated for Music, Art, and Drama were Rianne Dooley and Abigail Oliver. Dooley has participated in drama for four years and choir for two years while at Peninsula. She participated in six productions over the years and recently played Charlie in Peninsula’s Spring Musical, Willy Wonka. Oliver started playing piano at a young age but later decided that what she wanted to play was the French horn. She began with the trumpet, and when she got to Peninsula, she switched to the French horn full-time. She placed second in the state for solo ensemble and first in the state with a brass quintet.

Nominated for Overcoming Adversity were Evante Hemming and Boden Clark. Hemming spent most of his childhood in foster care and was adopted when he was 11 years old. Hemming shared with the committee that through the ups and downs he gained a deep appreciation for music. Clark faced different challenges. Before being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in his freshman year of high school, Clark was a varsity wrestler. Doctors told him that the chances of him playing sports and finishing high school were slim. This year, Clark won a medal at state for wrestling and achieved honor roll. Since beating his sickness, Clark has raised more than $1200 for his foundation called “Unite to Fight” to help other teens who have cancer. When asked about his foundation, Clark explained, “Unite to Fight is a non profit organization with the goal of giving teen cancer patients comfort items as well as support throughout their hospital stays. Teen cancer is a forgotten about group of patients and they receive little help or funding so I wanted to try to give them the support I never had.” Below among the sources is a link to his foundation. Feel free to give what you can to help his foundation’s efforts. Clark was selected by the panel for the scholarship of his category. The panel chose Clark because he is “driven, selfless, and an inspiration.” Despite the difficulties he faced, he never gave up, pushed past expectations, and desired to help others.

Congratulations to these four students for receiving these scholarships and a huge congratulations to each of the students who were nominated for this event. Thank you for what you have done for, and the impact you have had on, this community!


Unite To Fight

Staff, G. H. N. (2023, May 15). Meet Gig Harbor’s 2023 Students of Distinction. Gig Harbor Now.

Students of distinction awards. GGHF.