Michael Wagar Commentary: Worst Generation Ever? Hardly. Top 10 High School Graduates Profiled


Is the world unraveling? Our political leaders seem to be floundering. We have the pandemic, looming inflation — we can’t even agree on whether to wear masks or not. Where are our morals?

Most disturbing is the up and coming generation. They certainly are not measuring up to The Greatest Generation that led us out of World War II and into decades of peace and prosperity.

Today’s young adults wear pants below their waist, if they wear pants at all. They are lazy. They don’t work and don’t make plans for the future, wearing gawd-awful tattoos and showing disrespect for elders. They talk back.

Maybe not.

I am by nature an optimist. I try to look for the best in people, and generally believe that our country is strong, the United States of America is still the greatest country in the world and our future actually looks bright.

Which brings me to the main point of this column. Each year as high school graduation looms, schools put out their Top 10 lists of students with the highest grade-point averages (GPAs). On Thursday, The Chronicle printed biographical material on all the top students from W.F. West and Centralia high schools. I always read the lists with interest, and it always gives me hope.

The first time I attended a Top 10 banquet in the Twin Cities was years ago. It was sponsored by Rob Fuller, a giant of a man who owned the Fuller’s grocery stores and gave so much to this community before passing away in 2011.

I was executive editor at the time and The Chronicle purchased a table at the banquet supporting one of the Top 10 students and his family. I was humbled by the family I sat with and their son. I was amazed at all the students for their past accomplishments filled with academic, athletic and social success.

Since then, I always pay attention to the latest crop of Top 10ers. If you haven’t read the bios on the students, please take the time to pick up this past Thursday’s Chronicle or read it on chronline.com.

Their stories, their aspirations, are inspiring. Half of the Centralia Top 10, for example, already possess an associate’s degree through Running Start.

The students’ future plans are heavy on making their world a better place. The salutatorian of Centralia Rebecca Demaris, with a 3.99 GPA, wants to be a school teacher. Karen Wu, who is graduating from Centralia with a 3.803 GPA, is aiming high for a degree from the University of Washington where she will study business. What is remarkable about Wu is that along with playing basketball and golf, she also has put in more than 250 hours volunteering at the Lewis County Senior Center while also working at her parent’s restaurant.

When I was those kids’ ages, well, let’s just keep that my secret, but be assured I was well below the level of accomplishments and high character of our Top 10 students.

Bailey Warner (3.67 GPA from Centralia) is pursuing a degree in interpretive American Sign Language. Centralian Haily Brann (3.86 GPA) plans to be a pediatric nurse practitioner.

Down south in Chehalis, Abigail W. Kay is co-valedictorian with a 4.0 GPA. She is set to attend the University of Washington in its molecular genetics program. Kay is one well-rounded person. She graduated with honors in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program, as well as in English and humanities. She’s also been a star with the Southwest Washington Dance Center and an avid photographer.

One interesting character is Cody M. Matz, the other co-valedictorian graduating with a 4.0 GPA. He’s going to earn a degree in computer science, but not before taking a year off and traveling across the United States (he’s already biked the Continental Divide Trail from Canada to Mexico).

Jacob A. Blomdahl (3.99 GPA) is going after a master’s degree in either aerospace or mechanical engineering. His goal, he said, is to “engineer a better world and improve the lives of others.” Along the way he also placed at districts in tennis, and even worked on Elon Musk’s SpaceX grid fins modeling aerodynamics while in high school. Wow!

Jay M. Caird (3.945 GPA) hopes to major in biology on his way to pre-med. He wants to become a family practitioner serving underserved communities. During high school, he tutored math for students at his former middle school.

Perhaps my favorite biography is Cade M. Haller (3.941 GPA). He plans to earn a degree in mechanical engineering, perhaps working in nuclear or aerospace engineering. Haller is a classic Lewis County kid, stating his interests are spending time with friends, hunting, fishing, snowboarding and watching college and pro sports. He competed in football, baseball and basketball all four years of high school. He ends his proud bio stating he was involved in the school’s cornhole club. When I read that, I laughed out loud. This character is worth watching as his life unfolds.

So, how is our future with this upcoming generation? If the Top 10 is any indication of the direction of our country, the future is bright and in good hands. I look forward to perhaps what might be referred to as the greatest generation in decades to come.

Congrats to the Top 10 students and to all our graduates as they begin their adult lives. Hopefully one day this group will even be represented with a Cornhole World Champion title along with a long list of accomplishments.


Michael Wagar is a former president, publisher and editor of The Chronicle.