Giving it their all: Kennedy valedictorians, salutatorians share some advice

June 2016 Posted in School
Dylan Arritola, top, left, Thomas Schmidt and Johnny Inoue. Bottom: Lakin Susee and Vanessa Chanchola Martinez. Photo by Kristine Thomas.

Dylan Arritola, top, left, Thomas Schmidt and Johnny Inoue. Bottom: Lakin Susee and Vanessa Chanchola Martinez. Photo by Kristine Thomas.

By Kristine Thomas

They are athletes and top students.

They volunteer in their community and are looked upon as leaders by their peers and their teachers.

When looking at the valedictorians and salutatorians at Kennedy High School, Thomas Schmidt said they all have three common traits: leadership, a strong work ethic and an outgoing personality.

“Whether it is academically or on the playing field, we have all held positions of influence over our peers allowing us to guide ourselves and others to our fullest potential,” Schmidt said. “When presented with a challenge or a task, everyone one of these classmates has put their best effort into meeting the test and finishing the job at hand. Finally, I see an outgoing personality in all of us, as we have all have taken the challenging path to be as successful as possible our senior year.

Kennedy High
Class of 2016 Graduation

Saturday, June 11, 2 p.m.
JFK Gymnasium
Call the high school,
503-845-6128 for additional

The Kennedy High Class of 2016 valedictorians are John Inoue and Thomas Schmidt and the salutatorians are Vanessa Canchola-Martinez, Lakin Susee and Dylan Arritola. They will graduate along with their classmates Saturday, June 11 at the Mount Angel Festhalle.

“There is a unique sense of understanding and compassion within JFK’s class of 2016,” Inoue said. “Our class has openness and empathy, which is found in the heart of every student.”

Here’s an insight to what the students have learned and advice they would like to share.


John Inoue
The son of Hidetaka and Margaret Inoue, John plans to attend Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., to study public health.

He was asked to share a time he has experienced failure and his advice for handling it.

“Failure and I are old friends,” he said, adding he has too many encounters with failure to list.

“Sometimes, failure can be a scary dude and feels more like the flu.” John said. “When this happens, my best advice is to get your disco on. Stream Gloria Gaynor’s, I Will Survive. You will survive, probably stronger and with greater knowledge.”

Thomas Schmidt

The son of Ron and Cindy Schmidt, Thomas plans to attend Gonzaga University in the fall to study mechanical engineering.

When asked what he wished someone had shared with him about the expectations and deadlines of senior year, Thomas said he was under the impression senior year was an easy and relaxing year.

“I quickly found out senior year is actually what you put into it and that it can be either easy or challenging,” he said. “Taking three AP courses, filling out college applications, applying for scholarships, and completing my senior project, all on top participating in three sports made for a very challenging and busy year.”

Despite all the unknowns, he is happy he took the challenging path because it helped prepare him for life after high school.


Dylan Arritola
The son of Lance and Jodi Arritola, Dylan plans on attending Oregon State University in the fall to study agriculture business or sports medicine.

When asked his definition of success, Dylan said he believes success is not “only defined by reaching your own goals, but enjoying the journey that life takes you on while striving for them. My definition of success is different than society’s definition because society defines success as having a lot of money and material things.”

His favorite memory of high school was the 2015 football season when his team made it to the 2A Football State Championship.

“We were able to enjoy the ride along the way and we also made it to the state playoffs in Pendleton for basketball, and now have a chance to make another run in the playoffs for baseball,” Dylan said. “We have also won the league title in football and baseball this year. It has been an enjoyable year for sports. Sports have been a huge part of my life over these past four years and they help create awesome memories that I’ll never forget.”

Vanessa Canchola Martinez

The daughter of Jose and Elena Canchola, Vanessa plans to attend Chemeketa Community College for two years and then transfer to a four-year university.

If Vanessa could design a plan to prevent “senioritis,” she would host field trips to different career fields that the students are interested in.

“One question that seniors are always asked is ‘What are your plans for next year?’ Some students respond in seconds while others sit there and think,” Vanessa said. “Field trips could be a fun way for students to start thinking of their future plans and add some excitement to their senior year.”

Her favorite quote is “¨The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today,¨ by the author H. Jackson Brown Jr.

“This quote perfectly summarizes my high school career,” Vanessa said. “I had long, endless nights of studying, and putting projects together. I knew it would all pay off in the long run and it definitely has. All of my hard work has helped me prepare for a post-high school education.”

Lakin Susee

The daughter of Dave and Belinda Susee, Lakin plans to attend and play basketball at Chemeketa next fall.

When asked if teens are under too much stress and how she deals with it, Lakin said teens can control stress.

“We tend to put things on our own plate and we control our priorities and influences,” Lakin said. “I deal with stress by finding ways to minimize it. Listing priorities or doing an activity I enjoy helps reduce my stress.”

Her advice for high school success is to set priorities and never take on too much.

“It is very important to avoid procrastinating because it tends to have negative affects whether with grades or with increased stress,” Lakin said. “Taking on tasks that are not overbearing will help one be successful in high school.”

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