Extra credit for Fort Vancouver student’s promposal

Students share from the heart at senior reading event, with a surprise finale

VANCOUVER — One by one, they walked up to the stage, stepped to the podium, and shared from the heart.

In all, 10 seniors read their own writing in front of friends, classmates, and strangers.

Four seniors at Fort Vancouver High School — Justine Jacob, Navon Morgan, Sadie Benavente, and Emily Phelps — were all part of a memorable evening, sharing their high school experiences during a reading ceremony recently. What Justine did not know is the performance was also an elaborate plan for Navon to ask her to the prom. Photo by Paul Valencia
Four seniors at Fort Vancouver High School — Justine Jacob, Navon Morgan, Sadie Benavente, and Emily Phelps — were all part of a memorable evening, sharing their high school experiences during a reading ceremony recently. What Justine did not know is the performance was also an elaborate plan for Navon to ask her to the prom. Photo by Paul Valencia

It was not exactly a new experience for them. Most of them spoke as juniors as part of the Orpheus performances at Fort Vancouver High School. Orpheus is an annual reading event featuring students who share the stage with professional writers who also read from their work.

This year’s special event, Senior-pheus, featured a theme: One’s high school experience.

2019 Orpheus

What it is: A program featuring students sharing the stage with professional writers, reading some of their best work

Place: Fort Vancouver High School

Dates: May 14, 16, 21, and 23

Time: 6 p.m.

Cost: Admission is free

The final speaker of the night, Navon Morgan, decided to add one more memory to his high school days. He used his time on stage to thank all of those who accepted him when he moved to Vancouver two years ago, who made the city, and the school, his home.

The final person he thanked? Justine Jacob.

In front of all those people in the auditorium, he asked Justine to the prom.

And now it can be told. This entire performance was just a ploy, a way for Morgan to come up with a unique public promposal.

Oh, the writings were genuine. The speakers put their hearts into their work. The audience was entranced.

But until Morgan and teacher Ben Jatos started brainstorming, there was no such thing as Senior-pheus.

Navon and Justine have been together for a while now. Justine asked Navon to the prom last year. They say they are just friends. Real close friends. Their classmates voted them best couple, though, so take whatever you want with that information. Bottom line, they mean a lot to each other. And Navon wanted to do something special for Justine.

“I needed an idea,” Navon said.

He said Jatos is more than a teacher, so he confided in Jatos about his dilemma.

Video by Sadie Benavente

“We were coming up with corny stuff, bad stuff,” Navon said.

They talked about how well Orpheus was going — this May will be the sixth year of the event — and how much Navon appreciated his time on stage as a junior. And by the way, why couldn’t seniors participate?

Senior-pheus was created, but with only one mission.

“It was a legitimate speaking event, but it was a promposal,” Navon said.

“It just spilled out from all these alternate ideas,” Jatos said. “The reason we had it, though? Promposal all the way.”

They also had to ensure that Justine would attend the event. That turned out to be easy. Jatos simply asked if Justine would be interested in reading her work that night.

In fact, as soon as Senior-pheus was announced, eight others quickly volunteered, filling the program with 10.

Next came the order.

“Usually, the best person would go last,” Navon said, noting that designation should have belonged to Emily Phelps.

Phelps, a talented writer and an athlete, said she does not accept that she is the best. But her reading last year brought the house down. Phelps was let in on the secret of the promposal, and she would be the ninth speaker that night.

Jatos ended up putting Justine as the sixth speaker. He could not put her toward the opening of the performance in case she went home early.

Sadie Benavente also spoke at the event. She was there not only to read, though, but to take video of the promposal.

The pieces were in place.

Sadie spoke about the growth of self-confidence during her high school years. Justine shared her “struggle” with senioritis. Emily went with a freshman self vs. senior self, reading the freshman part with a high, peppy voice.

At the end of the program, it was Navon’s time. He noted how he never felt like he fit in anywhere until he came to Fort Vancouver. He thanked many, and then turned his attention to Justine. He grabbed a basket of goodies that was hidden behind the curtain on stage, offered it to Justine and asked her to the prom.

“Everyone was like ‘Oooooh,’” he said.

“I thought it was really sweet. I started to tear up,” Justine said.

As the performance concluded, Jatos explained how the event materialized.

“I thanked (the audience) for being pawns,” he said. “We told them the history. No one thought it was funny.”

“There was an angry mob afterward,” Emily joked.

OK, OK, nobody was mad. But a little perplexed, Jatos said.

Justine was still in awe the next day.

“He really did that for me? I just felt really special.”

The Fort Vancouver prom is Saturday.

Regardless of the origin of the event, Senior-pheus was so successful that Jatos said he would consider doing it again next year.

That is to be determined.

Orpheus, though, will continue to go on as planned. This year’s Orpheus will take place over four nights: May 14, 16, 21 and 23. The programs begin at 6 p.m. at Fort Vancouver High School. Admission is free.

Phelps said reading last year gave her a rush of adrenaline.

“It feels good to write something you are proud of and be recognized,” she said.

Here is Emily Phelps’ essay she shared during Senior-opheus. In it, she describes the difference between freshman and senior years at Fort Vancouver. She read the freshman part (in italics) with a “high, peppy voice.”

Senior vs. Freshman

Freshman: Hi I’m Emily Phelps, and I am so excited to be here tonight with all of you! I woke up at 5 a.m. this morning and jumped right out of bed. I spent two hours getting ready because I wanted to look my best for my first day of high school. I put on a full face of Clinique makeup and straightened my hair until it mirrored the outline of a ruler. I put on an outfit that I spent weeks curating to perfection. I ate breakfast for half an hour and then my mom drove me to school. I was so nervous but it all went away. I made lots of new friends today and I can’t wait to spend four more years here!

Senior: Hi let me reintroduce myself, I’m Emily Senior: I drove myself to school in my own car with my brother as a passenger. I parked in my own parking spot in the student parking lot and got out of my car when the bell rang so that I wouldn’t have to walk past the entire population of the cafeteria, because no one needs to see me in my sweatpants and T-shirt. I walk straight to class around the building because a lot of the doors have been closed off due to increased security. I get frustrated even thinking about this new policy. I mean the doors are there for a reason because no one wants to have to walk around. On the bright side I get to keep my sports bag in my car for the whole day.


Freshman: I sit in the cafeteria looking at all of the cute boys pass by. I wonder who I will date in the next four years. My mom packed my lunch, a turkey and ham sandwich with pirate booty and Cheez-Its. I take my daily trip to the student store to get my two Otis Spunkmeyer cookies and two bags of Cheez-Its all for myself. Upon heading back to my lunch table I sigh at the fact that my lunch table changes everyday. The people are different, and it’s never in the same location. I don’t have a solid group of friends yet but I’m hoping that in the next four years I will make friends to last a lifetime.


Senior: I leave everyday for lunch. I never sit in the cafeteria anymore, there’s no point. There’s no cute boys passing by and I have learned to accept that as a fact of life. I packed my lunch, it’s quinoa and beans with a slice of lime. I became a vegetarian during sophomore year so no more ham and turkey sandwiches. I no longer visit the student store because I can go out and get food at the real store anytime I want to. I head out to lunch with my friends, and if I wanted to I could go back to the cafeteria and sit at a full lunch table with all of my closest friends.


Freshman: I head to cross country practice. It’s my first year of running so I don’t really have a leadership role on the team yet. There’s also no expectations on me as far as running goes because no one has ever seen my times before. I hope that one day I can race with a full team and make it to state.


Senior: I head to cross country practice, my favorite part of everyday. It feels comfortable, it’s my family, it’s home. Expectations are placed on me but I don’t mind anymore. I get to co-captain my team to state and a euphoric sensation takes over my whole body. This is all I have ever dreamed of, I got what I wanted.


Freshman: I wait for a ride home from practice. My mom should’ve been here fifteen minutes ago, but I guess I have no choice but to sit and wait. When I get home I take a shower, eat dinner, do a few minutes of homework and then I go to bed before 9 p.m., ready to start the day all over again tomorrow.


Senior: I drive home from practice, I don’t have to wait for a ride anymore. When I get home I take a shower, eat dinner, do either two hours or two minutes of homework depending on the night, and then I go to bed a little after nine, barely surviving into my next day of school.

Senior: I don’t know who I’ll become in the next four years but I hope that she’s an even better person. I’ve learned a lot in the past four years. I don’t think that high school was the most pleasant experience at times, but it was necessary in shaping me into who I am today. I don’t think many people have a great high school experience and you know what? That’s OK. But I do believe that it should be respected for the purpose it serves in our lives. High school teaches us a lot about ourselves and it sets us up for a lifelong journey. Whether your experience was good or bad, everyone can take at least one thing away from high school. I am not who I was four years ago. I am not who I will be four years from now. I’m simply Emily Phelps, and right now I’m living in the moment.


About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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