Students, Staff Earn Special Distinctions, Awards and Grants

Bellingham School District students, staff and volunteers at Geneva and Larrabee elementary schools, Fairhaven and Shuksan middle schools, Bellingham and Sehome high schools, and Central Services recently made international, national and local news.

Bellingham, Sehome Named Two of  Top High Schools in the Nation by Newsweek
According to a recent report in Newsweek magazine, Bellingham  and Sehome High ranked in the top 1,500 high schools nationwide, representing the top 6% of all public high schools in the country.  Bellingham’s ranking of 1347 and Sehome’s ranking of 1329 are determined by the ratio of the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge tests taken in 2009 to the number of graduating seniors that same year. Schools need at least an equal number of each to make the list.  To learn more, please see the Newsweek article.

National Merit and National Spanish Exam Winners
Sehome High graduates Louise Highleyman and Evan Ingalls were named National Merit Scholars in May by the National Merit organization.  For more information about this prestigious award go to

Highleyman is also the recipient of a National Spanish Exam Scholarship.  She placed third in the 2010 National Spanish Exam Senior Scholarship and will receive a scholarship of $500.

Juntilla Took Top Prize in April Math Competition
Sehome graduate Matt Junttila won the State Math Knowdown Competition in April in Yakima. Junttila competed on a team composed of Bellingham and Sehome students. Bellingham teacher Paul Clement is the sponsor of the event.  For a complete list of results, go to

Shuksan Students Work with Mobile Spay Station
Shuksan teacher Staci Hurley and her eighth graders participated in a service learning project about the pet overpopulation problem in Whatcom County and the United States.  Students covered topics such as responsible pet ownership, the conditions of puppy mills, and the importance of spaying and neutering companion animals.  Patricia Maass, coordinator for the Spay Station, a mobile spay and neuter clinic that offers free and low-cost surgeries, visited students.  As a culminating event, the Spay Station came to Shuksan June 11 and offered free spay and neuter surgeries to 20 dogs and cats belonging to Shuksan families. Several students also held a coin drive for the Spay Station and collected $125.

Geneva Elementary Service Learning Group Raises $3,000 for Pennies for Peace
Helping Hands, a service learning program for grade four and five Geneva students, has been working all year to raise money for Pennies for Peace, an organization run by the “Three Cups of Tea” author Greg Mortenson. Mortensen’s mission is to raise money for children in Pakistan and Afghanistan to build schools, buy supplies and pay for teachers. Helping Hands has been collecting coin donations from Geneva families most of the year along with other fundraising projects: $883 from the change jars, $1,910 from a quilt auction, $105 from a February card sale, and individual donations from Whatcom Educational Credit Union (WECU), Geneva staff and parents were deposited at a local WECU branch on Monday for a total of $3,097 to Pennies for Peace. Fourth grade teacher Samantha Stapleton-Cousens is the Helping Hands coordinator.

Central Services Staff Member Receives Top Honors
Central Services Accounting Supervisor Kathryn Weilage was given the prestigious designation of a Certified School Business Official. Weilage was given this honor on behalf of the officers, directors and members of the WASBO Certification Governance Board.

Farm-to-School Activities in Bellingham Schools
The Bellingham School District has partnered with parents, community members and local businesses recently on several Farm-to-School projects to increase the amount of local and healthy food provided to children. The district is working with a Farm-to-School Advisory Group to continue these efforts in the upcoming school year. To learn more about some of the Farm-to-School projects this past school year, please click here to watch a brief video.

Larrabee Elementary School Awarded Fitness Grant
Larrabee Elementary School was awarded a “Run for Something Better” Grant, on behalf of ING and the National Association of Sport and Physical Education (NASPE). NASPE received more than 350 applications, and Larrabee was selected for one of only 60 available awards. NASPE praises Larrabee for “being at the forefront of the fight against childhood obesity and introducing kids to the benefits of running, a habit of physical fitness and healthy lifestyle choices.” This grant will involve fourth and fifth graders and begin in September.

The Bellingham School District wants to recognize and share the outstanding accomplishments of its students, staff and schools/departments. Do you know a newsmaker? Do you have a Shining Star (student, staff member or community volunteer) to nominate for the School Board to recognize? Please click here to submit information.