Senior Sendoff: Grace Oh


The first week of my freshman year, I walked into the Marshall library and promptly made the first mistake of my high school career. Against Ms. Sullivan’s advice, I smugly checked out a copy of Steven King’s Misery–despite never having read any other of King’s books and my squarely Percy Jackson level of reading comprehension. After stumbling through the first few chapters, I dragged that poor book around with me for months, anxious that if Ms. Sullivan saw me turn it back in she would somehow know how embarrassed I felt for not listening to her. 

This memory resurfaced recently, as I was pushing all of the books I’d read for AP Lit, grabbing two or three at a time, through the return slot. As I held each book for the last time, I remembered the stories, and how looking back they would always belong to this time in my life, just like how Misery will always belong to 14-year-old Grace Gaddy, precocious and probably wearing a turtleneck. It’s only by comparing this memory of who I used to be to now that I notice how much I’ve grown over the past four years and how much I can see the profound influence of the people who’ve supported me along the way. 

Out of this wonderful group of people, it’s only fair to acknowledge Mr. Brunak first. From when I was but a lowly reporter for The Constitution to his TA, I’ve admired Brunak’s wealth of knowledge and stories, and I am deeply appreciative for his praise and encouragement, which always comes when I need it most. His AP Lang class completely dismantled my narrow perception of (capital-E) English and inspires me to someday teach it myself. 

If you can’t tell already, I’ve always been much more of a humanities girl than a Woman in STEM. 

I spent freshman and sophomore year drudging through the required math and science courses, doing the bare minimum just to get it over with. I would lay low, avoiding participating or asking questions because I was so afraid other people would see me make a mistake. I hated when people saw me only as the bookish, smart girl, and yet I did everything I could to keep up this image. It felt safe to be just a smart girl. I could maintain control by limiting what others saw to what I wanted them to see–what I thought was the best part of myself. 

Looking back, it’s surprising yet perfectly fitting that two science teachers were the ones who taught me to reject this way of being. I owe Mr. Tree and Ms. House a debt of gratitude for their unconditional respect and patience. Their presence and the supportive classroom communities they fostered in Climate Justice and AP Environmental Science taught me to let my guard down. I admitted when I didn’t understand something. I made many mistakes. I was flawed and complicated, and I became more authentically me. While this list of mentors is nowhere near exhaustive, I would like to close it out with the formidable Jim Crane: my Unit 5 Constitution Team coach. Constitution Team introduced me to topics and ideas I never thought I’d find as captivating as it did. Supreme Court jurisprudence? Ordered liberty? Substantive due process?! These are all terms I’d never used in my life, and yet in just a few months, I confidently used them left and right in Q&A. His commitment to our team’s growth and success brought out a level of curiosity and enthusiasm unlike any other I’ve experienced. Jim’s encouragement also helped lead me to committing to his alma mater, UC Santa Cruz (go, Banana Slugs), where I’m planning on majoring in literature, education or legal studies, likely following in his footsteps on a pre-law pathway. 

Each day which passes in these last few weeks feels bittersweet. As a soon-to-be first generation college student, I can’t help but tear up thinking about leaving all the people which make Portland my home, and yet I am so excited to see what my future holds. Thank you McDaniel, you have made me unafraid to take the leap of faith.