Blanchet Catholic School and McNary High School Youth Appreciation!

The Optimist Club of Salem met with students, faculty and guests from Blanchet Catholic School and McNary High School on February 16th to celebrate their students’ achievements.  For the first time in 3 years, we were able to present the awards in person at a luncheon!  We enjoyed a wonderful meal at the Salem Keizer Career Technical Education Center (CTEC) and got to meet six amazing students.  What a joy to be able to present these awards in person.

Below are synopses of each student.

Blanchet Catholic School

McKenna Eppley

Achievement in Fine and Performing Arts

McKenna, a Blanchet School senior who is recognized for her achievement in Fine and Performing arts, loves music. She is always excited to play, practice, and perform on her cello—be it solo or in the orchestra class. She has been a member of Blanche’s Advanced orchestra since 9th grade. She is also involved in Varsity volleyball, swim, track, basketball, (she is a 12-sport athlete which means she’s played three sports every year for all four high school years!), DECA, International Thespians Society, National Honors Society, Tri-M Music honors Society, Advanced Orchestra, Choir, and Campus Ambassadors. Her hard work, optimistic outlook on challenges, and bubbly personality will see her well into a bright future that will hopefully continue to include music in her life. 

McKenna plans to attend the US Coast Guard Academy next year.

Isaac Edo

Most Improved Academics

Isaac has demonstrated improvement in his academics over the last few years and everyone at Blanchett is proud of him and his hard work. Isaac is involved in football, basketball, and track and field. School advisor Toni says Isaac is a positive and friendly individual with a wonderful sense of humor and a ready smile. Isaac himself says he loves basketball, his family, and his friends—all things that inspire him to work hard in school. The club is excited to give accolades to Isaac for his academic achievements.

Next year Isaac plans to attend George Fox University to study business.

Fabian Castenada

Achievement in Vocational Technology

Fabian, a senior at Blanchett, has been an exceptionally compassionate student and team player, according to school advisors. He makes other students—new and old—feel welcome in class and treats them as family. Fabian is always curious about new technology and has shown amazing growth and knowledge. His unique sense of humor is notable; when Fabian is in class, there is alway joy and laughter and the same is tru of after school programs he participates in such as E-Sports, Model UN and cross-country. Fabian acknowledges that he doesn’t like schoolwork a lot and credits his friends and other Blanchett seniors for their help and encouragement. 

Fabian plans to attend OSU after two years at Chemeketa Community College. He thinks he might study mechanical engineering or business.


Kyla Gorrono

Youth of the Year

Kyla Gorrono is a leader at Blanchet. She leads by example daily. School representative Toni explains that Kyla reads the school’s daily morning announcement, assists with the school spirit club, and has been on student council every year she’s studied at Blanchett. Others describe her as a kind-hearted, funny, determined young lady. Over the years, Kyla has found her way into so many different facets of Blanchett life—she’s been involved in sim team, volleyball, been a track and field manager, served on student council, in spirit club, and not he spirituality team. Wherever there is a group working on a project, it seems like Kyla is always there! And always—always!—with a positive attitude. Peers respect Kyla and the whole school recognizes her contributions. The Optimist Club is pleased to be able to recognize Kyla as Youth of the Year for Blanchet. 

Kyla plans to attend Boise State next year. She wants to study politics in order to become a politician like her mother.

McNary High School

Owen Alston

Achievement in Performing Arts

Owen is a senior at McNary High School who is an active athlete and musician. Both on the soccer field and in class, Owen is energetic and enthusiastic about celebrating the success of others. The Optimist Club recognizes Owen for his outstanding efforts in Performing Arts. 

Owen plays trumpet with the school Symphonic Band and though he has his busy athletic schedule to work around, Owen is a frequent and spirited member of the pep band at basketball and football games. He always has a smile on his face, actively contributes to rehearsals, and seeks feedback that can help him become a better trumpet player. Teachers especially note that Owen treats his fellow musicians with respect and care and always has a cheerful greeting when coming and going from rehearsal, bringing an air of fun and optimism to everything that he does. Owen is a positive force for good; his genuine happiness is contagious even in the most difficult of challenges. The club is pleased to recognize Owen’s contribution to performing arts at McNary High School. 


Anna Sponable

Involvement in Community Service

Anna, a senior at McNary High School, is described by those who know her as brilliant and creative. Teachers say she is joy to have in class as she is always everyone’s cheerleader and makes everyone feel comfortable. As one advisor said, “In a high school atmosphere where kids are often far too worried about what people think of them, Anna is always her wonderfully goofy self; this is an excellent example to other students that they can be themselves as well and that people appreciate the courage to ‘do you.’” Anna’s work ethic in class is always exemplary and she inspires those around her to rise up to those standards. Perhaps more important, she makes people feel good about achieving their own potential even if it might be different form her own. When people are around Anna, they strive to be their best, authentic self.

Anna strives to create community where she sees a lack. She serves as president of Orchestra Council—a role in a group she created to coordinate activities so that orchestra wouldn’t be as boring as kids said it was. She is equally active when it comes to spreading optimism—something this club appreciates. Anna works with a student group called Fellowship of Christ (that she also founded) to  illustrate to others what faith means; a favorite activity with this group is putting sticky notes around the school with positive quotations on them. She says she loves to inspire the younger students at the school. 

Anna plans to attend Corbin next year on a music scholarship. She hopes to study business management for non-profit groups.

Award Photo