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Collins High School sends proud students into future

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By Brenda Sexton

The Courier-Herald

Principal Marcie Polin said many of the Collins High School class of 2006 arrived from the Enumclaw, Sumner, Orting or White River school districts behind in credits and had to catch up before they could get ahead, and although it was nip and tuck for some toward the end, 25 received a diploma.

“They finished and we are very, very proud of them,” Polin told the capacity crowd gathered June 13 in the White River High School auditorium.

For many, graduate Randell Baysinger summed it up when he concluded his speech about how life was tough and the people in it tougher with an exuberant, fist-pumping “Collins High School rules!”

“We've all worked very hard and accomplished a lot of things,” graduate Sarah Michels said. “We all did it together.”

Each of the Collins High graduates has a story to tell about how conventional, traditional high school didn't work for them and how, through the caring, tenacious staff at Collins High they were able to stand on the stage at commencement.

It is tradition for many, and sometimes all, Collins High graduates to share their stories. In addition to Baysinger, Hannah Thompson and Shayne Fairover told their tales. To “amens” and “applause,” Cherie Tourangeau talked about her journey. She shared with those gathered how she is the baby of nine children. She said her father left the family when she was 6 years old. She noted she was the third in her family to graduate, and her brother kept telling her “graduating is worth it.”

Tourangeau's hard work paid off as she, along with Rebecca Terry, received $250 Buckley Log Show scholarships. Tourangeau also earned the Enumclaw Rotary scholarship for $1,000.

This year Collins High graduates earned almost $9,000 in scholarship awards.

In addition to Terry and Tourangeau, Wendy Stucker received the $1,250 scholarship from The Greater Tacoma Foundation Victor L. and Elise W. Lyon Fund. Michels earned a Fuchs-Harden Educational Fund No. 2 scholarship, also from The Great Tacoma Foundation, for $1,600.

Carly Black received a $1,000 scholarship from the International Air and Hospitality Academy.

Patty Nelson of Pierce College presented the Pierce First scholarship, for full tuition, to Jacob Pipkin and the Pierce Now Scholarship, for $1,200 ($400 each quarter) to Jordan Hasme.

Michels, Terry and Pipkin graduated with honors.

Many of the students took time to credit the Collins High staff with their success.

“The teachers here are amazing people,” Stucker said.

Polin also praised the staff, who she said, “pushes, nags and harasses” students to make graduation happen.

As part of the evening, Collins High teachers Suzanne Gonzales and Grant Pennington read Dr. Suess' “Oh, The Places You'll Go,” while a slideshow of the graduates as children and today ran across a movie screen.

Oh, the places this class will go, Polin noted.

Each graduate, she said, has a a post-high school plan. Two-thirds will go on to college. One or two plans to enter military service and one is looking at an apprenticeship.

Students also took a moment to present counselor Kim Gunn with a special memorial for her seven years of service to Collins Alternative Programs. Gunn is leaving the program this year. Polin also recognized Gunn.

“She has a knack for knowing what students need and when they need it,” Polin said.

They also awarded Twylla Lynch with a community service award. Lynch waltzed into Gunn's office last fall and took over as a volunteer community service coordinator for the school, which means she finds, sets up, supervises, and often drives for, student service projects. Monday night before graduation, Lynch and her husband Al hosted a dinner for Collins High graduates and their families.

“It was awesome and so is Twylla,” Gunn wrote in an e-mail after graduation. “Collins is very lucky to have her.”

Brenda Sexton can be reached at bsexton@courierherald.com.

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