12.4.14:Everyday Heroes: Extraordinary students among us
12.4.14:Everyday Heroes: Extraordinary students among us
Posted on 12/03/2014

Sarah Ormiston

Kalles Junior High


Look up in the bleachers at a Kalles Junior High School sporting event and she is there, cheering loudly as the team scores points.


She is also a familiar face in front of the junior high on most mornings, joining other leadership students in welcoming students as they arrive at school.


Even teens weighted down with books and musical instruments can’t help but smile as she hurries around the courtyard near the entry doors, flashing her big smile and reaching out for a fist bump or a high five from every student who passes.


Ninth grader Sarah Ormiston is one of Kalles Junior High’s biggest cheerleaders.


“She is a major part of the heart and soul of this building,” said Principal Guy Kovacs. “Sarah, daily, makes other people’s days.”


She rarely misses a school dance, fundraiser, talent show, or opportunity to do community service, and she is usually the one helping behind the scenes to make all of the events go smoothly.


Her classmates not only notice, but have supported her in a big way.


The teen made school history last year as the first student with special needs to be elected to serve on the school Senate. Five students are elected from each grade level to serve.


Last month, Sarah said she burst into tears when she learned that her ninth-grade classmates had once again elected her to a Senate seat.


“It is such an honor,” she said. “I feel so blessed.”


While admittedly nervous giving her election speech before a crowd of her peers, Sarah said, “I just spoke from my heart.”


Associated Student Body (ASB) President Xander Waits said that is typical of Sarah.


“She is the most supportive and uplifting person you will meet here at Kalles,” he said. “She is always trying to lend a hand.”


Sarah spends two class periods a day in the school’s self-contained classroom for students with special needs. The rest of the day, she attends general education classes including physical science, choir, culinary arts, and leadership.


The 16-year-old said she volunteers whenever she can, including helping to direct cars in the school parking lot during the fall Washington State Fair. Proceeds collected during the annual Fair parking benefit the school’s ASB fund.


“I just like helping other people,” she said. “I like making them happy.”


Anyone who knows Sarah also knows she loves sports. She has memorized the names and jersey numbers of the entire Seattle Seahawks team and watches all of their games on television.


Sarah competes on the school’s track team, plays on the Special Olympics basketball team, and is an assistant coach for the seventh-grade boys basketball team.


She assists boys basketball coach Ben Riippi, a teacher in the Kalles Junior High special education program and an administrative intern in the Puyallup School District.


“Sarah is amazing,” Riippi said. “She always wants to serve others.”


Earlier this fall, Riippi asked Sarah and two other students with special needs to speak to nearly 50 people gathered for a new substitute teacher training at the school district’s administrative office. The students shared about their special education programs.


“I’m so proud of her,” said her mother, Amy. “She has gained so much confidence at Kalles. The school is so warm and welcoming and has given her the opportunity to be included and part of a team.”


Giving back to her school and community is one of her favorite things to do, Sarah said. This year, she hopes to work with leadership students to organize a schoolwide sock drive to help the local homeless population stay warm, especially during winter.


“It is hard to see the great things happening at Kalles without seeing Sarah’s smiling face,” Kovacs said. “She makes a positive difference every day by kind, simple acts toward others. She is an incredible example to all of us!”