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SWHS valedictorians three times perfect

South Whidbey High School
South Whidbey High School's class of 2002 will be graduating three valedictorians this year, Patrick Boyle, Tim Gabelein and Hannah Shafaat. Not pictured is Jonathan Scoles, the class salutatorian.
— image credit: Gayle Saran

What happens when three graduating seniors have have perfect, 4.0 GPAs? Simple. The class has three valedictorians.

On Saturday, South Whidbey High School's top three graduates -- Patrick Boyle, Tim Gabelein and Hannah Shafaat -- will lead about 166 students as the Class of 2002 receives its diplomas.

Without exception, these three perfect scholars credit their success to enthusiastic teachers, family support and their own desire to learn. Like many students at South Whidbey High School, the valedictorians' achievements were not limited to academics: Believe it or not, they made time for things other than bookwork.

Shafaat said making room for other activities is a mindset.

"If you want something done, ask a busy person," she said.

Shafaat was a member, president and vice-president of her school's Key Club, president of the High Q and Knowledge Bowl groups, a volunteer with the youth mentoring program, served on the youth council for the South Whidbey Youth Center and is a Friends of Freeland. board member. In her very spare time she performed in every school musical, was a member of the Honor Society and served as Associated Student Body treasurer this year.

But even with her social life and a part time job, Shafaat said it was easy to get everything done.

"I find it's just a matter of making time for what's important, and for what you really want to do," said Shafaat.

One of Shafaat's co-valedictorians, Tim Gabelein, was able to strike a similar balance with sports. During his athletic career -- which had him competing three seasons a year -- it was not unusual for Gabelein to do homework on team buses heading home after games.

"The key to it for me was developing good study skills as a freshman and sticking to them throughout high school," he said. "That's what carried me through."

Gabelein, whose first sports love is basketball, plans to play for Seattle Pacific University next year while majoring in engineering. His high school coach, Andy Davis, said Gabelein will be successful.

"He is a top notch person, very sportsmanlike on the field," he said "He set a goal to play basketball at college and achieved it."

The third valedictorian, Boyle, is best known for the music he makes. A piano and clarinet player, he is a member of the all-state band, has performed with Saratoga Chamber Orchestra, and played with the high school's the jazz and the pep bands. If all that didn't burn up his time after school, Boyle also volunteered with Big Brother/Big Sister and taught Spanish at the intermediate school and primary school.

He did study for his classes, too. Focusing on the learning rather than grades has been Boyle's philosophy. The strategy worked well enough to get him into next fall's freshman class at Boston College.

"Learning is most important, the grades are not as important," he said. "For me it was focusing on the process."

All three soon-to-be graduates credit parents with much of their success. For Boyle, mother Kate, a nurse at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center, provides a hard-working role model.

"Whenever it feels like I have too much homework, I remind myself how hard my mom works," he said.

Gabelein said his parents, Ray and Laurie Gabelein, were always there for him during the past four years of school.

"They are very supportive parents, definitely," he said.

In addition to her parents, Melanie Shafaat of Langley and Tariq Shafaat of Freeland, Hannah Shafaat said high school science teacher Mark Racicot was responsible for her academic inspiration. It was Racicot's enthusiasm for astronomy and physics that fueled her acedemic pursuits.

"He made the classes fun and interesting," she said.

Keeping with the science theme, she will attend the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, where she plans to major in physics.

Considering what is to come for the Class of 2002, Shafaat said she has a many hopes and dreams.

"I am looking forward to the next step in my life," she said.

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