2022 Students of Distinction
Gracie Abernathy loves science, volunteering and music
Gig Harbor Now is posting profiles of each of the 25 Students of Distinction being honored by the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation. The students will be honored during a banquet from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 18, 2022, at Ocean5, 5268 Point Fosdick Dr.
Student: Gracie Abernathy
School: Gig Harbor High School
Category: Career & Technical Excellence Achievement
Gracie Abernathy has received two varsity letters in community service, volunteering for more than 300 hours through Key Club and at the Point Defiance Zoo. She has also played French horn in band all through high school and is currently a member of the Gig Harbor High School wind symphony.
She developed a “huge nostalgia” for jazz after she went to a jazz festival and saw an accordion player who was “so cool.” Playing in the wind symphony made it easier to cope with the restrictions brought by COVID.
“We’re such a tight group, especially the seniors, so we just figured out ways to keep connected. Band was really a saving grace during the lockdown,” she said. “And when we were finally able to get back together in person, even though we were all spaced apart – just walking into the room I had this wonderful feeling of ‘Oh gosh! We’re back together again!’ We were all so happy we were in tears. Even the band director’s voice was cracking, even though it was just a warm up. It was such a joyful reunion.”
Band turned out to be her favorite thing all through high school. It didn’t start out that way, she said, and she sort of struggled with it in her freshman and sophomore years. But she stuck with it and when COVID hit, she realized how important it was to her.
She also learned to appreciate how much she preferred in-person classes.
“I learned how much I want to be with other people, and I just can’t learn as well in online classes,” she said. Another tough thing was losing her beloved grandfather in 2020.
A passion for science
Gracie has been taking extra science classes through Running Start, and attended a bioengineering camp in 2019, where she got to work at the RAIN incubator in Tacoma (RAIN stands for Readiness, Acceleration, Innovation and Network). Helping on projects at the incubator really sparked her interest in genetics.
“Getting to work with all the people at RAIN and doing hands-on work really inspired my passion for science. And taking more biology courses at TCC has only helped my aspirations grow as I’ve become more and more interested in genetics,” she said.
She has maintained a 3.89 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society. This fall she plans to attend Washington State University to earn a degree in biology and study genetics, in hope of becoming a genetic counselor.
“Gracie is perfect for such a job,” Erin Sullivan Byorick, a longtime friend of Gracie’s family. “Her compassion, intuition of people’s needs, ability to weigh multiple factors and high standards will ensure that her clients — the families facing the most personal of risks — have the information and guidance they need to make the best decisions. As a community and as a society will benefit greatly from Gracie’s education, expertise and abilities.”
Gracie is proud of all the community service work she has done during high school. In addition to being an officer in Key Club, she also volunteers several days a week at an elementary school and helps at FISH food bank.
She’s also enjoyed being a docent at the zoo, where she greeted guests, answered questions and helped them find their way around the site. “I learned about all the animals and the zoo layout,” she said.
Gracie’s advice to younger students is to get involved in as many activities as possible.
“Do everything that piques you interest and it will pay off. If you get the experience with working with people, you’ll learn how rewarding it is to help others.”
School: Gig Harbor High School
Category: Career and Technical Excellence
Parent: Alisa Abernathy
CTE courses and activities: Running start classes in chemistry, pre-calculus, biology, human biology and political science. Bioengineering camp, worked at RAIN incubator; Band all four years (wind symphony); 300-plus hours of community service and two letters; Key Club officer
Best thing about GHHS: “I enjoy that everyone can find their pace; there’s truly something for everyone, especially those who attend Running Start. Having a flexible schedule has improved my experience at GHHS immensely.”