“Evening of Excellence” filled the hall Thursday at Hood River Valley High School.
The HRVHS academic awards night is a treasured tradition at the school. In its 15th year, the event began the year this year’s sophomores were born.
“It’s one of my favorite nights of the year,” said Jennifer Schlosser, who as counselor started Evening of Excellence. Schlosser, whose duties also include advising the rally squad, can be seen at virtually every extracurricular event.
“When I came there was no means of recognizing the students, and at the same time I was also asked to be National Honor Society advisor, so I thought, ‘This is perfect, and we’ll have the NHS kids run this,’” Schlosser said.
Evening of Excellence is like an hour-long roll call but with humor and emotional moments. Every student present comes up on stage to receive a certificate, and often a hug or high five, from their teacher. All students in languages or Social Science or Mathematics remain on stage until all names in their group are called.
It’s a fairly casual event, but each student is escorted to the stage and back by NHS members. The NHS officers emcee the ceremony, introducing students and teachers. This year, NHS president Luke Ihle presided, with Celine Mazzoleni, Sophie Zega, Cody Walker and Tracy Mok.
“They do a great job. They really show a lot of composure,” Schlosser said.
Schlosser said the Evening of Excellence has evolved, from its early focus on the 4.0 students to its broader spectrum of achievement.
“Now, the teachers are recognizing students from their departments and I have to keep them to seven or eight, just to have enough room in the theater” for parents and students, Schlosser said. (The capacity is 400, and the room was packed on Thursday.)
“People often think it’s only for the students who are 4.0 and amazing students in Advanced Placement classes, but that’s not all that it’s about,” she said.
“It’s about who has that spark and love of learning in the class, has shown improvement, or attitude over ability, or a high interest in the area of study.”
The Evening’s printed program states that “quite often this student is one who serves as a positive role model for other students to follow.”
Schlosser said some teachers feature their top students academically, “but everyone has different criteria; that’s why we read what the teachers wrote, so everyone knows why they’ve won the award.”
One English department student was honored for having emerged from a wallflower as a sophomore to a passionate writer and class participant as a junior.
Other students were honored for putting in long hours on extracurricular projects, or demonstrating keen research abilities in chemistry.
Schlosser said the event reveals much to parents who are visiting the school for the first time.
The first thing people see at Evening of Excellence is the extensive gallery of student art — drawings, painting, photography and sculpture, including mixed media, some classical in approach and others provocative.
But Evening of Excellence does not end with the gallery tour.
“It used to be more about the art, but it has evolved to more of a recognition of all disciplines,” Schlosser said.
She added that “It’s great to see the teachers up there on stage. We got a lot of support from the teachers and administration. It has really evolved into being part of the school culture.”