Despite numerous challenges, Centralia High School seniors have shown a unique type of hard work over the past year. When it was needed — which was quite often — they weren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get the job done.
Case in point: Half of Centralia High School’s top 10 academic students will graduate this month not just with their high school diploma, but also with an associate’s degree, laying the groundwork for a productive path forward.
That pathway starts Friday, June 11, when Centralia High School will host its commencement ceremony for the class of 2021. Unlike their predecessor, this class will be able to celebrate with an in-person ceremony this year.
Centralia’s top 10 academic students, celebrated every year for their academic achievements and accomplishments, stand as the leaders of this group.
Here are their stories so far, and where they plan to go from here. Students were ranked according to the school’s Top 10 Index.
Rebecca Demaris (3.99 GPA)
Salutatorian Rebecca Demaris, Centralia’s top-ranked academic senior, plans on attending Saint Martin’s University, on a near-full ride scholarship, with plans to pursue a career in education, according to a biography provided by the school district.
She hopes to teach at the middle school and high school level. Demaris will also graduate this month with an associate’s degree from Centralia College.
“I’ve learned that, while studying and getting good grades is important in high school, it’s more important to enjoy the experiences. Go to the activities and sports and just make memories with the people around you,” she wrote in a questionnaire submitted to The Chronicle.
Throughout her tenure at CHS, Demaris has stayed involved by playing on the soccer team, running track and performing in the orchestra.
Outside the classroom, Demaris works full time, is the student representative on the city parks and recreation board, plays on the Twin City Union Soccer Club and performs with the Pacific Northwest Chamber Orchestra.
Three words she uses to describe herself are “persevere, selfless and compassionate.”
Mr. Rodland was her favorite teacher because he “was always supportive and he made class interesting. He cared about all of his students and it was obvious he wanted us to succeed.”
Mazzi Nowicki (3.995)
Valedictorian Mazzi Nowicki plans on attending class this fall at the University of Washington’s College of Arts and Sciences. She hasn’t yet chosen a field of study, but she is looking forward to college.
Nowicki has been part of many extracurricular activities throughout her time at Centralia, including playing golf, holding class office and serving as a student representative on the district’s school board.
She’s also been heavily involved in clubs, having served as president of the Environmental Club while also making time for the school’s National Honor Society chapter, AOK club and the Sexual Health and Relationships Club.
Nowicki has also served as SkillsUSA Washington state treasurer and historian.
She holds a longtime passion for art and making videos. Three words she uses to describe herself are “motivated, dedicated and relatable.”
“Probably the greatest lesson I’ve learned my senior year is that a lot of things don’t really matter and everyone overthinks too much,” she wrote to The Chronicle. “School has been my place for a long time. I am really going to miss coming to school and feeling like me.”
Her favorite teachers include Mrs. Ramirez and Mrs. Jeffries, she said, noting that “they’re the kindest, most caring and thoughtful people you’ll ever meet.”
Emily Heppe (3.93)
Emily Heppe graduated third in her class, according to the district’s Top 10 Index, and plans to take classes online at Washington State University Global in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She plans on pursuing a master’s degree and possibly a doctorate.
She will also graduate this spring with an associate’s degree.
During her time at Centralia High School, Heppe served as the community service vice president of the school’s FFA chapter and was involved in the club her freshman through her junior year. She also participated in volleyball.
“I think my favorite memory in the classroom was just all those times that I got the chance to go and spend time practicing in the ag room with my friends for our FFA competitions. We spent a lot of time and hard work in there and it was just always a lot of fun,” she wrote to The Chronicle.
She said she’ll also miss her classmates. She said she didn’t get to know a lot of them too well, but notes that they were always fun to be with whenever they were together.
Heppe’s hobbies include reading, though she hasn’t been able to do a whole lot lately as she’s been staying busy.
Her favorite teachers, though hard to choose from, were Mrs. Ramirez and Ms. Habel, who she said encouraged her to follow her dreams and always gave great advice.
Karen Wu (3.803)
Karen Wu graduated fourth in her class and plans on studying business administration at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business.
She will graduate this year with her associate’s degree.
She was involved in basketball and golf during her time at Centralia High School, and also served as the sophomore class vice president.
Wu has also dedicated more than 250 hours of her time volunteering at the Lewis County Senior Center and has worked at her parents’ restaurant.
Her hobbies include hiking and travel.
“Mr. Ulrigg is my favorite teacher because of his encouragement and kindness, along with letting me know of opportunities I would not have known otherwise,” she wrote.
Three words she uses to describe her are “hardworking, compassionate and determined.”
The thing she said she will miss most about CHS is the people.
Shantel Turner (3.62)
Shantel Turner graduated fifth in her class and will also graduate this spring with an associate’s degree from Centralia College.
She said she’s found the last four years to be exciting and adventurous and has met many friends along the way.
“Although this journey has been swift and has brought us many different outcomes, the end is bittersweet. She is excited to start her journey,” her district-provided biography read.
Emily Grove (3.8)
Emily Grove graduated sixth in her class and plans on attending class at Centralia College, with a goal of majoring in marine biology or biology with an emphasis in environmental science.
When she’s not at work or in the classroom, Grove likes to spend time with friends, family and her partner. She has a green thumb and is currently the caretaker of more than 100 plants, she said.
She loves to go on hikes, take walks, garden, meditate and do yoga, and spend time with her cat, Mitu, while drinking tea.
Grove is a lifelong Centralia School District student.
Bailey Warner (3.67)
Bailey Warner graduated seventh in her class and plans on attending class this fall at Spokane Falls Community College in pursuit of an interpretive degree in American Sign Language.
She will also graduate with her associate’s degree.
During her time at high school, Warner has been an active member in the American Sign Language Club, has participated in SkillsUSA competitions for media and Sign Language, and was associated with the National Honor Society all four years of her attendance.
Warner is also an active member of the Oakview Grange.
Her hobbies include photography, reading, crocheting, gardening and saving dead house plants.
Three words she uses to describe herself are “resilient, sophisticated and kind.” The greatest lesson she said she learned her senior year was to not procrastinate.
Her favorite memory in the classroom was when she and her classmates studied the “Lord of the Rings” and other epics in her freshman English class.
Warner’s favorite teacher during her time at Centralia was Mrs. Ramirez.
“She respected me and my time,” Warner wrote. “She asked the class to respect her and her time because she respects us. Her class also gave me the foundation knowledge that I needed to succeed in college at CC.”
Hailey Brann (3.86)
Hailey Brann graduated eighth in her class and plans on attending Centralia College in the fall to obtain her registered nurse license. From there, she plans on transferring to a four-year university with plans to eventually become a pediatric nurse practitioner.
Brann played volleyball and tennis for the Tigers, and helped her varsity volleyball team win the 2A conference championship title. She was also involved in leadership programs and student government all four years of high school; she served with titles including freshman class vice president, sophomore class president, ASB treasurer and ASB president.
Outside the classroom and off the courts, Brann is involved with her Young Life church group.
Three words she uses to describe herself are “determined, enthusiastic and bubbly.”
Her favorite memory in the classroom, she said, was when she “full-on cried to get out of an English assignment and it worked.” There was also a moment in the classroom when she lip synched the lyrics to “Sweet Caroline” and everybody sang along with her.
“I have learned that although it is not easy, you must roll with the punches and be resilient. I would have never imagined a pandemic would completely alter my senior year, but I made it through the pandemic and now I’m ready to take on the world,” she wrote.
Korban Teitzel (3.6)
Korban Teitzel graduated ninth in his class and plans on attending class at Washington State University in the fall to pursue a degree in finance, with hopes of one day becoming a financial advisor.
Teitzel played in band throughout middle and high school, including Centralia’s jazz band. He grew up competing in many sports, including wrestling and baseball.
In his spare time, Teitzel enjoys playing recreational sports, hanging out with friends, watching good movies and learning new skills.
Three words he uses to describe himself are “motivated, outgoing and genuine.”
His favorite memory in the classroom was debating in his Running tart English class, and his favorite teacher at Centralia was Mrs. Ramirez, who taught him world history.
He learned during his senior year that good grades, being social and being happy are all things that are capable of co-existing. The thing he’ll miss most about high school is hanging out with friends.
Jordan Blaettler (3.5)
Jordan Blaettler graduated 10th in her class and plans on attending South Puget Sound Community College to pursue a pre-med degree with hopes to eventually open up her own dermatology practice.
Throughout her tenure at Centralia High School, Blaettler has been involved in golf, swim and band.
Three words she uses to describe herself are “empathetic, sensitive and feisty.”
Her favorite high school memory was attending class her entire sophomore year in the “portable city” annex.