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Greeting life after West Sound Academy

SUQUAMISH — West Sound Academy senior Brian Calloway, a self-confessed and impassioned student of the sciences, is headed to Western Washington University to study engineering and technology in the fall.

Which begs the question: what could West Sound, an arts-based private school, have given him to prepare for such an education?

Absolutely everything, Calloway said without hesitation.

“It doesn’t do art at the expense of everything else,” he said of the school he’s attended for four years. “For me, art provides a break. I could still be tense and thinking about (science) and still get things done in art.”

Each of the small class of four graduates — Calloway, along with Robin Briggs, Tim Quitslund and Kyra West — will receive diplomas tonight at an undoubtedly small ceremony. Like Calloway, the other three soon-to-be graduates have very individual goals in their post-high school lives, not all of which may fit the stereotypical mold of what makes up an “arts student.”

Though part of the curriculum, it is more West Sound’s intimate approach to education — utilizing a 12-1 student to teacher ratio — that seems to foster each student’s development more than anything else.

“You get a sense that when you’re at school, they’re your teacher but also your friend,” Quitslund said.

Though the school had a record 10 graduates last year, this year’s class is back down to less than a handful. With the move to the school’s new location adjacent to Northwest College of Art off State Route 305 next fall, however, the academy will grow to 100 students in grades six through 12. While next year’s class is only four, the class of 2007 is again 10 students and 2008 doubles to 20, said the school’s college and career counselor, Mary Pederson.

Briggs will attend liberal arts-based Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y., next year. She plans to study arts and theater.

She’s attended WSA for five years.

“West Sound has made it so I can find my own identity,” Briggs said. “I was able to nurture my own interests, have relationships with adults that I would have never had in another situation.”

She said that when she’ll reflect on WSA in the future, she’ll think back on its “uniqueness,” and “funky atmosphere.”

Briggs said her greatest experiences at the school were in the teacher Michael Payne’s theater productions and studying in India her junior year.

“I don’t think I would’ve gone (to India) if it hadn’t been for West Sound,” she said.

West is headed east to the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y., where she’s planning to double major in political science and music. She’s attended WSA for four years.

“I came from a really rough, large middle school,” West said. “If I had continued at a large high school I think I would’ve closed in more.”

Instead, she said she branched out further. Though she already was an experienced pianist, WSA requirements forced her to pick up another instrument — the cello — for an exploratory class, taught by teacher Sarah Dorian-Lawrence.

“I was always intimidated by the orchestra,” she said. “Now, I love being in them.”

Since he was 5 years old, Quitslund has dreamed of being a firefighter, a goal that with a high school diploma he’ll be even closer to achieving. He said WSA helped foster that goal through its Long Term Independent Projects, which gave him a chance to research his life-long ambition in depth.

During his sophomore year, Quitslund studied the history of the fire department and during his final year, he actually completed firefighter training.

Thanks to much one-on-one time with teachers, Quitslund said he’s advanced far beyond where he thought he’d be at this point.

“I started at West Sound as a student who didn’t want to do anything,” he said, “To someone who’s learned and understands the power of community.”

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