On Wednesday, April 3, the students, teachers and administrators of the Wallowa School District had good reason to be proud as both Superintendent Jay Hummell and Principal David Howe stood by with a confident disposition and unmistakable expression of pride as their teachers corralled the student body into the Wallowa Gym shortly after 3 p.m.
The confident mood extended beyond the administrators. Even though the weatherman apparently missed the memo — with snow still piled around the school yard — there was an energy in the atmosphere.
With three of four quarters of classes behind them, students and faculty alike seemed to be able to see light at the end of the tunnel. More than the coming advent of summer, the Wallowa School District had much to be proud about.
Propped up by seemingly sound guidance of the district educators, administrators and coaches, the young people of the district seem to be thriving in across an array of subject matter.
Mr. Howe initiated the event as the afternoon’s emcee, during which he credited the academic and athletic accomplishments of the Wallowa students. It was no secret that the assembly had a rare and special purpose on April 3, but before getting to that agenda, Howe noted the critical roles of the teachers, parents and community members who each played a part in the education of the district’s students.
And with that the proud principal began laying the foundation of an important theme that would continue to unfold throughout the remainder of the assembly.
Everyone knew what was coming, and so Howe wasted little time getting to what felt like the headline event: “Now I want to recognize three athletes and their parents.”
As the principal called the athletes by name the honorees took their seats front and center and surrounded by the support of their parents as each athlete prepared to sign a letter of intent to continue developing their abilities at the college level.
Christopher Nobles will play basketball at Corban College, while Austin Brockamp and Gus Ramsden will remain teammates on the George Fox University football team.
“So it’s kind of unusual to have a student from any school recognized for their athletic ability to play at the next level,” said Howe, eluding to the rarity of any Wallowa County athlete playing sports beyond high school.
Noting Wallowa High School’s approximately 60 students, the principal expressed gratitude “to have three extremely good athletes who are going to play at the next level.” More than the three offers to play college level athletics, the three also defied any sense of probability as they each at one point or another earned “Player of the Year” honors from the Old Oregon League.
And keeping his focus on the underlying theme of the assembly, Howe reminded his audience that many athletes — even great ones — won’t have this same opportunity. All three of the athletes were also good students with good grades.
Because Howe wears a second hat as the basketball coach, he took the liberty to say a few words about Nobles. He’s a leader with a strong work ethic. He never complains. But most important to Howe: “As good of a player as Christopher is, he’s even a better person. And that’s kinda what counts.”
Next up was Wallowa football coach Matt Brockamp, who’s Cougar football team battled to the semi-finals of the state playoffs the previous fall — undoubtedly with the help of his two stars. “I’m super excited to watch these two go to a Championship quality football team,” Brockamp said.
Wrapping up this portion of the assembly, the athletes received a well deserved standing ovation.
Back with the mic, Howe shifted gears from athletics to something else entirely. If Wallowa High School’s Athletic deserved honored recognition, equally so does the school’s FFA program — particularly the welding instruction that is unique for Wallowa students.
With the instinct of a great educator, Wallowa High School’s Jeremy McCulloch recognized that several students had a proclivity for welding. Wanting to provide the best instruction possible to his students, McCulloch approached Zane Anderson, whom McCulloch considered among the best welders that he knew.
McCulloch’s goal: Train his students “and take them to the next level.” Consequently, four Wallowa students are now certified to different extents within the welding trade. The proud educators pointed out that with these certifications these four young men now have a real foot forward in a career should they choose.
With the foundations of his deeper message to the school district’s young people becoming more clear, Howe next recognized all of the students who—through the high school and at no cost to the student —had earned any college level credits.
Noting both the high cost of college tuition and the reality that not all students have the desire or means to attend a four-year college, Howe urged his students to take advantage of the opportunities that the school is able to offer. The opportunities that can open new doors.
The principal urged about the students who had taken advantage of the free college level offerings: “They are going to start their college career ahead of the game and not have to pay those fees.”
So it seems that for Howe, the assembly was never just about recognizing the various talents fostered at Wallowa High School. He seemed to be painting a picture of what an education can do for a student and their future if they come to class, discover their passions and engage their intellects.
“I guess I’m trying to get across to the rest of you: you can do this. This opportunity is going to be open to you. And this is like money in your pocket,” Howe said. “Coming to school pays.”