2022 Students of Distinction

Kylan Sonnen is strong, resilient, a good friend

Posted on May 16th, 2022 By:

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: Kylan Sonnen

School: Peninsula High School

Category: Overcoming Adversity

The challenges Kylan Sonnen has faced during his high school years would deplete many people — including many adults.

In 2019, as he was entering PHS as a freshman, his father was diagnosed with brain cancer. Kylan missed many school activities because his mom and dad were at the Mayo Clinic in New York while his father had massive brain surgery that left him paralyzed on his left side.

As a result, Kylan and his siblings had to help with all aspects of home life doing extra chores, cooking, bathing his dad, helping him eat and dress, lifting him into the car. Kylan had to drop out of soccer and he had some ups and downs academically. Still, in spite of everything, he’s been able to maintain a 3.4 GPA.

His father passed away in July 2020, but because of COVID restrictions, the family had to postpone the memorial services for a year. They were finally able to celebrate his life last July.

Kylan Sonnen

Peace through fly fishing

Kylan fought to find a path forward. He focused on fly-fishing — mostly out in front of the family’s home on the Burley Lagoon, and he built a four-foot replica of the Britannica, the sister ship of the Titanic, out of Legos. He modeled it from photos he found on the internet. He’d like to start a Lego-building competition for elementary school kids to raise money to help a deserving student go to college, he said.

He also switched from playing soccer to wrestling, which he’d been doing since childhood with his dad as his coach. He’s been captain of the PHS wrestling team the past two years and took eighth place in the state competition this season. That’s the thing he’s proudest of, he said, but it was also bittersweet because his dad wasn’t there to share his success.

Sports and his interactions with his teachers and fellow students have provided his favorite high school moments. And also being able to visit Peru with his Spanish class in 2019 — pre-pandemic.

The biggest challenges were the loss of his father and then having to be isolated from his friends and teammates when the COVID shutdown occurred. “The isolated learning was OK in some subjects,” he said. “But other subjects became incredibly hard. I really enjoyed history classes, for instance, but sometimes it was a challenge to turn in assignments on time.”

Kathryn Crabtree, PHS history and civics teacher, has known Kylan and his family for more than a decade and taught him in her civics class.

“From the first time Kylan entered my class, I could tell that he is a student with an inquisitive nature and desire to learn,” she wrote in a letter of recommendation. “He’s a cool-headed young man who displays much grace under pressure both in the classroom and on the wrestling mat.

“Perhaps my favorite thing about him is the humor he brings to the academic environment. Too often, students as cerebral as Kylan work themselves too hard, taking things too seriously and stressing out. Kylan knows how to have fun — and is very funny – but also knows when it is time to get back to work.

“Class discussions are always richer because of his participation. He never backs down from embracing discussions on controversial questions and ideas, but he does so out of a true desire to see all sides of issues and I think it is his openness to opinions that may vary from his own that allows him to take class discussions to a higher level.”

Next on his list is to attend Linfield University in Oregon in the fall to study history and computer science.

Kylan Sonnen

School: Peninsula High School

Category: Overcoming Adversity

Parent: Margaret Sonnen

Activities: Soccer and wrestling. Wrestling team captain, took 8th place in state.

Favorite teacher: “I have several favorite teachers — Mr. Miranda, Mrs. Crabtree, Mr. Griffin. If I had to pick just one I’d say Gary Griffin is my favorite. He pushes me, even when things were tough, to be the best person I could be. He makes you laugh too, which always helps.”

Best thing about PHS: “The students and teachers make Peninsula High School a great place to learn. The teachers really care about the students and make time for you when you’re struggling. I never felt like I was alone or just a number.”

Advice to younger students: Try to stick with good learning habits. Don’t goof off and don’t procrastinate.