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Alumni Corner

Welcome to our Alumni Corner! Over 350 students have graduated from Willamette Academy since its inception. Here we highlight our Alumni and celebrate their accomplishments as they contribute to their communities and find their own paths.

Get inspired and explore their profiles! If you are an alumni with a story to share, we want to hear from you. Connect with us at:

Featured Alumni

  • Gabriel Jurado ‘22


    Interview Date: Fall 2023

    Gabriel Jurado ‘22 is a second-year student at Oregon State University.

    • Q: What have you been up to since graduating from the Academy?
      • A: I enrolled at Oregon State University to study Oceanography. This past summer I went to Alaska with my peers to learn about glaciers, glacial hydrology, and take many hikes to explore Alaska. After that, I had a small internship with the Big Fish Lab at OSU helping a PhD student with her research on Broadnose Sevengill Sharks in Willapa Bay, WA. I helped get sharks out of the water and took numerous samples and even took ultrasounds!
    • Q: How have these opportunities shaped your college experience?
      • A: Being able to get involved in so much my first year has definitely solidified how much I love college. I have met so many amazing people so far, and this is only the beginning. I am so excited for what’s to come for the next 3 years of my college career.
    • Q: What do you wish more people knew about the Academy?
      • A: I wish people knew how much of an impact it makes on students' lives. Not a lot of my teachers in middle and high school were really familiar with the Academy, but those who were really understood how much it meant. People think that minority students are less fortunate and aren’t able to be their best selves, but we know that isn’t true. The idea of college is just a dream for some people. But thanks to the Academy, that dream is reality.
  • Josue Gonzalez Peña ‘12

    Interview Date: Summer 2021

    After graduating from the Academy in 2012, Josue went on to Oregon State University where he received a degree in BioHealth Sciences. He then took a year off from school to work as a medical interpreter to strengthen his application for optometry school. The next four years were spent at Pacific University College of Optometry where he graduated this year.

    • Q: What are you excited about?
      • A: Now, almost 10 years after graduating from the Academy, I have finally finished all my schooling and am working as an Optometrist in Washington. I couldn’t be more excited to finally be done with school and do the things I love which are helping people, traveling, and spending time with my friends and family.
    • Q: What is your fondest memory from the Academy?
      • A: The memories we created every summer will never fade away. I didn’t realize it at the time but those two short weeks that we spent together every summer were filled with valuable lessons and lifelong friendships which I still cherish to this day. Willamette Academy played a role in my early development as a student by providing me with academic support and guidance which ultimately helped me get to where I am today.
    • Q: What advice would you give to current Academy students?
      • A: If there is any advice I could give to current students is to work hard and persevere, but don’t lose yourself in the process and neglect your physical, mental, and spiritual health. At the end of the day, you are your own biggest investment so remember to take good care of yourself.

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    Josue Gonzalez Peña in 2012 versus 2021.

  • Justice Paige Wetter ‘15

    Interview Date: Spring 2024

    • Q: What have you been up to since graduating from the Academy?
      • A: After graduating from WA and high school, I went to Linfield University where I graduated Summa Cum Laude and received my Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education. I was involved in sorority life (Phi Sigma Sigma) and a variety of clubs. After graduating, I moved to Maui, HI and taught 6th grade English Language Arts for a year. Then COVID happened and I decided to move back to Oregon, where I got a job teaching 3rd grade. In 2023, I won Rotary Club’s Teacher of the Year for my school. I taught 3rd grade for 3 years before moving up this year to teach 4th grade. In between teaching, I have gotten to travel around the world and explore new places.
    • Q: How have these experiences shaped your college experience?
      • A: My time in WA really helped shape my college experience. Since I had already learned things in WA such as time management and advocating for myself with professors, anytime I needed anything I was able to rely on what I had learned. The Saturday sessions and summer camp classes prepared me for sitting in lectures at school and taking notes. Also, from the scholarship writing help I received at Willamette Academy I got more scholarship and financial aid support than I know I would have gotten on my own. Everything we did in WA was applicable and helped in my time at college.
    • Q: What do you wish more people would know about the Academy?
      • A: I wish more people knew that Willamette Academy staff really cares about seeing students succeed. Never in my time at WA did I feel like I was a burden or less than other students because of my family background. I never really thought about college or how I would get there, but the WA staff always made me feel like it was possible and that I was capable. After 5 years there it really did feel like my second family.

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  • Natalia Sanchez Del Rio ‘20


    Interview Date: Fall 2020

    Natalia Sanchez Del Rio ‘20 is a freshman at Linfield University and is planning on going into nursing. She received The Ford Family Scholarship which took care of 90% of her unmet college costs and will provide continued academic guidance, leadership development, and personal and professional support.

    • Q: How have you adjusted to Linfield?
      • A: Moving to Linfield was all very new to me. I am the first in my family to go to college, so I didn't know what to expect. Luckily, Willamette Academy was able to give me insight on what college life is like and I built relationships with the upperclassmen of the Academy, so I had others whom I could rely on. It was bumpy at first, but building connections on campus was a very important factor in helping me adjust to the new environment.
    • Q: What has been your biggest challenge?
      • A: This is the first time I am completely on my own, so initially it was really difficult to set my pace and figure out how to manage my time in a way that worked best for me. Because of Coronavirus, I haven't had the traditional college experience of attending games and activities. I was lucky enough to get to live on campus, so I have been able to make some friends through the classes I attend in person. I do love the newfound freedom because it's very different living on your own and taking the first step to adulthood.
    • Q: What has excited you about college?
      • A: I am very interested in my inquiry class, Mexican Migration Expedition, which is about ongoing events within the Mexican community in the United States. It’s a topic that I had never had the opportunity to learn about and it has given me a heightened awareness about political factors that may affect my Latinx community.
  • Qiana Barton '10

    Interview Date: Spring 2022

    Qiana Barton ‘10 graduated from Willamette University in 2014 with a degree in computer science and is now living in Los Angeles.

    • Q: Where are you currently at in your career?
      • A: I'm working remotely for Electronic Arts (EA Games). My primary role is as Senior User Experience Designer (UX) but I work on Front End Development as well since I have a background in coding. I’m excited to have reached a point in my career where my resume and portfolio speaks for itself and has landed me a job with a like minded team, where work-life balance is highly valued.
    • Q: What is your fondest memory of your Academy experience?
      • A: So many things! I remember our photographer, Jill, who would always say "Give me the JUICE!" when taking our photos. Playing capture the flag in the summers and this one time during camp at Goudy, Delia made me laugh while I was drinking some soda that I choked so hard and couldn't breath.
    • Q: What advice would you give Academy students today?
      • A: Take the time to do personal projects that reflect your career interest, they will showcase your skills to an employer even if you don't have a lot of professional experience.
  • William Morales ‘22

    Interview Date: Spring 2023

    William Morales ‘22 is a first-year student at Willamette University. Over the summer, he was an intern at the Willamette Law Library. After a great experience he was invited to continue working throughout the school year.

    • Q: What are you currently doing at the Willamette Law Library?
      • A: I am an undergraduate student assistant working both with public and technical services. I am asked to do a variety of tasks from pulling and processing books that we lend to other libraries, pulling apart books and recycling them. Every year new laws get passed or amended, so I am removing old books from circulation.
    • Q: How has this experience impacted your first semester at WU?
      • A: I want to be a lawyer. Over the summer, I saw students studying for the bar. It was so quiet for weeks until they all came back to celebrate. I called my mom to tell her that the students had passed the bar and were now lawyers! Being in this atmosphere has allowed me to feel like my goal of becoming a lawyer is more realistic. Even though I'm from Salem and feel familiar with campus thanks to the Academy, this experience has helped me with the transition to college.
    • Q: What advice would you give Academy students today?
      • A: Do the work that the Academy requires because it sets you up. I was in Avid but being in WA I was ahead of my AVID peers. Everything from SAT to essays, I was ahead of the game.

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