Titans turn teens into leaders
A positive high school experience can change the world.
It certainly changed the world for two seniors at Union High School.
Jaxon Milligan moved to Washington just prior to high school, and he never imagined an environment that had teachers working so closely with students.
In middle school, Lizzie Anderson could barely talk in front of others. Now, she could be the spokesperson for the school, an ambassador, if you will.
“When I came to Union, my friends got me into student council, into clubs,” Anderson said.
Once she was there, the adults guided her to becoming a new person.
“It’s all of Union’s programs, how they are, how they taught me to be a leader,” she said. “I owe that to my advisors and teachers.”
Milligan has had a similar experience with the Union staff. When he was living in Oregon, he did not have the same experience with teachers.
“A whole new reality, how open these teachers were,” Milligan said. “They are people I can go to and talk to, and they help me. That just made school so much easier.”
Milligan is a three-sport athlete, is an executive on the student council, and is an accomplished student. He has taken 12 Advanced Placement classes at Union.
“At Union we have some awesome students, an awesome staff, and an awesome community to back us,” Milligan said. “It kind of gives us the ability to accomplish anything our school wants to put together or do. Whether it’s a state championship in football, or a record-low drop-out rate, or a record-high graduation rate. Things come together to really make our school what it is.”
Anderson played varsity soccer for four years, is in the National Honor Society, as well as the science and technology program. She, too, is an executive on the student council.
“No matter where I’m at on the campus, I can look to my right or look to my left and see someone smiling at me, or giving a wave,” Anderson said. “I never feel like I’m judged when I’m there. The school has a culture. All of us are such hard workers, and we really push each other.
“All of my peers, and my teachers, and my coaches, they just push me. They see so much more in me than I see in myself. It’s so amazing to have that. The people I see in the halls every day are my biggest fans.”
Now, those fans must be online, through distance learning and social media and messages.
Milligan and friend Weslie Tran were co-captains of the track and field team for about two weeks before school was closed.
“I miss track practice. I’ve been waiting a long time for this season. I had a disappointing end to my season last year. I was hoping to make a name for myself this year. Didn’t pan out. I love my team,” he said.
Anderson said she thinks it is interesting that students always say things like they don’t want to go to school.
“Now we’re begging to go to school,” she said. “I miss seeing my friends every day. I miss roaming the halls. I’m going to miss not getting that traditional last-day goodbye. I miss people.”
The Titans will not have that, but they will be able say they are Titans for the rest of their lives. Milligan and Anderson said they enjoy seeing the U stickers and the logo.
“Our community takes a lot of pride in those symbols,” Milligan said. “Whether it be the shield or the U, the community is always looking to that as a standard in our city.”
Anderson said it is kind of like two Jeep owners waving at each other on the road.
“Oh, a fellow Titan is right next to me,” she said. “I know what that means. When I see that U, I got someone near me who’s like me.”
Advice to other students during the school closure:
“You’ve got to keep your head up,” Milligan said. “Look forward to the future and stay aware of the role you play. It’s important to stay at home and encourage others to stay home. I’d rather miss half my senior year than be responsible for someone having complications in their life.”
Anderson, too, wants to make sure the Titans are following the guidelines. But she also wants to make sure they take care of themselves.
“Take a step outside. Being cooped up in a house can make you feel upset, especially when you’re not able to see people,” she said. “Just try to keep your mind busy. But also, stay on top of your school work.”