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The student news site of Mountlake Terrace High School in Mountlake Terrace, Washington.

The Hawkeye

The student news site of Mountlake Terrace High School in Mountlake Terrace, Washington.

The Hawkeye

The student news site of Mountlake Terrace High School in Mountlake Terrace, Washington.

The Hawkeye

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The Hawkeye June 2024 Issue
1st Amend Award School

ASL standout signs off

©HAWKEYE image credit: Duyen Nguyen

Annabelle Westby is a predominant figure in many clubs and after-school activities, but who is she outside of school? While it’s almost impossible to boil down a person into just words, the best way to describe Westby is deeply compassionate and charismatic. “Annabelle is one of the most kind and caring people I’ve met. She has this wonderful ability to offer a helping hand to those who need it and uplift the people around her. Her aspirations to work with deaf and hard of hearing people is a perfect example of this; making sure that they have equal opportunities in our society,” senior Owen Thorpe said.
Post high school, Westby wishes to attend Edmonds College to earn her Associate in Arts (AA) degree, then transfer to Western Oregon University. She hopes to become a courtside ASL interpreter, and then work with children.
“I want to be the best that I can be, it’s something that I’m really passionate about,” Westby said. A lot can happen during the four years someone spends in high school. Friendships can break up, people learn and grow, and overall high school is a time chalked full of change. Someone can learn a lot through their high school career, it’s an incredibly formative time for many.
“I’ve learned to draw boundaries better because I know you can’t accept everyone into your life no matter how badly you want to,’’ Westby said. Looking back on the four years spent here, it’s almost impossible for any senior, including Westby, to not acknowledge the amount of growth they’ve had. “I think a part of being this age is about learning who you are, and I think I’m getting a better grasp, but I mean I’m always figuring out what aspects of me I’m proud of and what ones I want to change. I don’t think that really ends at the 25-year mark, when your frontal cortex solidifies, I think it’s constant growth.” Westby said.
Westby is also heavily involved in the ASL club, as they were the co-club president throughout this school year. Annabelle’s ASL teacher Merri Pearson said “Annabelle has taken ASL during all four years of high school here at Terrace. She began with ASL in her freshman year. I joined Terrace as a teacher during her second year of ASL. During ASL II, Annabelle showed a remarkable ability in her understanding of deaf culture. She began picking up vocabulary and spending a lot of [time] practicing with her peers. She was and is a thoughtful student who cares about others and this naturally spread to her caring about the Deaf community and its unique culture…I encouraged her to continue developing both her receptive and expressive skills. I also brought up the notion that she might want to consider interpreting as a profession. Little did I know, she would take this to heart.” Westby plans to take her passion for American Sign Language to college with her. Throughout this year, Westby advocated for the deaf and hard of hearing community, as the ASL club was directly involved in many deaf events and deaf/hard of hearing outreach events.
Westby described her love of ASL as a deep love of deaf culture and she not only wants to pursue a career in interpreting, but she also wants to help create opportunities for these communities. Pearson also added that Westby has involved herself heavily in the ASL classes, providing aid to students when Pearson or other interpreters couldn’t. “In addition, this year she has really helped students out when there hasn’t been an assigned interpreter present. I have a severe profound hearing loss and with classes of students, it is really important that I have someone there to facilitate the communication. Yes, we can type out on our phones, fingerspell, or write on paper, but it isn’t the same as having a conversation. Several times this year Annabelle has helped out and been able to keep the communication going when I don’t have an interpreter,” Pearson added.
While Westby loves helping her community and the people around her, sometimes it can be difficult to help herself as well. “It’s hard to find a balance because I’m in all of this stuff and then as an oldest daughter that can be a big challenge. I have a strong support network with my friends and my family, but it can be a lot to take on, and I’ve had hard times taking care of myself properly,” Westby said. This is an issue that many young people can relate to, it can be incredibly difficult to balance all the work you’re expected to do, all while properly taking care of yourself. Westby herself said there were many steps she had to take to reach a point where they were taking care of themself. “A lot of the reason why people struggle, and why I struggle is because of outside noise, so I just took it small. The main things I did were just seemingly basic things, like having a little skincare routine because it allowed me to show myself that I cared.” Mental health can be incredibly difficult to manage as a high schooler, especially when involved with so many extracurriculars. Westby explained that along with school pressures, she also struggled at home. “My grandma has dementia, so that has been pretty hard for me.” Even through these challenges, Westby continued to show compassion and growth, showing all those around her that these setbacks weren’t going to hurt forever and it’s possible to grow and change even while you’re struggling.
Through these last four years, Westby has learned what it meant to be herself and has grown into the person they are today. When asked what advice she had for underclassmen, her response was: “Learn to notice. Any small thing. Being able to see someone who is having a bad day and just do a little thing that could make them a little bit happier, and again that self-care aspect is important because a lot of that shows emotional maturity. Being able to stand up for yourself is [also] a big thing, being able to know at least a little bit of who you are and what you believe in and what lines can’t be crossed, and being able to defend them.”
Learning who you are and learning who the people around you are is one of the core aspects of high school life. It can feel so overwhelming starting your high school years not fully knowing, but by the time you finish high school, you have a better understanding of yourself and others.

Annabelle is such a kind and caring person. She has inspired me to fight for things I believe in because of how many times I’ve seen her do the same. I will miss her so, so much, but I’m excited to see how far she’ll go in her life.”

— Mia Smith

“Look at the good things. I know it’s like ‘Stop and smell the roses’ I don’t mean it like that, I mean it like ‘Oh wow the sky is really cool today’ or ‘Wow I picked up that piece of garbage and I threw it away properly’ like being able to appreciate the little things helps you to appreciate the bigger things. Like just today there was a lot of stuff going on and then I went outside and checked on the garden beds and I saw that [the] ‘Life Skills’ [class] had planted flowers, and that was enough to make me smile and I just focused on that,” Westby said.
Post high school there are a lot of things to look forward to. New schools, a new chapter in life, and figuring out who you are. “I’m just looking forward to becoming a whole person. I’m looking forward to learning more about myself and continuing my friendships with the people I have and meeting new people. I want to be the most helpful person I can to anyone I meet,” Westby said.
High school can pass like a blur, and when it’s all over it can be hard not to get overwhelmed, “It’s weird knowing four years have passed because it doesn’t feel like that at all.” Westby’s first year at Terrace was during the COVID-19 pandemic, causing them and many other seniors to have a very peculiar high school experience. “I’m just really grateful to the teachers who helped me get to where I am, especially Merri Pearson for being so supportive and making sure I was successful.”
Westby is not only involved in extracurriculars, but she also helps students in and out of school.
“Annabelle is such a kind and caring person. She has inspired me to fight for things I believe in because of how many times I’ve seen her do the same. I will miss her so, so much but I’m excited to see how far she’ll go in her life,” junior Mia Smith said.
While Westby may be leaving, her legacy here at Terrace still follows many students as they walk through the halls. Whether it be in ASL classrooms, friendship circles, or from readers looking over this article, Westby has made an impact here on Terrace that won’t soon be forgotten

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About the Contributor
Lucas Barquin
Lucas Barquin, News Editor
Lucas Barquin joined HSM in 2022 because he enjoyed writing and wanted to join a group where he could continue writing with others. Lucas’ goal is to write about important topics, and to make every student feel seen and heard. In his free time Lucas enjoys drawing, listening to music and playing D&D. His post high school plans are to attend an art school for graphic design and illustration.
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