8th Grade Challenge Week

Grade 8 Challenge Week

From Emma Zook, Grade 8 Teacher:

Each fall, our 8th Graders spend four days backpacking, hiking, and rock climbing as a way to start their final WHWS year together. Last Tuesday, this year’s class adventured up onto the southern flanks of Mount Baker, camping at the majestic Cathedral Camp, then day hiking up Railroad Grade following the routes of climbers heading for the summit. Fat marmots, close up views of the Easton Glacier, and delicious wild blueberries were a few of many highlights. On Thursday we came down out of the clouds, then traveled to Leavenworth for a day of rock climbing at Icicle Creek. The students loved the whole experience, and are now back in the classroom reconnected, renewed and inspired for the year to come.

I would like to express our sincere gratitude to Jill Heckathorn and Glenn Merrill, sponsors of our 8th Grade challenge. Jill and Glenn’s son, Jake, was a student at WHWS from 1996-2005, Kindergarten through 8th grade, and I had the honor of being his teacher for his middle school years. Jake’s life was tragically cut short on February 11, 2014, by an avalanche while he was working as a Ski Guide for a company in Oregon. In Jill and Glenn’s words:

Jake was deeply grateful for his time at WHWS and the teachers who left him with a love of learning, a solid sense of himself, and a responsibility to the world around him.  Although we have indescribable sadness over Jake’s death, we are proud that Jake had the clarity and courage to find what he loved and to live his life truthfully.  We hope that others at WHWS experience the fulfillment and beauty in their lives that Jake did and that the 8th grade rock climbing trip does a little something for each student in finding a relationship with themselves, each other, and the beautiful mountains.

Jake’s light shone in all of the classrooms in our school, then out into the community after he graduated in 2005. Those of us who knew and loved Jake can still feel his light shining. On our backpack trip, we took a few moments to honor Jake. We sat quietly in chosen spots in a beautiful wild meadow for a while, then returned together with words of gratitude for our experience as well as individually chosen rocks to build a cairn.

“As a leader I want to strive to understand where I soar high and where I soar not so high. I want to lead not only by the four points of the compass, but by a strong moral compass.  To lead others with compassion, and never lose my sense of awe.  I am well on my way to becoming the leader I want to become, but there is still work to do, and I am ready.” ~ Jake Merrill, December 2013

May we continue Jake’s important work in the world…