Graduations bring stories of academic, personal success

By Heather Acheson, Columbian staff writer

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Each year, as high school graduation time rolls around, we are all reminded that kids in the Camas and Washougal communities are accomplishing amazing things.

There are the valedictorians and salutatorians who have challenged themselves academically and achieved the highest standards. There are the athletes who are recognized for their great accomplishments on the field, on the court, and on the track. There are the students who make community service a priority and find many ways to lend a helping hand.

Maybe most poignant, however, are the students recognized for their determination to overcome obstacles.

During the Washougal High School graduation ceremonies on Saturday, two notable students were presented with the Bootstrap Award. This special honor is given to young people who have weathered personal challenges and still managed to earn their high school diplomas.

The first award went to Robyn Pfeifer, who despite missing months of school due to health problems, still achieved a 3.95 GPA and landed in top 10 in her class, not to mention earning lead roles in several WHS productions.

The other Bootstrap Award was presented by senior Hunter Nelson to his friend Danny Riat. In 2011, the two set out for a hiking adventure in the Columbia River Gorge. The climb turned tragic when Riat fell 50 feet down the side of a cliff. His injuries were serious, and included a broken back and broken ankle. Riat made an amazing recovery and managed to complete his high school education on time.

These high school students may not have been trying to be inspirational, but they have done so just the same. Their accomplishments remind us all what can be done when the determination to succeed outweighs any obstacles life throws in the way.

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