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Local valedictorians, salutatorians strike out into the world

Skye Kinkade
Mount Shasta Herald
South Siskiyou County valedictorians and salutatorians are preparing for graduation ceremonies this week - whether traditional or virtual.

Several of South Siskiyou’s top students plan to stick close to home next year to attend College of the Siskiyous, while others will strike out into the world at four year universities.

Profiles of these students from Dunsmuir High School, Weed High School’s 100th graduating class, and Mount Shasta High School, who finished with the highest grade point averages in their classes, are below.

Dunsmuir High School valedictorian Maia Wilson

Maia has lived in Dunsmuir for 17 years and moved to Mount Shasta three months ago. Her parents are Kathy and Rick Joyce and Brian Wilson.

Next year she plans to attend the fire academy at College of the Siskiyous to eventually get a job with CAL FIRE, preferably in Siskiyou County.

“The thing I enjoyed most about high school was learning about myself and finding my own way. I also really loved playing football for the past three years,” Maia said.

Education is important to her “because it can be the difference between your dream job and the only job you’re qualified for. It can help you climb through the ranks more quickly and make a comfortable living. Also, learning can be fun when it's a subject you enjoy.”

Dunsmuir High School salutatorian Sydney Palmer

Sydney Palmer has lived in Dunsmuir 17 years and is the daughter of Jimmy and Paula Palmer. She also plans to attend COS before transfering to a four year university, where she’d like to study environmental conservation.

“I enjoyed the sports and most of my classes and educational field trips/field trips,” Sydney said of her high school experience as a Tiger.

“Education is important to me because I like learning and there is always something new to learn about or to learn more of,” Sydney said. She thanked her teachers and school staff, as well as her family for their support.

Dunsmuir High School Historian Joseph F. Melton II

Weed High School co-valedictorian Tripp Rodriguez

Tripp has been a resident of Weed and Lake Shastina for five years. He is the son of Robert and Elizabeth Rodriguez.

He will attend COS in the fall and play basketball while studying kinesiology, after which he plans to transfer to a four-year program to continue with basketball and obtain a degree.

“My favorite part of high school has been the friends, teachers, and coaches that I have built connections with and all the memorable lessons I have learned throughout my four years of high school,” Tripp said. “Without those experiences I would not be the person I am today.”

Tripp said he values education “not only because of the material learned about the subjects you are studying, but the multitude of positive life skills and habits you develop throughout education. My high school education has taught me many useful concepts but the most important has been to surround myself with people who will help me succeed and help others out when they may not be doing well.”

Weed High School co-valedictorian Byron Mathes

Byron Mathes, son of Byron and Somchith Mathes, has lived in Weed for 13 years. He is headed to UC Davis next year to either study forensic chemistry or go pre-med.

“Regardless of what I choose, my goals for the future are to excel academically at UC Davis and overall make the best of my college experience,” he said.

“I will definitely miss how small Weed is, but I can always come back to see friends and family. I will miss my friends and teachers at WHS, and I will miss running track,” said Mathes.

Weed High School salutatorian Angel Nicholas

Angel was born and raised in Mount Shasta and has lived in Weed his entire life. His parents are Monique Gonsalez and Ryan Nicholas.

“I love our small-town community,” Angel said.

He will attend San Jose State University in the fall. His long term goals are to be able to support his family and give back to his community.

Sports were the highlight of his time as a Cougar.

“During my four years at Weed High School I participated in five sports. I played football, soccer, and basketball in the fall ... and baseball and track in the spring season,” Angel said. “I enjoyed all of them and especially being on teams that became like family to me. I believe that being involved in athletics has had a positive impact on me. I have learned that to be a successful scholar athlete you have to be mentally and physically committed to your achievements in both academic and sport endeavors. This helped me grow and to highly develop many skills such as, teamwork, commitment, and leadership. More importantly I enjoyed all the friendships I made throughout my high school years and all of the lessons that I learned.”

Angel added that he’s been “blessed” to receive scholarships that will “help me get closer to reaching my goals and will allow me to devote more time on my education. Also, education is important because my mom says it is!”

Angel said COVID-19 has robbed him and classmates of senior experiences and memories, “but together we will rise from this.”

“To my peers our year was cut short, but our dreams were not. We made history! I want to thank my family, friends, teachers, and coaches for all their support. I love you all! Go Cougars!

Mount Shasta High School valedictorian Tate Harkness

Tate, a 16 year resident of Mount Shasta, is the daughter of Laurel and Geoff Harkness. She will attend Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington next year.

“I’m planning on going to college while also snowboarding, kayaking, and mountain biking a lot,” Tate said. “I want to become a river guide in the summers and travel the world – especially New Zealand for surfing kayaking and snowboarding (also they speak English with cool accents) and Chile for kayaking. I will somehow graduate with a bachelors in environmental science or something along those lines.”

“After that, Tate said, “I have no idea. I’m just going to keep enjoying life and playing outside as much as possible.”

Tate said she’s enjoyed the last few months of high school “because I didn’t have to go. I just explored all over mount Shasta and still get to graduate with a 4.0. What you probably want to hear, though, is that I really have enjoyed forming connections with friends and hanging out with all of them, which is also true. But to hang out with them and not have to go to school is where it’s at.”

Mount Shasta High School salutatorian Ian Anderson

Ian has been a Mount Shasta resident for 17 years and is the son of Susan Anderson, Scott Anderson and Stacia Anderson.

He is also headed to Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington.

“I do not know what the future holds (especially now) but I do know that my one goal that will always remain the same for the future is improving and bettering myself, whether that be in school, pushing myself to learn and adapt to my surroundings,” Ian said. “In biking or skiing, by going bigger, getting faster and just doing it as much as possible. Or simply just in life, improving my communication skills, creating long lasting friendships and creating amazing memories while I am still in the ‘good old days.’”

Ian said he’s enjoyed all the people he’s met and grown close with over his four years at MSHS. “I have created unbreakable friendships and bonds that I know will last me a lifetime.”

When asked why education is important to him, Ian said, “Because knowledge is power. I believe that you can never know too much and education enables me to keep expanding the depths of my knowledge.”