Our school: La Center Wildcats

School, community form a lasting bond

Student leaders Sam Kitchel and Katie Nelson describe what makes La Center High School so special.

It has been years in the making, and every year, something new is added.

Not the fastest stadium project in history, but certainly one of the most important construction sites in La Center’s history.

No, this is not a sports story. It is a story about La Center High School, and its connection with all who live there.

Katie Nelson said the entire town supports La Center High School. Photo courtesy Katie Nelson
Katie Nelson said the entire town supports La Center High School. Photo courtesy Katie Nelson

“La Center, we’re such a small community. The school is our pride. The entire town takes pride in our school,” senior Katie Nelson said. “Look at our stadium project. That’s all hard work from the citizens in our community.”

No bond was used for funds for the facility. Donations of money, equipment, labor came from the community. 

The students get involved, too. There are student work crews. Plus the school’s wood shop is working to make the concession stand. 

“It’s not just community members. It’s high schoolers working toward it because we want it as much as everyone else,” she said.

“I’d say, what makes La Center special, is our ability to come together as one,” senior Sam Kitchel added. 

That stadium is symbolic of that philosophy. Yes, the town shows up for Friday night football, but the town shows up for just about everything else, too. Basketball games. Plays. Concerts. You name it. 

“The amount of love everyone has toward our school is amazing,” Nelson said. 

In-building school is now cancelled for the rest of the academic year. That does not change the love the students have for the campus. The spirit of the La Center Wildcats remains.

La Center has prepared Kitchel and Nelson for life beyond high school.

Sam Kitchel said La Center High School gave him the confidence to tackle life’s challenges. Photo courtesy Sam Kitchel
Sam Kitchel said La Center High School gave him the confidence to tackle life’s challenges. Photo courtesy Sam Kitchel

Kitchel, an athlete who describes himself as “pretty social,” went out for an ASB leadership role this year. He was the senior class secretary.

“I’m ready to prove myself in life,” Kitchel said. “That’s what high school has given me, the confidence to step out, be my own person, and say, ‘I can do this.’”

Nelson has been the team captain for the soccer team the past two years and a part of leadership all four years of high school. This year, she was preparing to be in the spring play, too.

“I just miss getting out of my house and being with all my friends,” Nelson said. “I love each and every one of my teachers this year.”

She and her classmates were having interesting conversations about foreign policy, for example. Just not the same with online courses.

With no school, Kitchel is working more. He is employed at a plant nursery, and, he said, he is grateful to have the job.

Still, he’d prefer school.

“I miss the social part,” he said. “I miss my friends. That’s the hard part.”

Now, just like that, traditional schooling is over for seniors. Still, Kitchel will always look back fondly at his days at La Center High School.

“It’s the place I learned how to become a man,” he said. “It helped me grow as a person, learn who I am. You grow up and you try to put on these masks and be somebody you aren’t. By my senior year, I just had to be myself. That’s what the school helped me do, just be me.”

Kitchel and Nelson will always know they had a hand in that stadium, too. And they will proudly wear their La Center gear. They love seeing others in the blue, too.

“It makes me happy,” Kitchel said. “It definitely represents all of the hard work.”

“It’s a pride thing,” Nelson said. “Everyone is so happy to be from La Center. We all kind of bleed blue and white, and we always will.”

Advice to other students during the school closure:

“Have faith in your future and be positive,” Kitchel said. “If you had a plan, stick to it. Don’t worry about everything going on right now.”

“First thing first, everyone stay safe and healthy,” Nelson said. “Make the best out of it. Enjoy time with family. Stay up with school work. Check your email and Google classroom and make sure you are staying up to date.”

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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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