Our school: Columbia River Chieftains

Student leaders Noel Sims and Alex Miller describe what makes Columbia River High School so special

At River, family runs deep

At Columbia River High School, it’s not just about family. It is about extended family.

Alex Miller, a three-sport athlete for the Chieftains, can tell you about his great grandmother who worked at the school. He can note how his grandfather, parents, aunts, and uncles went to school. Now, he and his cousins go there, too.

Noel Sims is the student body president at Columbia River. Photo courtesy of Noel Sims
Noel Sims is the student body president at Columbia River. Photo courtesy of Noel Sims

Noel Sims, the student body president, can relate.

“My grandpa went to River. His varsity letter … I have the same one. It makes you want to be engaged and involved. That’s really special at River,” Sims said.

Tradition begins with so many teachers, as well.

“I think with our school, it’s how much pride we have in ourselves,” Miller said. “You can really feel it through the teachers. A lot of teachers went to River and went back to River to teach. Everyone takes care of each other. That’s awesome.”

Their experiences at Columbia River were so positive that when they decided to become teachers, they wanted to continue that experience at Columbia River.

River flow: The cycle of excellence continues.

Miller joined the Associated Student Body this school year and is on the senior council.

Alex Miller is a three-sport athlete at Columbia River, a school with a rich family history. Photo courtesy of Alex Miller
Alex Miller is a three-sport athlete at Columbia River, a school with a rich family history. Photo courtesy of Alex Miller

“I wanted to step up as a leader,” said Miller, who is a team captain in tennis, basketball, and track and field. “I wanted to be with the leaders in our school, learn what they do, and take it into sports with my teams.”

Sims also is the head coordinator of Mr. and Miss CR, the school’s annual fundraiser. The pageant was supposed to be March 21.
“That’s something a group of seniors have been working on for six months, and I’ve been part of it for two years,” Sims said. “I was looking forward to that night. We still did raise a lot. Just disappointing to do all that work and not get to show it. That’s sad.”

“Still a great experience for a great cause,” Miller added.

The event raises funds for Friends of the Children, a mentorship program. 

The student leaders, like everyone, are left wondering what the immediate future holds.

“I miss seeing people, leaving my house, having things to do,” Sims said. “I’m so used to being busy. I don’t know what to do with myself.”

Will the school hold a prom? Will there be a graduation ceremony? 

“This is the last of everything, and we might not get to do any of it,” Sims said, referring to seniors.

Miller said he misses sports, not being able to compete. He was supposed to be competing in track and field right now. Plus, he and his doubles partner, Max Firstenberg, have qualified for the state tennis championships. 

All that is up in the air, but no matter what, Sims and Miller get to say, forever, that they are Columbia River Chieftains.

They love seeing their team colors throughout the community.

“It makes me feel great. Even people who don’t go to our school anymore still wear our gear because they had a great time, a great education,” MIller said.

“I think it’s exciting, especially when I see older people,” Sims said. “It’s cool to see people who went there that long ago but are still excited about the community.”

Advice to other students during the school closure:

“Just hang in there and get into a day-to-day routine that will make you better at whatever you would be working toward if there was school/sports,” Miller said.

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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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