Last Days: Interviews with Seniors


The Aloha High School class of 2015 graduates. (Photo Credit: OregonLive)

Ryan Nguyen

In the final hours before graduation, some seniors have some last words to say.

Ryan: How do you feel now that graduation is here?

Carlos: You know, I will say yes. Even though graduation is [so soon], I can’t relax yet, because there are so many things that I still have to get done before I can say, “I think I’m done; I think I’m ready.” I [want to] finish strong until the end, to have grit.” I was actually very conflicted with the idea of speaking at graduation or even auditioning, because I figured that over the last four years, I’ve spoken to the student body at various occasions and that, maybe, they wouldn’t appreciate [me again] at graduation. But I wanted to give one last “hurrah” to [our] class before we head off into diverging paths.

Jordan: I feel sort of like… you know [how in Inside Out,] everyone’s pressing all the buttons at once? That’s my current thing. That’s how I’m feeling right now. I’m super excited to go to college, but I’m also at the same time, I’m super scared, because Oregon is super lit, and I love this place, and I’m kind of scared to leave. But, I mean… yeah, I’m feeling everything at once.

Sarah: A little apprehensive, but mostly… ready. I finished what I needed to do.

Sydona: I am so ready to graduate! I have goals to finish strong and get my grades what I want them to be, but I’m currently a little behind, just because I have a lot on my plate as the year draws to an end. I am so stressed. But I’m ready, and I’m little sad that I only have [a few moments] left with some teachers.

Thao: I’m excited. [Ryan: You’re still excited?] Yes. [Ryan: You have no apprehension at all?] No. I’m ready to get out. [laughs]

Ryan: What are your immediate plans for the future?


Photo Credit: OregonLive

Carlos: I will be attending Mount Angel Seminary, which is a Catholic seminary, and I will be doing my first year of studies in Mexico City. I leave in about a month. I will be studying philosophy in hopes of one day becoming a Catholic priest. I was mostly conflicted on the fact that I thought I wasn’t going to get accepted, and that was where everything [else] stemmed from. But, I have felt a calling to follow [this] path, ever since I was able to understand the sacred liturgy of the Catholic church.

Jordan: [I’m going to Columbia University in New York.] And, I mean, I would say yeah, I’m really excited to be able to do whatever I want, when I want, but also at the same time, I know there’s so many internships that I could do there and so many new people I can meet, so I think it’s really both. I would say, honestly, I was looking mostly at upper-level colleges, and I would say what stood out to me about Columbia [University] was the diversity they have on campus. This sounds bad, but a lot of really good campuses are really whitewashed [laughs]. That’s just how it is, I mean, you look at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, I mean, they all have — I think it’s 60 percent or up is white. I mean, you look at Columbia, I think, for them, I think it’s 40 percent for them. You have so many different races represented; they have such good international representation, and plus you have all these internship opportunities right next door to you. I mean, I couldn’t say no [laughs]. At this moment, I am planning on doing a joint major they have, it’s called Economics – Political Science, where you do half of your classes in economics and half in political science, which [are] definitely my two loves. Goldman-Sachs is based down there — and everyone is obsessed with Goldman-Sachs — so that’s the one that a lot of people want to internship at, but I’ve also looked at Chase, and I’m actually interested in going into the U.N. The one I really liked was actually the U.N., it’s really close in that area; I think it’s the international headquarters, I want to say. And it’s a pretty big deal, and just because being that close is — I want to go into domestic and international politics, and that’s the perfect spot for me. I think it’s really a mixture of the opportunities that I know I’m going to have, and, obviously, being a little bit more free of my parents’ bubble, some would say.

Sarah: I start BYU: Idaho in September. I’m pretty excited. [Ryan: Mainly due to being independent?] Yes. [laughs] It will be a chance to get out of home and be my own self. It’s not like home has brought me down, it’s just that I need to grow as a person separate from them. I’m pretty ready.

Sydona: I will be attending Pacific University in Forest Grove this fall. I was drawn to the college because it was only one of four in the state with my major. Once I realized I was incompatible with two of the schools, I was left looking at Pacific and Portland State University. I ended up choosing Pacific because they offered me $20,000 a year in scholarships and their class sizes are incredibly small — I think there are only sixteen kids in their current film program.

Thao: I’m going to the honors college at Oregon State. [Ryan: So, are you excited to get out of your parents’ house?] Oh, yeah. For sure. [Ryan: What about leaving is so exciting, is it just the idea of being independent or is it just having the chance to have new experiences?] I think it’s a mixture of both, just being independent after eighteen years of living off of my parents and… [Ryan: Like a parasite?] Hey! It’s a symbiotic relationship, Ryan. And then, it’s also just being in an area with lots of people similar to me, and we’re all just independent for once. I think it will be a learning experience, but it will be really fun. [Ryan: Why did you choose the honors college at OSU?] It’s definitely more STEM-based at OSU, and since I want to go into pharmacy school later on, I know that being in the honors College will provide me with a lot more research opportunities, which is what I need, and also the smaller classes sizes and the priority class registration are also pretty nice! We get free printing; I didn’t apply for that, but once I found out, I was really happy. [laughs] [Ryan: You said you wanted to go into pharmacy school? Are you looking at any single particular field?] I’m thinking more clinical, just because I don’t really like the work environment in retail. And I’ve shadowed a clinical pharmacist, and what she does on a daily basis involves a lot more patient and caregiver interaction, which is what I like, so that’s the path I’m more into. It was at Kaiser [Permanente].

Ryan: What made you decide to pursue this path?


Photo Credit: OregonLive

Sarah: I didn’t really have a plan [of what to study] going into high school; that was what I was trying to figure out, but working with people is really what I like to do. I really like some of the Social Studies teachers and learning from them and learning about society.

Sydona: Going to college was never not an option. My parents were huge factors in my decision about college because they never went and regret it every day. I also knew that if I didn’t set aside specific time — in a classroom for example — to work on what I love — film, then I would always be sidetracked by life and unable to pursue my passion. So I guess college is me forcing myself to work.

Thao: I think going into high school, I wanted to be a physician, and then I took Human Anatomy, and that wrecked me. [laughs] [Ryan: What was the issue?] It was more of the memorization… I don’t particularly enjoy that. And then I took AP Chemistry, and I really liked that, because it was more of like, “there’s a definitive answer.” There’s a clear process you go through in order to find the answer to the problem, which is what I like. Since pharmacy has a lot of chemistry in it, that’s why I’d like to pursue it. Nothing’s set in stone, but right now pharmacy is my [pursuit].

Ryan: You’ve spent four years of your life here — along with many other seniors — but what lasting legacy do you hope to leave on AHS?

Carlos: I think I fostered a great appreciation for service throughout my leadership career, especially… I would hope that after I leave high school, I am known as the person who has devoted his time and service to help better Aloha and represent the community for what Aloha stands for, which is family and the values that we hold so very dear to our hearts, acceptance and taking care of our own. I think that’s something that I’ve taken up. And definitely inspiring and empowering others to do the same, to find that spark that’s in them to allow their flair to [awaken].

Jordan: I just hope to change the stereotype of athletes not being able to be qualified in academics or vice versa, really smart kids not being able to perform athletically. I feel like a lot of kids who do sports feel like they don’t have to perform well in academics because no one expects anything of them, but I think that should be changed. I hope that at least I can show kids you can do both. They’re not mutually exclusive.

Sarah: I would say to focus on efficiency, organization, and following some sort of hierarchy, not just everyone asking questions and not knowing where to go and things like that. The band is trying to promote good communication, which is a life skill that really works in the ensemble, from out of practice to inside of practice, because you need to be able to listen to the music and see where you’re supposed to be.

Sydona: Part of me knows that four years from now, Aloha students won’t know my name — and that’s okay. But as far as I know, my “legacy” is left in the theatre. That’s where I spent a lot of my time, and that’s where my name is painted on the wall. I tried to create a positive environment and be an effective leader. I guess what I hope the most is that the next class learns from how I led them and uses my strengths and my mistakes to be better, more positive leaders than I was. I also hope the Theatre Society continues to get cords for graduation now, because I fought hard for those!

Thao: In the Aloha community, I hope to leave a legacy that a nerd can be artistic, since I don’t think those go hand in hand most of the time. I also hope to leave a legacy of… I was someone who worked hard and got the grades and the rank and the awards I did not because I’m just naturally smart.

Ryan: What will you always fondly remember about high school?

Carlos: Any senior, really, can say that they know these halls like the back of their hand, so I think the most outstanding aspect [of the school] would be teachers, teachers who have definitely inspired me to maintain my hard work and to always work harder and harder for the things that you want to achieve. The events, like Holiday Sharing, were also very much [near and] dear to my heart, because that was where everything started for me. It was through the Holiday Sharing tree sale that I met Miss Livingston, and that’s when I started to become more involved in Leadership and become more involved as a high school student. Holiday Sharing is definitely my baby.

Jordan: This is going to sound really weird, but… I had Mr. Ehlert for AP Comparative Government, and — honestly — one of the moments that made me realize that I loved this [politics] was … we were playing Jeopardy! and we won, my group did, and Mr. Ehlert gave us an award, it was the “Putin on a Bear” award. He literally gave me a piece of paper that had Putin — [shirtless] — riding on a bear, and that was what he gave me as an award. In that moment, I realized [that] this is what I love. This is what I really want to pursue, and it actually made me go more… In that moment, when I realized how funny that was for me, and just being able to win this, it was like, “yeah, I love politics.” This is my thing. I love political science. It really changed my… career path, I would say.

Sarah: Marching band competitions, especially Auburn [Washington]; it’s our last competition, and there’s a parade, and then we perform, and then we stay all night, and we have senior speeches, and that’s really fun.

Sydona: Next to Normal, one hundred percent. Next to Normal was a student-produced musical that took place over the summer before my junior year, and it opened the first week of school. I’ll never forget it, because we casted actors from different schools, so I made friends I would have never even met, and we all became so close. We were so emotionally connected — it was crazy. I’ll never forget the night that show ended. It may not be a football game or an assembly, but it was the highlight of high school for me.

Thao: I think it’s definitely being in Miss Ottum’s AP art class. That class was really hard, because there’s a lot of things you have to do [and] you have a very short time limit. But the environment in that class and the people that I was with, [it] was [just] very motivating. We gave each other constructive criticism, but we also were there to help each other when one was behind or we were stuck on something. And so the community of that grew, like each kid made that class really memorable for the two years that I was in it.

Ryan: How do you feel you’ve changed the most since freshman year?


From left: Jordan Ashmore, Sarah Carr, and Thao Trinh.

Carlos: I would say [my maturity], because with so many different changes that happened throughout high school – and obviously, I speak for many of my fellow seniors who… you know, in freshman year, we were all stupid. But I think a lot of what Leadership has taught me — with all the various experiences I’ve had since my freshman career — especially now that I’m eighteen, making a life-changing decision to enter the Catholic priesthood, maturity has been a big thing. The relationships that I’ve built with people and how I maintain those relationships in terms of living out the appreciation and love for each other.

Jordan: I was convinced that I was going to be a doctor or something at that point. I took Human Anatomy, and we had to go see the cadavers. That… definitely is the greatest change I’ve had, because I was like, “yeah, I can do blood. Yeah, I can do death and blood.” Now, I was like, “I cannot do blood. I cannot do dead people.” [Ryan: Was that experience jarring to you?] I wasn’t shocked, I would say, because every teacher I’ve had since fifth grade has told my mom, “your daughter should be a lawyer.” [laughs] I argue a lot in class; you probably already know this. Honestly, it was the final straw on the camel’s back, and I was like, “whoa. Yeah, this really isn’t for me.” It was liberating, I would say, just knowing, like, “okay. That means I’ve really exhausted this area,” because I took Health Careers too, and I realized, “this definitely isn’t me. I can’t do this.” It was liberating. Freeing. [Ryan: What advice would you give to students who are also realizing things like this?] I’d say don’t worry about it. Honestly, you can have your heart set on something, and you could think you love it, but honestly it’s better that you’ve found out that now you don’t like it. Can you imagine if I’d gone all the way to medical school, and on the first day, smelled a dead body and went, “oh, no. I just wasted so much money.” [laughs] I would say be happy about it. You discovered something about yourself [that] maybe other people won’t realize soon on, and keep in mind that even if the career path you end up with isn’t something that we would consider normal or standard, if you love something, you will be good at it, and you will make a mark in the world. It doesn’t matter what area it is. Just keep that in mind. Try everything, really, class-wise. Obviously not drugs, but like experiment with… fiddle with things in your free time, don’t forget… people are so focused, sometimes, on academics, I would say, they forget to have a personality. Honestly, do things you love; do what you really feel that hits you in the heart, because honestly at the end of the day, no one cares if you got straight A’s in Geography, writing, whatever. They care if you’ve made a mark on the world, so if you’d rather do art classes and do amazing pieces, yes, go ahead by all means. Find something you love and be good at it.

Sarah: I feel like I’ve become a leader. Freshman year, I would probably say I was a follower. Most of my friends were juniors, and I followed them, but then I didn’t really glean anything from them, if that makes sense; they didn’t tell me what I should be doing, I was just hanging out with them. I had to figure out what I was supposed to do, and then I have been able to take that [experience] and help others. Especially lots of freshmen.

Sydona: I think my attitude has changed the most. My freshman year, I was a really negative kid and I never took responsibility for my actions — I always blamed others. Now I really try to focus on the positive and try to instill happiness in others. I take responsibility for my actions (most the time), and I generally just am more productive. Join whatever interests you! It doesn’t matter if your friends join with you or not! You’re going to make friends. So join the swim team or theatre or choir!

Thao: I think I’ve learned to be a lot more assertive. I’m definitely as assertive as I want to be, but I’m a lot better than I was freshman year. By “assertive,” I don’t mean overstepping boundaries when it comes to people of higher authority, but it’s like standing up for myself and speaking out against things that I don’t think are right. I’m still not that assertive, but I’m getting better.

Ryan: Do you feel as though school has prepared you for the real world?


Photo Credit: OregonLive

Carlos: I think high school is a [much more scaled-down] version of the real world. Yes, we have our [relative] safeness and balance of being educated while at the same time, being guided, but I think that when you leave these walls [for the final time], you definitely put the life skills that [you’ve] learned [into use], especially with working and collaborating with people – because we rely, as human beings, on each other to make progress. So, I think that coming here to Aloha and experiencing the community and every other single aspect of it have definitely prepared me for the things that [I will encounter] out in the “real world.” But I think that Aloha has truly also given [us] the tools to go and [conquer] those experiences I have not yet encountered. So, in a nutshell, I would say: yes. I do feel prepared.

Jordan: Ask me that question in one year. [laughs] I would like to say yes, but honestly, I’m not going to know until the first obstacle hits, and I’m like, “oh [no].” I was either really prepared or I really wasn’t. It didn’t prepare me for taxes, though. I just got my first job right now, and it is a nightmare. I’m working at West Hills Recreation and Fitness — it’s where my swim team practices — and there’s so much paperwork you have to get through, and I ask so many questions, and I feel bad; I don’t know what I’m doing.

Sydona: I honestly don’t know, so I guess we’ll find out. I feel like it prepared me to work with people and understand basic concepts of subjects throughout out the world.

Ryan: What was the most important lesson you learned here?

Carlos: Because of the [welcoming] atmosphere we have here at Aloha and everything I have been welcomed to do and encouraged to do as well as the support I have received, I think being able to understand what you do [in your community] and living out what you stand for with the people whom you live with, and appreciating who they are [is massively important], because they’re human beings, and we can never overestimate the power of friendship, which goes hand in hand with the idea of unity and the unity that we exemplify here at Aloha. Persevere, always. Even when things get tough, for you will reap rewards in abundance for every seed of hard work that you sow. And that is something that you should not take lightly, because college applications start your freshman year. Also — learning about the chemical reaction of hibiscus water and phenolphthalein in AP Chemistry.

Jordan: Calc is a nightmare. Sorry, Mrs. Gibson; it’s so hard.

Sarah: It was learning about cell walls in plants… no, I’m joking. [laughs]. I’d say learning how to be a good student, especially because that contributes to being a good person. Being a good student, you’re going to have to know what you’re supposed to be doing and to do it and being able to follow through with teachers and peers and things like that, and that’s what you have to do in everyday life.

Sydona: What was most important to me was learning how to be responsible for myself and handle my mistakes and move on. Also, learning how to work with people and communicate in different ways was incredibly important.

Thao: I think it’s to be okay with failure. I think growing up with the values I was instilled with… I think it’s learning to accept failure, because growing up with the values that I was raised with, I think failure was something that you weren’t supposed to tell someone about, [it was a sign that] you didn’t know what you were doing. But I think failure [should be taken as] a learning experience, to learn from the mistakes you made and to better yourself the next time you do something. And failure is also a very humbling experience, which I think we all need.

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