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2023 senior spotlight: Bellingham schools

What's next for local graduates?

By Hailey Hoffman Visual Journalist

Meet a crop of graduating seniors from Bellingham high schools. 

BELLINGHAM HIGH SCHOOL

A side profile shot of Michael Mosquera.
Michael Mosquera is graduating from Bellingham High School. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)

Michael Mosquera

Organizations: Teen Council with Planned Parenthood; Bellingham varsity swimmer; Bellingham Public Schools superintendent’s advisory council; dancer with Herencia Latina   

Interests/hobbies: Exercising, baking bread 

Post-grad plans: University of Washington to study biomedical engineering for a career in health care  

What has been your experience at Bellingham High School?   

Everybody there has been super welcoming, and the teachers are all super inclusive. They are aware of inequities in our community, and a lot of them try to challenge those, and I think that’s been super helpful.

How did COVID-19 impact your high school experience?  

I was in 10th grade, and it was a full year online. I have three younger siblings that are also in school, and my mom is a nurse. She was working every single day. I had to really take some time to teach my siblings their classes, because a kindergartener online? That was brutal for him. I’m glad that I was there to help because my mom — it wasn’t something that she could do.

You created your own COVID-19 vaccine clinic last year, tell me about that.   

Last year, I created those three vaccination clinics at [Church of the] Assumption. We used their gym, and we had a turnout of 250 people, which I thought was a success. It was mostly Spanish-speaking people, and that was my goal — to sort of break down that barrier. A lot of people don’t have a lot of trust in the health care system. So it was good to have people that spoke Spanish there and could walk them through the process and what it really was because a lot of them didn’t know.


How did you identify the need for this?

My parents, they have a lot of friends who only speak Spanish and I noticed that a lot of them weren’t getting vaccinated. They were like, “I just don’t know; I just don’t know how I feel about it.” I also noticed that death rates for Hispanic people were significantly higher than other races, and I thought that could be prevented by getting more people vaccinated.

So we made flyers, and I just posted them all around Bellingham. I also spoke at the end of Mass on one of the days to advertise it to the Spanish-speaking Mass that goes on there. It was just word-of-mouth and my mom posted on Facebook.   

You want to study biomedical engineering. What has influenced your decision to pursue that?   

I want to go into bioengineering to find ways to make health care more accessible … My mom has been the biggest influence. She is also passionate about increasing access to health care to people that immigrated here, but COVID really highlighted the disparities that our health care system has. Death rates were higher among minorities. I think that sort of made my goal more clear, but I’ve always wanted to go into health care because of my mom.   


OPTIONS HIGH SCHOOL

A photo of Taylor Lewis.
Taylor Lewis is graduating from Options High School. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)

Taylor Lewis

Post-grad plans: Career as a dental hygienist  

What was your high school experience like at Options?   

I’m adopted, so I had a lot of background stuff. In my freshman year when I was on my bad path, I was struggling with alcohol and drug abuse, so I went to rehab. I came back and went to Options, and they really helped me out in every way. If I was struggling, I could go to them. Sometimes, I had trouble staying in school and being present, so they gave me different alternatives and were always helping me with my work and supporting me and bringing me up. I actually never thought I was going to graduate. I’m so proud of myself.  

How did COVID impact your high school career?

I went to Options for a week, and then I had to go down to Yakima for a couple of months. I came back and it was all Zoom school, and I loved Zoom school because I could stay in bed.

When we came back, Katie [Jones] was our new principal, and things really did improve at Options. There were a lot of new kids going there, especially because COVID impacted a lot of people and Options was a good place to go. They definitely — I don’t want to say babied us through the school — but were definitely very supportive.

Is there a teacher or staff member who has impacted you?  

My school counselor, Aimee [Bachmeier], has helped me a lot, through everything, and she’s my best friend there.

What advice would you give to your younger self or a younger student?  

That it does matter — your freshman year, and your sophomore year, and your junior year — all of the years. I didn’t think so, but it really does.  

You’re interested in becoming a dental hygienist, what inspired you to pursue that career path?   

We did this thing at the beginning of the year called Learning with Leaders. A whole bunch of professionals came to Options, and they let us choose [professions] that interested us the most. And I chose dental assistant, like phlebotomy. And I really like the pay, obviously, but it just seems … interesting, and I think it would turn into a good job.

What are you most excited for after graduation?   

To finally be on my own and be my own person. I’m really excited to work full time because, right now, I really can’t. I just want to make money. I’m most excited to live by myself with my boyfriend. 


A profile shot of Dylan Schenkel.
Dylan Schenkel is graduating from Options High School. on May 11, in Bellingham. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)

Dylan Schenkel

Organizations: President of Bellingham High School Tech Club, Options High School drama 

Interests/hobbies: Video games, acting, improv, cooking, baking, technology, photography  

Post-grad plans: Gap year to travel  

What was your high school experience like at Options?

Options has just been a fantastic place. The majority of people feel very safe. Especially because of our teachers. They will support you like, with anything, help you through anything, even if it’s not class related. You can go talk to them and they’ll listen. All of our teachers are actually super respectful, and it’s just really nice having smaller class sizes, being able to get to know the teachers and have a connection with them, and to be able to discuss things with them as equals.

Is there a teacher or staff member who has impacted you?  

Leslie Adamson, the drama teacher. I came in my freshman year, started running the drama department, and then once we got in my sophomore year … we just somehow made drama work. Coming back from COVID, I pretty much helped Leslie run the entire drama department. I do all the technical aspects of drama at Options and Bellingham High School, but Leslie has indulged all my craziest ideas. Leslie is just as crazy as me, so we make a good pair.

How did COVID impact your education?  

It was really boring. It made all my classes way too easy and really boring. I got my classwork done in like the first 15 minutes of our online Zoom classes, and then didn’t have to do much. COVID was a time. I wasn’t impacted that much because I tend to like to be by myself, and I play a lot of video games. So, I was perfectly fine with being by myself able to play games.

How do you feel approaching graduation?   

Weird in some sense. The main thing I’m going to miss [is] seeing the teachers every day because they just are so helpful. Although, I will enjoy not having to wake up in the morning.

I know I can survive it and handle it. It’ll be weird to have a routine broken. I’m proud of the work I’ve done and how much I completed.  

What are you most proud of from your time in high school?   

Helping change the culture at Options and just getting it to a spot that is more friendly.   


SEHOME HIGH SCHOOL

A photo of Sophia Rey.
Sophia Rey is graduating from Sehome High School. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)

Sophia Rey

Organizations: Immigration Advisory Board to the Bellingham City Council and mayor; Community to Community volunteer; intern for Whatcom County Council; teen court volunteer; co-founder and co-president of the Young Multiracial Society; president of Diversity in Action Club; president of Teen Court; Sehome Jazz band; Kids Sax Ensemble; Sehome track and field; Galbraith Track Club; Bakers Against Racism 

Interests/hobbies: Activism, community organizing, human rights, music, saxophone, writing, journalism

Post-grad plans: Harvard University to study government and ethnicity, migration and rights. Pursuing a career in immigration, civil rights, labor law, public policy and community organizing 

Tell me about yourself:  

I’m a Venezuelan/Colombian American. My parents moved to this country about 30 years ago, so [I’m the] first person in my family born here in the States. Born in Southern Oregon — small town of Klamath Falls — and I moved here when I was about 9 years old, and it was quite a culture shock for me, coming from a small community to a very affluent part of town.  

Since then, I’ve just been really involved in activism of all kinds. My love and my passion is immigrant and racial justice here in Whatcom County and Bellingham. So, I’m involved with the Immigration Advisory Board. My home base is Community to Community Development. We do a lot of work with immigrants in Whatcom County [and] farmworkers, trying to examine the systems that we have in our current governance and create space and opportunity for civic participation.

Do you have a favorite memory from high school?  

I think my favorite memory is coming back from COVID-19 with a fresh perspective, and I had been able to take the time to really re-educate and continue to educate myself on anti-racism. My first week back, I experienced a pretty blatant microaggression from a teacher, and I actually talked to one of our administrators who put me in contact with another girl in my grade who was experiencing similar issues. Her and I — Isabella McFrazier — sat down and talked about racism in our community and in our school. It was the first time that I had that open dialogue with another person of color about our experiences. It was just cathartic and beautiful and so, so needed. We realized that we needed to create a space for all of our communities of color in our school. Since then, we’ve co-founded, together, the first club of color for students at Sehome High School. It’s called the Young Multiracial Society.

How does it feel to be leaving high school and Bellingham?

I feel very ready to leave, but I also feel like this past year has been the first year that I have felt centered in my community as a person of color and as a queer person. Also, in the broader sense of where I fit in, in Bellingham. It’s like I’ve worked my whole time here, and it’s been a struggle to feel like I have a community. It hurts to now have to leave it. I also feel lucky for the next person that comes around. I just think of myself coming into high school with not knowing anybody, not knowing where I fit in, and I feel grateful that I was able to spend this time hopefully making it a better place for the next generation and the next class that comes in. Bellingham will have a very special place in my heart. Sehome, too. I certainly want to come back and continue the community organizing and the grassroot movements that, I think, are what is going to change America — change this world.


A headshot of Gabe Oatman.
Gabe Oatman is graduating from Sehome High School. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)

Gabe Oatman

Organizations: Current manager, former player for Sehome baseball; Sehome cross-country; Community Transitions 

Interests/hobbies: Working out, running, playing and watching baseball  

Post-grad plans: Community Transitions and work  

Tell me about yourself:   

I graduated early during the first semester. So right now, what I’m doing, actually, is going to a program that’s called Community Transitions to learn how to be independent, taking care of yourself, mostly adult stuff. I’m excited. I’m happy to be in this program. It’s going to teach me a lot.

What was your high school experience like?

Freshman year was [my] favorite year of all. I was doing so well. I was getting good grades. I was making new friends, doing well in sports. But when COVID came, things took a wrong turn. I decided to stay in my room and mostly do nothing, just being dark, being lonely. Then, my depression came in my sophomore year. I thought things were going to be better when I was in my junior year, but things got worse [and] my depression was still here. During the second semester, I was almost at the edge of committing suicide. I was having some problems with my friends, dealing with a lot of family problems. But I have a best friend. His name is Carson. He’s basically like a brother to me.

Senior year, first semester started; it was all right. I knew I could push through in my last year. When we got close to the end of our first semester of senior year, I knew I had a big team on my back — the school, my family, my friends. Those are things that pushed me through the past few years. 

What attracts you to baseball?   

The reason why I’m actually a manager and half coach this year is because I have to be in school in order to play baseball. The thing is that I’m actually a big baseball guy, and I look to [follow] my second oldest brother’s footsteps. I idolize him because he’s my number one star.  

What’s your favorite memory from your time at Sehome?  

My favorite memory is actually doing cross-country my freshman year. I was just really fit.  

What’s next?   

I’ll go to Community Transitions until I’m 21. I’m thinking about getting a job here, probably around Bellingham. I also want to try at one point to live on my own, in an apartment in Bellingham for a little while, and then live closer near my brothers because I have more connection to them.

Do you have any goals or things you want to do?   

Try to get out more, explore more on hikes or runs — exploring new places that I haven’t been to, or trying new things.

What advice would you give to your younger self or a younger student?  

Enjoy the younger things while they last because when it comes to adulthood, things change.  


SQUALICUM HIGH SCHOOL

A photo of Wendy Cruz with a soccer ball.
Wendy Cruz is graduating from Squalicum High School. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)

Wendy Cruz Estrada

Organizations: Varsity soccer, Whatcom Rangers Football Club, Squalicum orchestra, president of Hispanic Latinx Heritage club, Lemon Club  

Interests/hobbies:  Playing viola, volunteering, soccer

Post-grad plans: Western Washington University to study education or public health

Do you have a favorite memory or experience at Squalicum?  

Probably, the school soccer team. We just really made a family with the girls, and it was really nice getting to know them. Hopefully, I made an impact on the underclassmen, and they’ll remember it was a lot of fun, especially the away trips, and hanging out on the bus, and just having fun and being goofy.  

What does your involvement with HLH and Lemon Club look like?  

It’s important to me because I feel that our schools, especially Squalicum, are really diverse, and there’s a lot of different cultures at Squalicum and we have a lot of Hispanic students at our school. We wanted to have an environment where they could get together and ask for help, and we would be able to provide that for them because a lot of them are underclassmen, too. And have a space where we can enjoy parts of other people’s cultures as well and be inviting to everybody. We’ve actually just had a school dance. It was basically an all-school dance. It was mainly Spanish music. We had a DJ, and we’ve also participated with Latin Night.

What do you enjoy about orchestra?   

One, because a viola isn’t the violin, and I wanted to be a little bit different. I just have always been into music. My whole family plays some sort of instrument. My mom played the clarinet. My dad played the saxophone and so did my older sister. They wanted me to go in a band, but I was like, “no.” I rebelled.  

Is there a teacher or staff member who has impacted you?  

Probably my counselor, Mr. [Aramis] Johnson. I probably didn’t even talk to him that many times during my high school career, but the amount of times that I did, he was a really supportive and amazing person, especially because he’s known basically my entire family. We’ve all gone through Squalicum, and he jokes about the fact that he held me as a baby when my sister was in high school, and he’s like, “I’ve known you since you were in diapers.” Like, trust me, I got you. He was just another parental figure at the school that was really nice to have.

What advice would you give to your younger self or to a younger student?  

Just don’t stress. Relax because I think a lot of times students are afraid to fail and not accomplish what they could. I feel like some of that gets in the way of them enjoying their high school career. Being a kid goes away really fast. You don’t even see adulthood coming, and that can be frightening.


Logan Marshall holding drumsticks as they sit on a chair facing the opposite way.
Logan Marshall is graduating from Squalicum High School. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)

Logan Marshall

Organizations: Squalicum band, drama, the Comics Place employee

Interests/hobbies: Drumming/percussion, theater, video games, comics

Post-grad plans: Western Washington University to study music education and become a high school band teacher  

How has band impacted your high school experience?  

I started playing drum set when I was in like fifth grade, and then I was like, “I might as well do band in sixth grade.” But, when I got to high school, that’s when I really fell in love with it because it was an automatic community that you have with people that are of all four grades, which is really unique … It’s the community and how welcoming it is, how safe it was for me as an LGBTQ student to be in the band. It was a huge draw for me because in other places, it can be a lot harder.

Do you have a teacher or a staff member who’s had a particular impact on you?  

My band director, Ms. [Katherine] Reilly is like, my best friend. I have six classes that I spend in her room, which is unique. Most kids can’t say that about any teacher. I’ve learned a lot from her, since she’s also a percussionist. She’s also a music educator, so she’s kind of my idol.

What inspired you to pursue music education?  

I always knew I wanted to continue in music in college somehow. The education idea always really scared me. Because I’m a percussionist, there’s kind of this idea that we’re kind of dumb. I was like, “I feel like I didn’t know enough. How would I be good enough to run a whole band of people playing instruments I didn’t grow up playing?” But [Ms. Reilly] is a percussionist, and she’s a music teacher. If she can do it, then it’s possible, right? That was the first door-opener, and it was something I denied that I wanted to do for a long time … She was definitely the kind of inspiration for this possibility. Then, since I told her that’s what I wanted to do, she’s fully supported me.

What are your goals as a future music educator?   

What I love about public school music is it’s something anybody out there can do. Having it be accessible, that’s something that I want to make bigger — to provide access to music education. Not everybody can be like, “We’ll play saxophone and go drop $2,000 on the saxophone.” Having school instruments [are] ways that we can give people those opportunities. That really drew me away from private teaching for sure and really made me want to do high school band. Also, the community that you can build. I’ve had such a good community experience with music, but the main goal is having your band enjoying their time and having fun. That’s what I want to be able to do.

Do you have a favorite memory or experience from high school?  

Last year, I did my first musical. I played in the pit orchestra for “Big Fish” at Squalicum. It was so fun. That was the moment I was like, “I’m going to do music for the rest of my life.”

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