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Looking forward to the future, leaving thanks behind: A snapshot of eight HRVHS?graduates the same small-town start, but very different journeys ahead

June 15, 2011

There is no path to the future that is straight, paved and narrow. Most of us after finishing high school wound around many an obstacle or followed the unexpected road.

This year's Hood River Valley High School graduates, shaped by their unique life experiences, will also seek their futures upon differing byways.

With the help of adviser Carolyn Bondurant from the HRV Summit Career Center, we have selected eight students from the graduating class whose stories illustrate the diverse travels in store for this year's class of hopefuls and the lessons they will carry with them into those futures.

Wooed off to the College of Wooster in Ohio come this fall, Noel Mellor, 18, leaves HRVHS having danced her way into one scholarship and studied her way into several others.

"I will be able to graduate with no debt," beamed Mellor, who hopes to go on to complete an M.D./Ph.D. program after her college graduation. She then hopes to work to research cures for cancer and work in Africa.

"I heard stories from my mother, who passed away after I was in seventh grade, about her work in Nepal and other countries. She met people there who were so happy with so little. I think it would be great to experience that," said Mellor.

"The doctors and nurses who helped our family when my mom had cancer did so much for us," said Mellor. "I wanted to be able to do that."

Mellor was able to channel her life experience into a 4.0 GPA while at HRVHS - with laser focus and study skills that will prove helpful in her road ahead.

You may have seen David Rodriguez in one of many theater productions at HRV. He will forever be remembered fondly for his exuberance as Mr. Thenardier in this year's production of "Les Misérables," followed by his lead role in Mark Twain's "Is He Dead?"

Beyond acting, Rodriguez sees a career in broadcast journalism in his future, if the fates allow. At the University of Oregon, Rodriguez hopes to channel his love for public speaking, writing and acting, using his "distinctive way of describing things" to help people understand the news of the day.

"I love learning about facts and gaining knowledge," said Rodriguez. "I also know that life isn't always the greatest - that people have to struggle - but I want to help people help themselves."

Rodriguez, 18, is planning on taking on student loans to cover his education and plans to finish in four years. "I learned how to make things work - like not having a computer at home. I learned to still get my work done."

Rodriguez will be well served by his perseverance, whether delivering the nightly news or standing in front of the bright lights of Broadway.

Hip-Hop dance diva Priscella Matthews, 18, has rocked the HRV talent shows and school-wide performances on many an occasion with her beautiful moves and great self-confidence.

"People looked at me and said, 'You're a dancer? Yeah, right.' I realized they didn't really know who I was. After I started dancing, people were like apologizing," said Matthews. "Dancing is what's in your heart. If you don't have passion, there is no point in dancing."

Anyone who has watched her dance knows she practices what she preaches.

What people may not know is that Matthews plans on becoming a filmmaker. She's enrolling in Mount Hood Community College's integrated media program this fall.

"If I can be behind a camera, I can capture the untold stories," said Matthews with a smile that seemed to emanate from a person who is used to looking beyond the surface of things.

One of this year's CGCC full scholarship winners, Lizvet Tostado, 18, has been a regular volunteer during community work days, and a familiar face in the early childhood education program at HRV.

"Early childhood education is my main focus - especially preschool," said Tostado. "I plan to go into business classes later so I can manage my own daycare … maybe become a kindergarten teacher some day."

Tostado, who was born in the U.S., shared that her family wanted to ensure that she learned to respect and value her heritage, so she went to live in Mexico from fifth grade through eighth grade.

"I had to learn a new culture and learn how to adapt - two times!" said Tostado. "Mrs. Schlosser helped me a lot. She said, 'I know you can do this.'

"I am going to miss everything. The teachers were really great and I am really grateful for everything at HRV."

As the oldest in her family, Tostado was expected to be the responsible. But, she also shared in some extended family fun, singing along with several relatives in a Mexican dance band.

"I would still really love to sing, but just in case one thing doesn't work out, I have the other," said Tostado with a sparkle in her eye.

The high school resume of Anne Iskra, 18, looks like a poster for the model student: co-captain of the swim team, Leos service club, National Honor Society, Earth Club, Sinfonietta, honor band, Science Wizards, music department instrumentalist and choir member, Spanish club and more - all served with three or four years of participation and leadership roles.

"I've also been working at the OSU Extension Office in the entomology department," added Iskra.

The serious and studious Iskra plans to carry her accomplishments into her new role as star student at Western Washington University in Bellingham - with an eye to study environmental science, education and music.

"I'd love to work doing something like the Outdoor School program," said Iskra.

She's covering the costs with work savings, scholarships (hopefully) and loans.

"I will especially miss the music department and the sense of family there. It is one of the few places in high school where you can build cross-grade friendships," said Iskra. "It is great to share common ground and work toward a goal together."

Being in theater since he was a freshman, Skyler Tennant, 18, knows that although he really loved acting, he has a more serious career direction in mind for himself, once leaving HRV.

"My aunt, stepdad, stepbrother and grandfather were all in the military," said Tennant. "I looked at them, and then picked the one branch no one had yet served in."

Tennant will be heading into the U.S. Air Force this fall. With high scores on his entrance tests, Tennant will be able to pursue his goal of becoming an officer.

"They have a great assistance program that will pay for my college. I will save my G.I. Bill and pass that on to my kids for their college," said Tennant.

Once he completes basic training and college, it may take Tennant eight to 10 years to achieve his dream of becoming a pilot. In the meantime, he hopes to attend Southern Oregon University while he is on active duty.

"I will really miss the theater classes, and my job as a library aide. I love to read and will miss all the books," Tennant said. "But I am looking forward to going to Germany (hopefully) and see the homeland of my ancestors."

While kicking the soccer ball around the fields of HRV, Gerardo Lachino, 18, learned some great life lessons.

"I learned to never give up and to work hard. I also learned to work as part of a team," said Lachino, all good insights for his three years playing goalie, mid-fielder and defense.

Lachino hopes to apply these good lessons in a new direction as he takes on a Job Corps training program to become an electrician.

"I took a field trip to visit a program in Troutdale and I thought that an electrician job would be a good paying job to raise a family with," said Lachino.

"I think it would be nice to work in my own business someday …" mused Lachino, "after I start out working for someone else." Lachino hopes to be accepted into the Tongue Point electrician program come fall.

"Traveling outside of the country - that seems fun and exciting!" said Yonny Castillo, 17, as he projected himself into the future.

"I'm going to Southern Oregon University and will major in business and marketing," said Castillo. "I can get paid while I see the world!"

It seems Castillo has already been traveling at a fast pace since beginning his career at HRV. You may recognize his successes in the four years he's spent running cross-country and competing in track for HRV.

"I've signed a letter of intent to run for SOU," said Castillo. "I'm excited about that." The running scholarship helps a bit, too.

Having two older brothers who also made names for themselves as runners, Castillo acknowledged that both Salome and Leo helped guide him through his college application process.

"I asked my brothers a lot of questions and they really helped me out," he said.

"I realized, though, that it's up to me - I have to do this myself. I have to take on the part of that leader. Now I can do that for my younger brother, too," said Castillo.

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