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'People have given me encouraging words that I still recall years later, as well as sage advice...'

PMG FILE PHOTO - Philip ChanIn a few more weeks, my time in high school will come to an end. I have a lot of people to thank for helping me become who I am today. People have given me encouraging words that I still recall years later, as well as sage advice that you may find useful, too.

I had Kelley Jones as a teacher at Bolton Primary for three years. I would also take her art class after school. Jones was the kind of educator who saw my potential and challenged me to achieve it. I grew as a writer and as a creative thanks to her.

Once, when reading a poem I had written, Jones began to tear up. It really moved my mom, but I don't think I understood how powerful that was at the time.

In seventh grade, Gillian Stratton had us write short stories inspired by fortune cookie messages. I wrote an eight-page story of a boy who befriended a horse. It was set in London. I used a bunch of confusing Victorian slang like "damfino" and "gigglemug." I was no Shakespeare.

Stratton did admit that she didn't understand all the slang, but she also told me that she loved it, and that I could get my writing published. That meant the world to me.

I want to thank Gus Butler for having us do grammar worksheets in eighth grade. Now I like to think I'm more skilled in my use of commas and semicolons than my peers.

Julie Lane directed my first theatrical production. Even though I was not a strong vocalist, she gave me a chance, and she let me try all sorts of weird things on stage. It was "Shrek the Musical."

Bret Freyer was a fantastic English teacher. He talked to us about respect and handshakes. He showed us Bloom's taxonomy. He gave me the great writing advice, from Strunk and White: Omit needless words.

I admire Todd Jones for empowering youth through his AP government class. He often repeated that we have power, and that people will listen to us. He was an entertaining and compassionate educator, who was willing to check in with me when I was stressed out.

Alex Close spent a lot of our AP English language class examining social and political issues, giving us time to debate our ideas in a comfortable space. Frequently, it had little to do with our coursework, but he allowed it. It wouldn't have worked as well if we didn't sit in a horseshoe shape, or if he didn't let us share our feelings at the start of class.

I took journalism with Glenn Krake every year of high school. I was reluctant to come back after the first year, but he convinced me to stay. Since then, I've grown as a writer and a leader. I have written more and more. I have found my voice.

Likewise, Andrew Kilstrom, Holly Bartholomew, Clara Howell, Jonathan Bach and many other journalists have been very generous with me, and I've learned a lot from them.

Perhaps my greatest memories have been made in the theater. I've been a part of nine shows at West Linn High, and each one gave me the opportunity to express myself and discover a new part of myself.

Thanks to theater, my confidence has grown tenfold. I am much better able to share my stories. For that, I owe a lot to Steve Beckingham, Annie Kaiser, Jon Ares, Eric Nepom and Aden Nepom.

Also, thanks to Danny Schreiber, Jay Fredericks, Mel Anderson and the late Tom Waldrop for teaching me magic. These mentors know everything about the craft, and they are always willing to share their expertise.

And thanks to Jeniffer Modolo, Tina LaFerriere, Close and others for letting me take their precious class time to perform magic.

These are just a handful of the countless adults who have shaped who I am. There are so many more I would like to thank. They probably don't know it, but I think about their words often. Even the little things: "You've got some serious chops." "You can write funny." Those words inspire me to keep pursuing what I love.

I'll admit that I might need to do a better job of expressing my appreciation. Let this be a reminder for you to do the same. Or as an adult, assume the role of a teacher and encourage the youth to seek out positive role models.

It's important for young adults to have a variety of role models, regardless of gender, who they can look up to, who challenge and inspire them. Thank you.

Philip Chan is a senior at West Linn High School.

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