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: Isabel Dionne
School: Peninsula High School
Category: Overcoming Adversity
When she was in the first grade, Izzy was diagnosed with anxiety. Her parent’s divorce, when she was nine, added to her stress. In the eighth grade, she lost her hair and had to stop seeing her father because of the emotional trauma and stress the visits created.
She felt like she was being stretched and twisted like silly putty.
In her sophomore year, she suffered from multiple sexual assaults and spent three days in a trauma inpatient facility.
As a junior, she was failing her classes, then did a difficult 30-day stay in a residential treatment center. She was miserably homesick, frightened and felt completely out of control. In the second week, she hit rock bottom.
“When people say the only place you can go from rock bottom is UP, they are not lying,” she said. “But I was determined to win the bloody battle against anxiety and, in my hardest moments, I found my resilience.”
She came home stronger and feeling better than she’d ever felt and today, in her senior year, Isabel is easily passing her classes and thriving in life.
“Winning my battle against anxiety didn’t just allow me to get back in control of my mind, but it also gave me the freedom to rediscover myself,” she said.
“I learned that I can be a leader — I am a leader. That I can view the world from a non-judgmental lens; that I am balanced and mindful; that I am determined and a fighter; that I’m strong. I am resilient.”
The very fact that she is graduating is a huge achievement, she said. And proof of all that she has overcome and accomplished.
While she likes all of her classes, her favorite activity is playing trumpet in the PHS jazz band. She enjoys going to competitions and appreciates that the jazz band is a smallish ensemble, which makes for a tighter group of friends.
There’s also a lot more room for interpretation and expression in jazz, compared to concert band, she said. And as lead trumpet, she’ll play a solo on “My Funny Valentine” in the band’s year-end concert.
Not surprisingly, the biggest challenges for Izzy have been her mental health struggles, especially during Covid.
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“I was already struggling before the shutdown, and that isolation and uncertainty made it even harder to cope,” she said.
The challenges also led to the thing she’s most proud of — going to a residential treatment center and winning her battle with anxiety.
“It was incredibly scary and I had some horrible moments,” she said. But she feels that it’s important to talk about the struggles and her success in overcoming them.
Next on her list is earning a Bachelor of Nursing degree in Pediatric Emergency Nursing from TCC. Or she might move to the United Kingdom to study because, she said, nurses get more respect and recognition there.
Her therapist and her teachers are quick to acknowledge the strength and determination Izzy has shown in her recovery.
Social Studies instructor Kathryn Crabtree let Isabel be her teaching assistant this year.
“I must admit that if you had told me in her sophomore year that I would be delighted to have her as my TA in her senior year, I would be reluctant to believe you,” Crabtree wrote. “She’s a different person emotionally, academically and socially. She actively engages in partner and group work, usually as the leader, consistently turns in work of high quality and is one of the most eloquent speakers for class discussions.
“She never backs down from embracing discussions on controversial questions, thoughts and ideas… out of a true desire to see all sides of an issue.”
Izzy’s therapist, Debby Mumm Feinagle, agreed. “The fact that she was committed to herself and took responsibility to do the strategies to manage her anxiety tells me that my job as a therapist is now to simply cheer this amazing kid on as she graduates and moves on to the next phase of her life. I will always be proud to say, ‘I knew her when…’ as this young woman goes out into the world and does great things with the gifts and talents she has been given.”
Parent: Mirelle Dionne
Favorite teacher: Kathryn Crabtree: “She has always supported me. You can really tell how much she cares for her students. She is funny, kind and overall an amazing person.”
Best thing about PHS: The staff. People treat students at PHS with so much kindness. All the teachers are really passionate about their teaching.”
Advice to younger students: Take time to learn to love yourself. Take time for yourself. Give yourself grace and take a day off if you need to. You don’t have to be perfect.”
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