Our school: Washougal Panthers

Everybody knows everybody at Washougal

Student leaders Emma Spaeth and Tanner Coons describe what makes Washougal High School so special

Hey, what’s up?

How are you doing?

What’s going on?

Great to see you.

Those four sentences? They epitomize the students and teachers who make up Washougal High School, 

“Family,” senior Tanner Coons said of what his school means to him. “It feels like people I can call family who aren’t blood. They are my best friends and people I trust with everything.”

Emma Spaeth of Washougal High School said her classmates and teachers are family. Photo courtesy Emma Spaeth
Emma Spaeth of Washougal High School said her classmates and teachers are family. Photo courtesy Emma Spaeth

“What’s so special about Washougal is I walk around the halls and I recognize every single face I walk by,”  said senior Emma Spaeth. “We’re a really close family.”

Coons played football and competed in track and field, plus he is a senior representative in ASB. He is a proud member of the American Sign Language program. Oh, and he coaches youth flag football.

Spaeth is an ASB senior senator, also part of ASL, competes in track and field, and was a captain of the cheer squad.

That’s just two Panthers, but there are so many more like them, always volunteering, trying to do something to improve life at their school.

“Everybody gets involved in a lot,” Spaeth said. “You can definitely see the seniors lead a lot of that, which I think is cool.”

These interviews were conducted before schools were closed for the rest of the academic year. Those seniors will not be going back to the campus. They hope, though, that they have left a legacy for next year’s class and beyond.

“I miss seeing everybody, especially at lunch,” Spaeth said. “I really miss my ASL class. We had one big family in that class. And I miss the teachers. The teachers are really friendly.”

Tanner Coons said when he sees Washougal’s colors, it makes him feel like he can accomplish anything. Photo courtesy Tanner Coons
Tanner Coons said when he sees Washougal’s colors, it makes him feel like he can accomplish anything. Photo courtesy Tanner Coons

Coons said he is “pretty bummed” to be missing his ASL and ASB classes. With ASB, this was going to be an inspiring spring.

“We had really big projects coming up that were going to help our staff and student body,” Coons said. 

That would include De-stress Week to coincide with testing. A traveling pet zoo was going to come to the school. There was going to be a movie night. There was going to be an all-school party on the last day for seniors.

Those will not happen, at least not as planned. But perhaps great ideas for the years to come, when “normal” resumes.

Even if the Class of 2020 will not have a traditional end to high school, the seniors still will have special memories. And they will always wear their colors with pride.

“This year, for me, during football especially, it made me feel accomplished. We did something no one thought we could do,” Coons said, referring to the Panthers’ run to the Class 2A state quarterfinals. “We made something special, something to talk about. It makes me proud when I see Washougal colors around town. It makes me feel like we can do anything if we really want to.”

Spaeth was along with that football ride, as well. She loved lining up on the field as the football team ran in between her and her cheer teammates.

“That’s the best feeling ever. You can just feel all that energy,” she said.

Black and orange keep that energy flowing.

“I probably have 40 Washougal shirts from sports and everything,” Spaeth said. “People say, ‘Why would you want Halloween colors?’ It’s just cool. I love it. I’m wearing a Washougal shirt right now.”

Advice to other students during the school closure:

“Keep a close watch on what your teachers post. I know they don’t like this online stuff, either,” Spaeth said. “Work with the teachers on all of that stuff.”

Coons will have to take his own advice.

“I’m a pretty bad procastrictnor. Don’t procrastinate,” he said. “Ask for help if you need it to get through online courses. Show up and get your work done and stay a part of the community.”

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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