Noon Rotary honors three area high school students

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Noon Rotary of Walla Walla Scholarships of $1,000 each will be awarded to seven high school graduating seniors during weekly meetings this spring.

A student is selected from each area high school, said Rotarian Linda Hardy in a release. They may apply the award to pursue studies at a college or university.

“We want to help lighten the financial load for the student recipients,” she said.

The first three honorees are Whitney Shanks, Touchet High School; Diego Sanchez, Walla Walla Valley Academy; and Dakota Phillips, Lincoln High School.

Whitney has moved cross-country from Vancouver to California to Delaware and back to Touchet, overcoming the challenges to excel at Touchet High, Linda said. The eldest child of Rocco and Heather Shanks, Whitney has six siblings. She was home-schooled until her senior year and already has made an academic mark with a 3.993 GPA. She will earn valedictorian recognition at Touchet graduation ceremonies. She played softball at Touchet and was honored by Exchange Club of Walla Walla with a Student of the Month Award. She will be a soloist in Touchet High’s spring concert. She assists older folks around Touchet by doing their chores and keeping them company after school. She has been cited for her responsible, protective, focused and happy nature and for being a compassionate, caring young woman who gives more than she receives. This fall she plans to study English and music at Walla Walla Community College and pursue a degree in cosmetology.

Diego Sanchez particularly enjoys drawing. The son of Rudy and Glenda Sanchez, his mom said, “Diego has the soul of an artist and he has taught his father and me to accept life and all that it introduces.” Diego is a friendship brother to Jay, an exchange student from China whom the family is hosting this year. He also enjoys the family’s three dogs. After-school activities in which Diego participates include creating cartoons in an art class. He plans to pursue a degree in graphic design this fall at WWCC. He hopes eventually to create graphic designs for publications. Academics have not been easy for Diego, but he earned a 2.7 GPA and has amassed the respect of his teachers and principal, who say he is a most thoughtful young man, Linda said.

Without family support and forced to find other places to live throughout middle and high school, Dakota has demonstrated the grit and guts needed to advance in school. A couple of exceptional mentors also helped pull him from the abyss and toward excellence. He came to Lincoln as a junior with just 3.5 credits earned in the previous two years and passed only seven of 20 classes. Under the tutelage of Lincoln teachers — especially Pat Kolfler — and Daniel Willms, formerly of the Vineyard Free Methodist Church, Dakota brought his GPA up to over 3.2. He rarely misses a class and has accomplished enough independent study to graduate with his peers in June.

Dakota has involved himself in extracurricular activities. Through membership in Lincoln’s after-school The Lift program he’s participated in cooking class, magic activities and helped with Lincoln’s float entry for the winter holiday parade. With his church group he’s helped Walla Walla’s homeless population by working at a soup kitchen, during a canned food drive and with Helpline. Lincoln teacher Natalie Allen said, “Dakota is an amazing young man. He plans to attend Eastern Washington University and earn a master’s degree in physics or one of the sciences at the University of Washington. He has earned great respect from our staff and has been nominated Lincoln’s ‘turnaround student.’” All on his own, Dakota will be the first in his family to attend college.

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