Editor’s note: This is the first of four reports on graduates from Eastmont, Wenatchee and WestSide high schools and Wenatchee Valley College.
EAST WENATCHEE — Emma Dahmen is competitive. She appreciates efficiency and organization. She likes numbers and teamwork. She works hard and talks loud.
Those attributes served her well at Eastmont High School and set her on the path for a bright future.
She is one of the Class of 2019’s seven valedictorians — all with a 4.0 grade-point average — set to speak during Friday’s commencement ceremony at the Town Toyota Center.
“It’s been a dream of mine to speak at graduation, actually,” Dahmen said. “I’m excited. I’m one of those people who loves high school. It’s been an awesome journey. It’s been hard at times, but I’ve enjoyed it. I feel honored that I get to express that.”
She would have liked to do more.
“I’ve spent a lot of time dedicated to academics. Getting a 4.0 doesn’t just happen. I wish I could have gone to everything,” she said. “I don’t feel like I missed out, though. I was doing what I love to do. It doesn’t feel like work to me.”
A decade from now, she sees herself working as an economist for a national or international company, or a government agency or nonprofit.
“I really love economics. I think it’s cool. I like math. I like the calculus. I like that there’s a lot of analyzing,” she said.
She has a four-year scholarship ($53,000 a year) for full tuition to New York’s Syracuse University, where she plans to major in economics, with a secondary major in citizenship and civic engagement, and a minor in Spanish.
The daughter of Bradi and Chad Dahmen, Emma Dahmen considered going into the field of financial advising, following in the footsteps of her mother, who is director of financial services for the CNC Financial Group.
EHS teacher Gary Millard suggested economics might be an option because it combines several things she’s both good at and enjoys, from math and calculus to organizational analysis.
She credits her experience in volleyball and choir with helping her develop leadership skills, teamwork and self-confidence.
“On the volleyball court, I discovered that being a loud person was super celebrated. Before, I would get, ‘Emma, stop talking for a second,’” she laughed. “But in volleyball, it’s important to talk. It was a natural.”
She made the varsity squad as a sophomore.
“My role as a setter taught me to work with other people, to understand that things aren’t going to go smoothly all the time. It taught me I can be a positive influence despite adversity,” she said.
The team made it to state for the first time her sophomore year.
“We beat Wenatchee at districts to go on to state. It was a huge moment. One of my favorite high school memories,” she said.
She has plenty of others, including her activities in chamber choir, Key Club and as a school board student liaison. She also volunteered at the Community Foundation of NCW, doing office work for the past four years to earn a varsity letter in community service.
“Choir was something I had never planned to get involved in and I ended up joining during my sophomore year on a whim,” she said. “I immediately found that the people in choir are some of the most supportive, encouraging and positive people I’ve ever met. Volleyball taught me about leadership and selflessness, and choir taught me about being confident in myself no matter what.”
Her post-high school plan started as simple as going to college somewhere out of state.
“I didn’t want to be able to drive home on a weekend. I wanted to force myself to struggle,” she said.
She didn’t know much about New York’s Syracuse University before getting an invitation to apply for the Coronat Scholars Program, which includes four years of full tuition, study abroad opportunities and admission to the honors program.
“I thought, ‘OK. Why not?’” she said.
A few weeks later, she found herself flying to New York as a finalist for an on-campus interview. She was interested in the school’s citizenship and civic engagement program, but wasn’t feeling the pressure. She thinks that helped her in the interview process.
“I was more relaxed than a lot of the people. I thought, if I get it, great. If I don’t, that’s awesome, too. I would have never had the chance to see the campus otherwise,” she said.
She was impressed with the student atmosphere at Syracuse.
“It was unmatched compared to every college I’ve visited. I love having pride for the school and going to games and being involved,” she said.
She might return to the Wenatchee Valley eventually, but not for a while.
“It’s a wonderful place to raise kids. And it’s a supportive community. But it’s important to grow up and discover yourself,” she said. “For me, for the next few years, I want to go somewhere else. I want to get a job on the East Coast maybe. I definitely want to spend my 20s exploring. I’m not a person who needs to have my life all figured out. I want to explore and do everything I possibly can. I want to travel and enjoy the vastness of the world and see how different life is in other places.”