True Colors

Students in Coos Bay, Oregon, get the most out of high school by studying hard, getting involved, and sharing the gospel.

Gold and purple are Marshfield High School colors. They’re the colors of the cheerleaders’ pompoms, the colors on the football team’s jerseys, the colors on the stadium blankets brought by fans to the evening game.

Gold and purple are the colors that Eva, and Darilyn, and Sabrina, and Naomi, and Quinn yell for as they lead the crowd in cheers. They’re the colors Butch tries to keep in front of him as he looks for blockers when he’s running the ball. They’re the colors that Kevin wears on his warm-up jacket before he plays a big tennis match.

The LDS teens in Coos Bay, Oregon, love their school. And, although few in number (40 out of 1250), their example and enthusiasm are changing the lives and attitudes of many of their peers. They are also setting an example for the younger LDS teens just entering their freshman year on how to get the most out of their high school years. And they know what they are talking about. The LDS juniors and seniors are highly visible on the sports teams, on the cheerleading squads, in academics, in clubs, and in music. Among their number are the only National Merit Scholar from their high school, the Coos County Dairy Princess, an all-league football player, the number-one-ranked member of the tennis team, the senior class president, and several members of the school’s highly rated choir.

This group of LDS students is just as active in Church activities. They faithfully attend early-morning seminary and respond to the challenges to share the gospel. They have been instrumental in the conversions of several of their friends.

And the freshmen entering high school want to be just like the seniors. Jeff Smith expressed what many of his classmates were feeling about the older LDS students. “We look up to the kids in the ward because they are involved in all sorts of things at school.”

The freshmen turn to the upperclassmen for the answers to their questions. What do you do to get along well in high school? How do you get to be in fun activities? How do you go about sharing what you believe with your friends?

The LDS juniors and seniors at Marshfield High had a few suggestions on what it takes to make high school great. The freshmen and sophomores were eager to listen. So during a ward service project to help paint an elderly lady’s house (they were using green paint, not gold or purple), the young people got a chance to talk in between brush strokes.

Darilyn Cook takes a particular interest in the incoming freshmen because her younger sister, Christa, is one of them. “This is what I told Christa. Get in there and give your high school years everything that you have. If you start out your freshman year putting off getting involved, nothing will happen. If there is an announcement at school about a club that is meeting during activity period on Friday, just go. I’ve seen people at our school who maybe weren’t in the “in” group. Just because they got involved, now everyone knows who they are and they are well accepted.”

Kevin Lopez, the star tennis player, reinforces what Darilyn says about getting involved. “Don’t hide yourself. Encourage your friends to participate as well. If they don’t want to, go alone. You get to know a lot of people by getting involved.”

Eva Michael, a bundle of energy who loves to lead cheers and attend missionary discussions with friends who are investigating the Church, said, “Take advantage of seminary when you start. We were brats when we were freshmen. Our maturity level was in the negative level. Now I wish I knew more about Church history, but I just wasn’t listening during my freshman year when we studied it.” Eva’s younger brother, Sean, is following her advice. He’s a freshman and is attending seminary, is on the football team, and was elected to student council.

Eva also had some good advice about grades. “Start early and don’t stop. Acquire good study habits at an early age. Don’t say, ‘I’ll do my homework later’; then it’s 10:30 P.M. and you have seminary at 6:30 the next morning.”

The girls were using their cheerleading skills in painting the trim around the windows on the house. They were leading the others in songs and cheers as they worked. And if they were short a ladder to two, they would improvise a human pyramid to reach the topmost spots.

Butch Parker, a star football player and senior class president, agreed with Eva about the importance of grades. He’s going through the process of applying to colleges and is keenly aware of what they look for on transcripts. His advice: “Take good, hard classes. Colleges look at grades, but they also look at what kinds of classes you take. I can’t slack off. I’m still taking hard classes. I almost like taking classes with people I don’t know very well instead of my friends because I get a lot more done.”

This group of upperclassmen seem to have it made, but they now know that the years of sitting on the bench and hanging in there are paying off. When Butch’s family first moved to Coos Bay, Butch was afraid he wasn’t going to make any team. He kept trying until he made the starting lineups in both football and basketball.

Angie Miller is on the volleyball and softball teams. She can encourage the younger students to keep trying even though it can get discouraging. “When I started playing volleyball, I wasn’t very good. I sat on the bench a lot. Then things started clicking. I wouldn’t have the good friends I have now if I had quit. I used to be so shy. People in church helped me a lot. I’m not so self-conscious about what everyone thinks of me now.”

This new self-confidence has carried over into spreading the gospel among their friends. Eva explains how they have gone about it. “The number one thing you have to do is pray about it. I pray for the strength to be able to tell other people about the Church and be able to help my friends. I didn’t realize how I acted was an example to other people until last year when Sabrina and Naomi were baptized.”

Sabrina Echols, a senior who was introduced to the Church by her friends Darilyn and Eva, said, “Don’t be afraid to try out for something just because you might not make it. Don’t get discouraged. It’s better to try.” Sabrina knows what she says is true from personal experience. She tried out several times to be a cheerleader on the rally squad but didn’t make it. Then she tried out for school mascot and was successful. Now she wears the gold and purple that represent her school.

When Sabrina was a freshman, Eva gave her a Book of Mormon with her testimony written in the front. As Sabrina read, she and Eva would talk about it. But another friend saw her reading it and persuaded her not to finish her reading. It took two years of talking with her LDS friends and taking the missionary discussions before Sabrina was ready for baptism. She said, “I prayed one day and I got part of my answer. I felt I was doing the right thing. Everything seemed to be right. The more I prayed, the stronger I felt it was right.”

Sabrina’s baptism affected her life in many ways. “My dad was glad because he’s seen a big change in me.” When asked how she has changed, Sabrina is a little at a loss for words. Her friends chime in with a list. “She’s a lot happier, getting better grades, involved in a lot more things, more self-confident.” Then Sabrina added a few more. “I was kind of shy, but now I’m not as much. It has changed how I feel about my friends and my family, my brothers and sisters.”

Sabrina’s friends and family aren’t the only ones who have noticed a change for the better. Sabrina says that before she joined the Church, she barely made passing grades. She will be the first one of her brothers and sisters to finish high school and the first to go on to college. “My teachers and counselors have all seen this big change. They look back at records and say, ‘What happened? What did she do that is so different?’ I was nowhere, and now I set goals.”

Eva and Darilyn and Sabrina have introduced the gospel to some of their other friends. Naomi Diven is on the rally squad with them, and Quinn Rogers is a school mascot with Sabrina. Naomi was given a copy of a videotape, “Our Heavenly Father’s Plan.” She was intrigued by what she heard. For Naomi, her answer came quickly, “It was quite sudden. During the first discussion we all knew that I would be baptized.” Her decision was reinforced as she heard the missionary discussions several more times with their friend Quinn.

The freshmen in the Coos Bay Ward are quick to see the advantages of having older brothers and sisters and friends who are active and successful in high school. Sean Michael says, “We feel safer. They tell us what is going on. We’re in seminary and have longer hours. It’s kind of intense, but they help us.”

Michael Higgins says, “They give us rides. They put in a good word for us in a sense. We have more confidence. They tell us not to be scared and what to do if we’re late. They try to keep us in line so we won’t embarrass them, and they make sure we’re not having a horrible time in school.”

Christa says, “If you talk to them, they’ll say their freshman year was one of their best years. It’s a time you can really be yourself.”

For the bishop of the Coos Bay Ward, Giles Parker, it is particularly exciting to see the LDS students doing so well at school, because he is also the district school superintendent. He says that these students have proven to a large high school that even while in the minority, they can be “with it” and still keep Church standards.

Whenever the young people of Coos Bay see gold and purple together, they’ll remember their high school days. Because of the good ways they chose to live and the activities they became involved in, high school will remain with them as good memories.

Succeeding in High School

1. Get involved. Join clubs, sports teams, musical groups, or student government. Take your friends along. If they don’t want to participate, go alone. You’ll meet new friends at these activities.

2. Don’t give up. If you are on a team or in a musical or dramatic group, keep practicing. You’ll improve.

3. Keep your grades up. Don’t postpone homework. Learn how to study effectively.

4. Take seminary and attend Church meetings.

5. Live gospel standards and set a good example.

6. Share the gospel with your friends.

[photos] Photography by Janet Thomas

[photos] Because coastal weather is tough on houses, Elizabeth Higgins (left) and Mike Zinsmeister (right) often join their friends on painting projects. Quinn, Eva, Sabrina, Michelle, Darilyn, and Naomi cheer not only for their school, but also for their friends who investigate the Church.

[photos] Working together and talking together, Coos Bay youth share insights about high school life. Butch Parker, a senior, learned firsthand the importance of sticking with his team. Darilyn, Eva, and Sabrina advise their younger brother and sisters that getting involved makes high school enjoyable.