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Jun-10-2007 05:04printcommentsVideo

Oregon High School Graduate With 4.3 GPA Exemplifies Possibilities (VIDEO)

Corbett's graduating class had three 4.3 GPA's.

Gresham's Corbett High School 2007 valedictorians
Wilhelmina Hayward ranks among the top students in the world
Photos and video by Tim King

(GRESHAM, Ore.) - Corbett High School in Gresham, Oregon is considered to be in the top one percent of American schools, and an example of what is possible when the conditions for education come together in the correct balance.

The three Valedictorians

It’s an environment where students like Wilhelmina Hayward graduate with a remarkable 4.3 grade point average. In fact there were three valedictorian seniors in this small graduating class, with GPA's at 4.3 each.

Bonnie King spoke to top Valedictorian Wilhelmina Hayward, who uses the name Willie.

“When you came to Corbett High School is this what you expected? Did you have any idea you would be one of the valedictorians?”

“Not at all," Willie answered. "I didn’t even think about it; it wasn’t on my mind. It feels great, I made some incredible friends and I’m glad to be at this moment now.”

Bonnie asked Willie about her seemingly astronomical grade point average. "There aren’t many people that receive the kind of GPA you received; what kind of advice do you have to give to young people in high school?"

“Don’t think too hard about it, Just work hard and you will achieve. There are a lot of late nights, coffee. Pay attention in class, that's important. Don't settle on short answers when you can go further and that's it," she said.

Wang Huy stands behind her daughter Willie Huy Hayward, whose GPA as a
graduating senior at Corbett High School in Gresham is an incredible 4.3

Her mom, Wang Huy says it is a very proud day, acknowledging her daughter’s exemplary work that she believes will lead to unlimited success. High levels of discipline have been only part of the drive that has brought her daughter so far in so few years.

“My daughter worked so hard for this, and she got it. I’m so pleased and proud of her, and this will be a big memory day for all of our family members.”

The interview then shifted toward plans for the future. Bonnie asked Willie what her educational plans were.

“I’m going to the University of Washington in Seattle, I’m going to be a Husky, I’m thinking about majoring in communications and international studies but it’s not set in stone."

She had a good idea of which schools looked promising and would serve her needs and meet her expectations. Planning is everything when it comes to gaining a top notch education.

"I applied to only two universities; Seattle Pacific and the University of Washington. I decided to go to the University of Washington because they had so many more options in my field of study.”

The highlight for Willie and the other valedictorians came when they were all called up to offer their thoughts on this important day.

Each shared words about their future plans and how the school's faculty, and their family and friends helped them weather many storms, only to come out on top as some of the nation's brightest and most promising students, our greatest hope for the future.

Corbett High School is also well-known for offering students a wide variety of quality experiences outside the classroom.

We can only hope that other educators and likewise, taxpayers, can aspire in the future to learn what the people at this school in Gresham, Oregon seems to have figured out, if not mastered.

Willie attributes the success to dedicated teachers, “It must be our size and our wonderful staff; they’re so committed to us just doing well, nothing for themselves, selfless.”

This graduation day taking place on June 4th is very symbolic to the Haywards. Willie's mom Wang Huy, is an actress from China who married Al many years ago. They are no longer married, but they share a great amount of common history.

Willie's father, Al Hayward, remarks on this being
the anniversary of the Tienanmen Square incident in
Bejing, China. He and Wang had to escape the country
to reach safety.

As Willie's Dad Al Hayward explains, 18 years ago, when his former wife was pregnant with Willie, they were present at Tienanmen Square during one of China’s darkest days.

The Tienanmen Square protests and riots led to bloodshed on that fateful day and like other times during the American Civil Rights Movement, the bloodshed went out on live TV, showing people what a government is capable of.

The protests of 1989 resulted in the killing of Chinese protesters in the streets to the west of the square and adjacent areas, which is in the country's capitol Bejing.

Some Western reporters who were on the square during the unfolding events reported that they saw no one actually die on the square itself, though did see bloodied people but could not confirm whether they were either dead or injured (Graham Earnshaw and Columbia Journal Review).

However, Chinese expatriates who left the country after the killings said that the total number of deaths ended up being in the thousands. This was a combination of the hundreds killed on the spot and the "miniature" purge that followed.

For Al and Wang, who was pregnant with Willie at the time, it was something they describe as both dangerous and scary. It just wasn't a good time to be in China.

“It’s the end of a long road," Al said recalling the time when life was very different than it is today.

"From Tienanmen Square on June 4th eighteen years ago, to today... is a nice journey.”

And her dad says the hard challenges have existed for Willie too, and that includes years of strenuous and dedicated training as an ice skater, training with notable skaters like Portland's Tanya Harding.

He says it was hard work, "She's always been a fighter, and when you dedicate your life to skating you finding yourself falling down a lot and having to get back up, I think that was good background training for the success she is having now."

High school seniors everywhere are celebrating their graduation, it is a milestone for thousands across the country.

But Corbett High School in Gresham, Oregon is also a lesson in what you can achieve with ample funding and realistic class size, and parents that are willing to be involved…

Al jokingly says that part of his daughter's success stems from an occasional "kick in the butt", but his joking does not disguise his intense pride over his daughter's achievement.




Comments Leave a comment on this story.

All comments and messages are approved by people and self promotional links or unacceptable comments are denied.

Steven Dale Ulm January 5, 2010 9:01 pm (Pacific time)

I know this woman...she's amazing. only...where does she get her power??

Adrienne Kishmoto April 20, 2009 2:13 pm (Pacific time)

WOW WOW. I've been tracking this story. I hear she just got accepted to the Journalism major at UW.

Jer'rel Coleman February 21, 2009 3:00 am (Pacific time)

Sounds like an amazing young woman with conviction.

Henry Ruark June 12, 2007 4:12 pm (Pacific time)

To all: Imagine the treasure-trove of fine minds we would unearth if we apply millions due State from past losses for 70 YEARS while that irrational and unfair "$10 minimum tax" was in place and protected so well by "corporate campaign contributions".

Citizen June 11, 2007 3:32 pm (Pacific time)

I think the addition of the 0.3 is due to not only maintaining an "A" average, but an "A-plus". When I went to the U of Oregon almost two decades ago, they allowed "plus and minus" grading, either subtracting or adding 0.30 points. I only got an "A-plus" in three or four of my classes, out of 50 classes (though I tried hard!!!) If this is true, and they got a straight 4.3, then that would have reflected the fact that she always was within the top 1.0 percent of all grading scales. I find it hard to believe, because it would have made more sense to skip her a few grades and get her into college early. But, regardless, it seems that we have some really hard-working, driven individuals!!! I hope that the brains are exploited for continued greatness!

Tomas Arnback June 11, 2007 11:11 am (Pacific time)

If that is not "grade inflation" I don't know what is.

Mike Portland June 11, 2007 7:49 am (Pacific time)

I say in 7-10 years we see this girl as an anchor on CNN.

Dale Corvallis June 11, 2007 7:44 am (Pacific time)

Great to see story's like this other than the daily sad news!

Tim King June 10, 2007 10:05 pm (Pacific time)

The 4.3 is achieved by maxing out everything and then taking college level classes in addition to the regular study. 4.3 is incredible, but the fact that three of them exist in that tiny class is even more amazing.

Neal Feldman June 10, 2007 9:47 pm (Pacific time)

What I don't get is if an A is 4.0 how do people get a 4.3? That is better than an A? If it is because of 'extra credit' how can 'extra credit' be allowed to exceed 100%? Doing so, to just compete, forces everyone to get that extra credit so now instead of it being extra it becomes mandatory if you are to compete. What is next? SAT scores of 2000 when a perfect score is 1600 due to 'extra credit'?

Maureen Ellis June 10, 2007 2:42 pm (Pacific time)

We are glad to see this report, why can't other media groups produce similar things? Everything is so negative and this proves that stories do not have to be that way to simply be good, helpful and informative.

Hank Ruark June 10, 2007 9:14 am (Pacific time)

To all: Here's the fundamental truth about all educational funding -reflected from the reality of what is produced, and for whom. In small-town Oregon, the people in charge see far more clearly than some Legislators what it takes to build the 21st Century in Oregon -- and restore those "Wings" so Oregon can "Fly !"-again. But note also this leader in progress went outside of Oregon for her advanced work, too. See Sarasohn in Big O today for reasons-why. Beautiful, meaningful story by our own Bonnie...

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