The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Naselle High seniors ready for Saturday commencement


Diana Zimmerman

Samanta "Mayrel" Franco Monroy

Naselle High School will hold its graduation ceremony this Saturday, 4 p.m.

Samanta "Mayrel" Franco Monroy is the valedictorian for Naselle's Class of 2018.

It's a praiseworthy achievement. What makes it even more remarkable is that three and a half years ago, she didn't speak English.

"It was so hard for me to understand anything," Monroy said. "I took extra time to study. For the most part, I read books and watched TV."

Music and movies with subtitles were a great help too.

Now she speaks English, her native Spanish, and she's learning French.

Monroy moved to Naselle during the second semester of her freshman year. Before that she had attended school in Torreón, Coahuila, Mexico.

"I really wanted to be here," Monroy said. "Since I was a kid, I had family here. I was told, one day you will see. You will be here for school and you will go to college in the United States."

Her favorite teacher, Mr. Wise, has already retired.

"He was the first person to say, 'Maybe you can do this. Try,'" she said.

She also has high praise for Mr. Laine.

"He's a great person. He really cares about every student," she said.

Laine, in turn, remarked that Monroy is "phenomenal."

She enjoys Mr. Hickman's Current World Problems class. She likes math and has excelled in it, taking Calculus this year. She likes to write for fun, and has an artistic streak that she rarely has time to indulge in.

She had just finished her senior project on the connection

between physical and mental health on Friday. It was an appropriate topic for the driven senior who will study nursing at the University of Washington.

"I believe if you are happy with your life, you are going to live longer," Monroy said. "I want to work at a hospital and help people."

Monroy has put in a lot of hours of community service, helping to set up for events like Chinese New Year, bingo night, and the Covered Bridge dinner.

"I love to help," she said. "Even if I'm just cleaning up."

She was cheer captain one year and works at Panda Express in Warrenton.

Monroy is involved with her church, loves to spend time with family, and likes to watch makeup tutorials.

She is the daughter of Mayra Monroy and José Franco, who lives in Mexico. Her stepfather is Juan López. Her brother's name is Joe.

Samantha Wert is the salutatorian for Naselle's Class of 2018.

Wert has been attending school in Naselle since the third grade. She was born in Bend, Oregon, and moved to a desert town called Christmas Valley, Oregon, before coming to Washington.

She's ready to move on, but she feels an attachment to the 15 people that have shared a classroom with her all these years.

"You aren't aware of the changes in everybody that you've known since the third grade," she said. "They are the same people as they were in the third grade. You spend so much time with each other, you don't realize the changes. We're always together. I'll miss that."

Her favorite staff member is Mr. Laine.

"If you are walking down the hallway, he will say hi to everybody walking by," she said. "He really is amazing. He will never get enough appreciation for all he does for this school."

Wert has always enjoyed her English classes.

"I like to write and I like to read, but I don't have the time," she said.

Her publications class has been rewarding, though she admits the deadlines can be stressful.

She recently completed her senior project on the history and advancement of tattoos.

"I got my first tattoo on my 18th birthday," Wert said. "It was for my dad because he passed away of cancer. I got a cancer ribbon in the shape of an infinity sign on my ankle. I drew it when I was 15. And I had his handwriting traced."

Wert lost her father, Mark Wert, when she was four.

"People take the way you look as what you are capable of accomplishing," she said. "A lot of people would probably never guess what I've accomplished or that I work really hard, and get good grades, and that I'm not a bad kid. People freak out. I hope that I've proved a stereotype wrong."

Her artistic gifts are obvious. Not only does she like to draw, and create tattoo art, she has shown some talent with a camera. She recently received two scholarships from an arts association in Ilwaco for her photography.

She plans to attend the medical assistant program at Clatsop Community College in the fall. She will take some art classes while she is there as well.

Diana Zimmerman

Samantha Wert

"I know if you don't really have a higher education past high school you are going to struggle," she said of her decision to take her education seriously. "People find other things to do whether it's hard intensive labor, or maybe more of the artistic side. It's not mandatory but it will definitely be easier for you if you have more education under your belt."

Wert has worked at Okie's Select Market in Naselle for 20-25 hours a week for the past four years. She was asked to help out on Labor Day weekend, and was asked to stay when they saw how hard she worked.

"She's an outstanding young lady," Justin Laine said in an email. Like Monroy, he called her phenomenal.

Wert is the daughter of Onie Wert and the late Mark Wert. Her stepfather is Jake Underhill. She has two sisters.


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