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Archives - May 2017

2017 Graduates Told "Set Your Sights on a Vision and Make It Happen"

May 24, 2017
By Susan Trower

The class of 2017 in the staging room before graduation - Mark Gsellman photoWest Sound Academy faculty joined with friends and family of the Class of 2017 at the House of Awakened Culture in Suquamish on May 19 for the school's 16th annual commencement. Head of School Barrie Hillman reminded everyone that the purpose of the evening is to acknowledge the personal achievement of each of the graduates. They had been told to "Set your sights on a vision and make it happen."  She added, "Each one in this class created their own vision of their future and have worked hard to achieve the first of many big steps to bringing it to fruition."

Jim Kolb walking out at the end of his sixteenth West Sound Academy commencement - Mark Gsellman photoHillman added that it's important for graduates to recognize those who have guided them on their journey: the faculty and staff of West Sound. Hillman gave special note to one faculty member, Jim Kolb, Director of Finance and Operations, who is retiring at the end of the school year after serving in a variety of positions, teaching and administrative, since the school's founding in 1998.

Hillman encouraged those in the audience to write Kolb a note about the greatest lesson they've learned from him, then she showed off her own set of many, many notes of appreciation (taped together, accordion-style) for his years of service to West Sound's students, families, and faculty.

WSA band members strike their self-confidence poses during the audience participation part of Bridget Young's speech - Mark Gsellman photoMarisa Lanning, Chair of WSA's Board of Trustees, then introduced Bridget Young, the commencement speaker. Young, a Poulsbo realtor and Kitsap native, has also performed as a stand-up comedian at charity events. She kept the audience laughing while she told of her experiences, at times painful, in high school and college. She challenged the graduates to believe in themselves enough to keep trying until they succeed. She concluded her speech with a moment of audience participation: everyone in the room was asked to stand, put their hands on their hips, and strike a self-affirming pose.

WSA Music Ensemble performing 'Forever Young' with seniors Spencer Drewry, Leanne Gimber, Ryley Mercado, and Ben Silvernale - Mark Gsellman photoThat bit of practice in self-confidence came just in time, since the next part of the program was the "The Last Word".  Hillman introduced each of the graduates as they came to give their senior speeches - a West Sound tradition.  

The WSA Music Ensemble, directed by Paul Burback, performed "Forever Young" by Alphaville, assisted by four members of the senior class giving their last performance as West Sound musicians. Hillman and Lanning then came back to the podium for the highlight of the evening:  the presentation of diplomas.    

Hillman presented the graduates to the community, then led them in the moving of the tassel on their mortarboards from the right to the left.  These newest WSA alumni left the building to the tune of "Tongue Tied" by Group Love, followed by the faculty and guests. Out on the lawn facing the Sound the graduates lined up for the traditional celebration:  the tossing of the caps.  

Congratulations, Class of 2017!


Sisi Cao - Mark Gsellman photoSisi Cao is an International Baccalaureate Diploma Course Student. She is the daughter of Feilong Cao and Mingping Tang of Shenzhen, Guangdong, China.

Sisi will be attending the University of Washington.  

Spencer Drewry - Mark Gsellman photoSpencer Drewry is an International Baccalaureate Diploma Candidate. He is the son of David and Tiffany Drewry of Port Townsend.

Spencer will be attending California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

Leanne Gimber - Mark Gsellman photoLeanne Gimber is an International Baccalaureate Diploma Candidate. She is the granddaughter of John and Lori Swendeman of Poulsbo.

Leanne will be attending Grand Canyon University. 

Annika Hald - Mark Gsellman photoAnnika Hald is an International Baccalaureate Diploma Course Student. She is the daughter of Dan and Renee Hald of Poulsbo.

Annika will be attending Central Washington University.  


Karsten Hald - Mark Gsellman photoKarsten Hald is an International Baccalaureate Diploma Candidate. He is the son of Dan and Renee Hald of Poulsbo.

Karsten will be attending the University of Washington.  


Wai Ching Kwok - Mark Gsellman photoWai Ching Kwok is an International Baccalaureate Diploma Course Student. She is the daughter of Sze Kong Kwok and Pui Yee Flora Yip of Hong Kong, China.

Wai Ching will be attending Sheffield Hallam University in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England.  

Kaiwen Ma - Mark Gsellman photoKaiwen Ma is an International Baccalaureate Diploma Course Student. She is the daughter of Ming Ma and Hui Liu of Qingdao, Shandong, China.

Kaiwen will be attending Raffles Design Institute at the Raffles College of Higher Education in Singapore.

Ryley Mercado - Mark Gsellman photoRyley Mercado is an International Baccalaureate Diploma Course Student. He is the son of Denis Sieminski of Seattle and Andrea Mercado of Poulsbo.

Ryley will be attending the University of Northern Colorado.


Yucong Pan - Mark Gsellman photoYucong Pan is the daughter of Guanghui Pan and Meijun Sun of Qingdao, Shandong, China.

Yucong will be attending Kaplan Singapore.


Benjamin Silvernale - Mark Gsellman photoBenjamin Silvernale is an International Baccalaureate Diploma Candidate. He is the son of Chuck Silvernale of Poulsbo and Jennifer David, also of Poulsbo.

Benjamin will be attending the University of Washington.    


Madelyn Solly-Tanner - Mark Gsellman photoMadelyn Solly-Tanner is an International Baccalaureate Diploma Candidate. She is the daughter of Bruce Solly and Traci Tanner of Poulsbo.

Madelyn will be attending Washington State University.  


Espen Swanson - Mark Gsellman photoEspen Swanson is an International Baccalaureate Diploma Candidate. He is the son of Chris and Kara Swanson of Poulsbo.

Espen will be attending Reed College.   


Eleanor Uyyek - Mark Gsellman photoEleanor Uyyek is an International Baccalaureate Diploma Candidate. She is the daughter of Jeff and Kim Uyyek of Poulsbo.

Eleanor will be attending the University of British Columbia. 


Alexandra Welch - Mark Gsellman photoAlexandra Welch is an International Baccalaureate Diploma Candidate. She is the daughter of Kiev and Amy Darrington of Poulsbo.

Alexandra will be attending the Evergreen State College.


See more of Mark Gsellman's photos in the '2017 Graduation' album in Image Galleries.

The Class of 2017 celebrating their graduation with the tossing of the caps - Mark Gsellman photo


Posted in Special Events

College Success for WSA Class of 2017

May 19, 2017
By Susan Trower

WSA Class of 2017 - Mark Gsellman photoThe Class of 2017 graduates on May 19, and then they will be heading in many different directions to colleges here in the United States and abroad.  Students and their families spent much time over the last couple years researching, visiting campuses, and consulting with Mrs. Freeman, WSA's College Counselor, then sent off applicaions and essays to colleges and universities last fall.  Some of the eagerly awaited acceptance letters and scholarship offers came in December, but most arrived in letters and email this spring.

On Monday, May 8 - College Declaration Day at WSA - the members of the Class of 2017 announced their choices to WSA students and staff and signed the pennants of the colleges where they intend to enroll this fall.

College Destinations for the Seniors, or, Where Will They Be Next Fall?

University of Washington

Samira Cao - University of Washington


California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Spencer Drewry- California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo


Grand Canyon University

Leanne Gimber - Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona


Central Washington University

Annika Hald- Central Washington University


University of Washington

Karsten Hald - University of Washington


Sheffield Hallam University

Wai Ching Kwok - Sheffield Hallam University in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England


Raffles Design Institute / Raffles College of Higher Education, Singapore

Kaiwen Ma - Raffles Design Institute in Singapore


University of Northern Colorado

Ryley Mercado - University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado


Kaplan Singapore

Yucong Pan - Kaplan Singapore


University of Washington

Ben Silvernale - University of Washington


Washington State University

Maddy Solly-Tanner - Washington State University


Reed College

Espen Swanson - Reed College in Portland, Oregon


University of British Columbia

Eleanor Uyyek - University of British Columbia in Vancouver


The Evergreen State College

Alex Welch - The Evergreen State College



Students in the Class of 2017 were accepted at 37 four-year colleges and universities in the United State and abroad, including the ones shown below. Congratulations to our seniors - we're proud of you!

Arizona State UniversityChapman UniversityCreighton UniversityJohnson & Wales University, ProvidenceLewis & Clark College




McGill UniversityMontana State UniversityNeumont UniversityNorthern Arizona UniversityPortland State University




Sheffield Hallam University University at Buffalo, The State University of New YorkUniversity of ArizonaUniversity of California, DavisUniversity of California, San Diego




University of California, Santa CruzUniversity of DenverUniversity of East AngliaUniversity of IdahoUniversity of Montana




University of Newcastle Australia University of Puget SoundUniversity of South AustraliaUniversity of the West of England BristolWestern Washington University




Whitman CollegeWillamette University





Hey! We're the Class of 2017! - Mark Gsellman photo

Posted in Academics


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