When you ask 18-year-old Amelia Pullen the recipe for what got her to where she is today — preparing to graduate as one of Washougal High School’s four valedictorians for the class of 2019, she likely will point to a mixture that is equal parts family support, the unconditional love of her pets, the guidance of a few dedicated teachers and finding a good balance between hard work and relaxation.
“It has been a crazy whirlwind of an adventure in high school with many ups and downs and twists and hurdles along the way,” Pullen said. “But at the end of the day, I always know my family is here for me no matter what.”
That family includes mom, Amy, a marriage and family therapist; dad, Rob, an Alaskan/Horizon Air pilot and flight instructor; and older brother, Aiden, whom Pullen describes as her best friend and role model.
“He is always there for me when I need him and never fails to amaze me with his strength, courage and genuine kindness,” Pullen said of her brother. “I am beyond thankful for my incredible parents, whose unfaltering love, support and devotion to my happiness and health has gotten me to this place that I am at today. I could never be where I am today without them.”
Pullen’s family also includes several very special members who are more than just “pets,” including a 17-year-old rescue cat — “my homework buddy,” Pullen said of her cat, who curls up next to the teen during long homework sessions — two dogs, Cienna and Shadow, a beta fish and 15 pet chickens.
Pullen, who volunteers at the Vancouver Humane Society as well as the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society in Washougal and plans to become a veterinarian someday, will take her dog, Cienna, with her to Warner Pacific University in Portland in the fall.
“My favorite way to unwind is, hands down, going for a long run, rain or shine, with my dog, Cienna,” Pullen, a track and field and cross-country running star at Washougal High who will run at the college level at Warner Pacific next season, said. “Running with my dog is such an amazing stress reliever and gives me a feeling of overwhelming happiness, peacefulness and pure joy. I will bring (Cienna) to college, as I would not be where I am today with running and in life without her.”
Although Pullen spent the majority of her days at Clark College during her last years at Washougal High, as a member of the Running Start program — which also means she will graduate this month with her high school diploma as well as her associate degree — Pullen said she did have a few special educators at Washougal who helped guide her way.
“Some of my favorite classes from high school have included, but are not limited to, my medical terminology class sophomore year with Mrs. Rule, who was the kindest, most genuine teacher ever and truly cares about each and every one of her students,” Pullen said. “Additionally, I have to add in a shout out to Dr. Don for filling in as a long-term substitute on short notice when, in my sophomore year chemistry class, the teacher left on maternity leave a quarter of the way through the year. Dr. Don was not a chemistry teacher but tried his very best to learn the material alongside us and made the class so fun and entertaining. There have been so many amazing teachers throughout my high school career, and I cannot thank them enough for everything they have done for me and for all of their students.”
Asked if she had advice for other students hoping to someday become valedictorian, Pullen said “don’t be so hard on yourself” is her first piece of advice.
“While, yes, it may be an incredible honor to receive this title of valedictorian, in the end, the most important thing is your health and happiness and living the life that you want for yourself,” she said. “Through these years of hard work and dedication, I have learned a lot about both my physical and emotional wellbeing, as well as how important it is to have balance in your life. Work hard, but not to the point of giving up your happiness. Do things that you love and that bring you happiness and surround yourself with people who bring light and positivity into your life.”