BANDON - Bandon High School Class of 2019 valedictorians Jordan Houck and her twin sister Rylie, along with co-valedictorians Marino Santoro and Shelby Waterman and salutatorian Olivia McMahon will graduate Saturday at the top of their class.
But these students don't put labels on each other. They were all in it together, and grew up these past 12 years supporting one another. It has become their special bond.
Sure, there was a little competition, especially between twin sisters. But mostly, that competition inspired these students to do their best, knowing the rewards would come from a job well done.
"I think there's been a little bit of competition because we're siblings and we're all such good friends," Rylie said.
"I was so mad when you all got straight A's and (Olivia's older sister) Grace too, so I tried to keep up," Olivia said.
Living in a small town has its benefits, they all agree.
"You know everyone and there's a lot of one-on-one help," Shelby said.
A smaller school doesn't have as competitive an edge, which can be a positive thing.
"It makes us work together more to get good grades," Marino said.
Like the time Marino, Shelby and Olivia took chemistry together and had conversations about how they were going to pass.
"We've always helped each other out," Rylie said.
All five of them have taken dual credit classes and are graduating with some college credits. Olivia and Shelby, as well as several others in the class, went through the Healthcare Career Pathways program, a two-year course through Southwestern Oregon Community College with teacher Lori Groves. They both will graduate with an Allied Healthcare Certificate and both hope to go into the healthcare field.
Rylie and Jordan hope to become teachers like their mother Amanda Tulles, who teaches at Ocean Crest Elementary.
Marino has a different path in mind. Scoring in the 99th percentile on his SAT, Marino also was a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist. He has received an almost full four-year scholarship to Columbia University in New York, where he plans to study political science. He hopes with this career path, he can ultimately effect positive change in the world. His sister Aida, salutatorian for the Class of 2016, inspired him to do his best.
"I have a vivid memory of Marino in first grade when he spelled Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," Jordan said.
But all five students have worked hard and have lofty goals of going forth to help the world.
"I think we've all taken very hard classes," Rylie said. "We've put the pressure on ourselves.
"If you're willing to put more effort in, it will help you later," Shelby said.
They all feel they've been challenged in their studies and guided by caring teachers and administrators.
"I've always felt there were opportunities here," Marino said.
"There's so many faculty members who genuinely care about us," Rylie said. "You know they really want us to succeed and live our best lives. I think Bandon High School should be really proud of that."
"I agree, the teachers are the best part of school," Marino said.
As focused and accomplished as these students are, deep down they are still seniors who on one hand can't wait to be done, but on the other are sad to move on.
They have their memories, though. The trip to the Redwoods, they all agree, was a highlight of their school years, and the trip to Portland to attend the Cinco de Mayo Festival brings smiles to all of their faces.
"At the Redwoods, you could choose an 8-mile hike or a 20-mile hike," Jordan said. "I didn't think I could do it, but I got determined and I finished that (20-mile) hike."
That determination is what gives these class leaders the drive to achieve and confidence about the future. They are all excited for the next step and the opportunities they will have to make new friends and learn more about the world outside of Bandon.
What would they say to their younger selves if they could?
"Stress less because no amount of stress helps you at the end of the day," Rylie said.
"After school, don't go home and do homework right away," Shelby said. "Take a run or something and calm down. Take a break."
"Don't skip sporting (or other) events," Jordan said. "You have to take these opportunities when you have them."
"Live in the moment and don't stress about classes because it's not worth it," Marino said. "I'd also tell my younger self to get a haircut."
"Have better study habits and don't procrastinate," Olivia said. "Have fun, but get your work done so you can relax. Take time every day to do something you enjoy."