Awarding Sprague Students!

The Optimist Club of Salem met via Zoom with Sprague High School students, faculty and student family members on May 6th to recognize the accomplishments of four outstanding Sprague students.  While each of these individuals were recognized as talented, hardworking school leaders, it is their willingness and ability to help fellow students and serve their local community that was emphasized by faculty members introducing these students.

Below are synopses of each student.

Annaka Davidson

Fine and Performing Arts

While affirming that Annaka has been a talented and skilled performer during all four of her years at Sprague, theater teacher Tara Lee said that she nominated Annaka for this award because of her leadership.  Using terms like disciplined, driven, clear-headed, wanting to help others, and wise beyond her years to describe Annaka, Ms Lee said that Annaka’s performances on stage, work behind the scenes, and willingness to mentor and lead other students will be sorely missed when she graduates this spring. 

Annaka’s love for performing may have blossomed during her four years in theater at Sprague, but it got its start when at age 11 she joined “Inspiration Dance” where for the past seven years she has performed in many Hip Hop dance recitals.  When asked what she would say to encourage another student to get involved in theater, Annaka said she would tell them to do it because of the wonderful memories they will have because of their involvement.  Annaka will be attending Western Oregon University in the fall and plans on majoring in psychology with a minor in theater and dance.

Aimee Baldwin

Fine and Performing Arts

Orchestra teacher Lisa Rael nominated Aimee for this award because not only is she a gifted musician, but she is also an inspiration and mentor to other students--especially to those who are just beginning to learn to play an instrument.   Ms. Rael talked about Aimee’s ability to work with these younger students.  Aimee’s gentle, kind and patient nature makes her not only a really good technical instructor, but also an encouraging and supportive role model to these aspiring musicians. 

Aimee began playing cello in 4th grade and has developed into one of the top high school musicians in Oregon as is evidenced by her selection to the All Northwest Orchestra.  In addition to music, Aimee has developed a love for Mountain Biking. She became the first girl on a racing team in Oregon. She currently mountain bikes with the Salem Descenders as part of the Oregon Mountain Bike League.  She has been very involved with GRiT (Girls Riding Together) working to encourage female participation in mountain biking.  This involvement has taught her to be a leader and inspired her to share her passion for mountain biking with others.  After graduation, Aimee will attend University of Puget Sound and plans to major in Chemistry with a minor in Music.

Brody Whetzel

Community Service

Staff at Sprague described Brody is one of those big hearted, positive people who simply finds joy in helping others.  To quote him, he is “passionate about ensuring everyone around me knows they have someone in their corner.”  As a sophomore, Brody became involved in Unified PE where he saw unstoppable and amazing students with special needs from around the state getting a chance to participate and compete.  He was hooked, so when school shutdowns meant that there would not be the same opportunity this year, Brody took it on himself to lead the effort to organize a Unified PE event that was recently held at Sprague for local special needs students. 

Along with fellow Sprague student Ivan Zhong, Brody’s desire to help others led him to help start a Wildfire Relief Club at Sprague that provides support to the victims of the wildfires that devastated local communities last fall.  The club has done projects ranging from putting up fencing to simply digging through scrap piles.  Brody credits his mom for being his inspiration to get involved.  Being a junior means that Brody will have one more year to serve the Sprague and Salem communities before moving on to college where he would like to pursue a career in education.

Ivan Zhong

Community Service

Ivan was introduced as being a welcoming, kind, hardworking person who is a friend to everyone he meets. His growth as a student leader who is committed to helping others has been on full display this past year. Recognizing the difficulties all students were facing through the isolation and disconnects of the Covid shutdown, he felt that there was a need to find ways to reach out and connect with as many students as possible. So when asked to restart an Asian Alliance club at Sprague, he built on that request by helping organize the Cultural Alliance Club in order to be inclusive. Using social media tools, this club encourages everyone, regardless of grade, culture, gender or interests, to interact and connect with each other.

Ivan’s desire to help others extends beyond the Sprague campus. Following a trip up the Santiam Canyon with fellow student Brody Whetzel to personally see the devastation, Ivan and Brody teamed up to form the Wildfire Relief club at Sprague to provide support to the victims of the wildfires. In the fall, Ivan will be attending the University of California at Berkeley. While he has not yet decided on a major, he is leaning towards business or economics.