Try to picture how movies such as Booksmart, Dazed and Confused or Pretty in Pink would have played out during a global pandemic. This year’s seniors are living what readers just imagined.
Graduation from high school is a milestone deeply rooted in the exploration of future possibilities, celebrations of freedom and physical rituals that are hard to conceive of when leaving your house involves masking up and maintaining a six-foot distance from other people.
MAC Scholar Athletes are, by definition, not just average students, but the graduating seniors in their ranks are only human. While talking about the opportunities presented to them by the club and Multnomah Athletic Foundation’s scholarship program, they focused on how lucky they felt, even without traditional pomp and circumstance.
With $1,500 to put toward their continuing education, plus access to MAC’s facilities and a wealth of potential philanthropic connections, the scholarship is given yearly to a sophomore from each of Portland’s 29 area high schools. Read on to learn about the diverse individuals this will support moving forward. But first, in honor of the graduation ceremonies deferred or reimagined, two seniors talk about moving onto the next stage of their lives with a little help from their friends at MAC and MAF.
Kaitlyn Dobler – Thank you, drive through!
Like many area high schools, Aloha had to get creative when it came time to honor its graduates this year. Administrators created a cap and gown drive-through pickup for seniors, allowing them to not just claim the accoutrement to their accomplishments, but also a standing ovation from the teachers and coaches who’d accompanied them on their journeys.
“I was already very excited to be able to receive my cap and gown, but I was even happier to see all the teachers who showed up to cheer on the seniors as they drove through the Aloha parking lot,” says MAC Scholar Athlete Kaitlyn Dobler. “It was fantastic to see them supporting us, even in the pouring rain, and it really speaks to the family culture that staff has created.”
Dobler broke the national high school record in the 100-meter breaststroke during her last competition as part of the Aloha Swim Team and was planning on competing in the Olympic Trials over the summer before the games were postponed. With so much in flux, Dobler appreciates the stability of her current communities even as she’s preparing for a future without such safeguards.
“I’m really interested in space! My undergraduate goal is to get a mechanical engineering degree, but then as a graduate, I want to get an aerospace engineering degree,” she says. The idea of someday working for an organization such as NASA or SpaceX motivates her, but her current interests range from graphic design to leadership to volunteer work.
The experiences she’s received as a Scholar Athlete have helped to support her range of pursuits. “I really appreciated the ability to access MAC facilities because it gave me the chance to try some things that I wouldn’t regularly do. I’ve utilized the Climbing Gym there a lot. Because we can take in a guest, I was able to share the club with some of my friends, too, and that was really cool.”
“Connecting with a bunch of the community service opportunities [at MAF] gave me a chance to work around my swim schedule,” Dobler adds. “I can’t always volunteer once a week, but the foundation allowed me to go and give back to the community when I was available. It’s a great organization to do that through.”
Between MAC Scholar Athlete experiences and her swim team’s work with an organization called Play Fit Fun, Dobler’s interest in making the world a better place has definitely been piqued. After she reaches another major milestone, graduating from the University of Southern California, she hopes to volunteer with Engineers Without Borders. “You go to a bunch of different countries and try to solve issues related to building infrastructure or increasing access to clean water,” she explains.
Right now, however, she’s focused on water a little closer to home. During the pandemic, she’s been traveling to Hagg Lake to swim, and says that she looks forward to seeing the bottom of a pool again when the time is right. “I’m really grateful to have so many opportunities, but I also miss my teammates. Even though it’s an individual sport, the team is prob- ably what’s kept me going this whole time. Being able to see everyone again will be really exciting!”
Originally published in the June 2020 Issue of The Winged M magazine.