2023 Students of Distinction

Olivia Simmonds is top of her class at Peninsula High

Posted on May 12th, 2023 By:

Gig Harbor Now is posting profiles of each of the 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 17, 2023, at Ocean5, 5268 Point Fosdick Dr.

Student: Olivia Simmonds

School: Peninsula High School

Category: Academic Achievement

Olivia Simmonds has compiled a long list of accomplishments during her high school career, even though, as she says, she has “never had a ‘normal’ year.”

As happened to every senior in the district, freshman year was shut down by COVID. Classes were all on-line during sophomore year. When in-person classes resumed in junior year, students still had to wear masks and adjust to ever-changing guidelines.

Senior year has been the closest thing to “normal” that Olivia and her classmates have known, but for her, it was different because she enrolled in Running Start.


Through it all, she has maintained a 4.0 GPA and ranks at the top of her graduating class.

AP and honors

And she’ll be graduating with an AA degree from TCC with an emphasis in history.

She has taken 11 AP courses, receiving honors in most of them. She has excelled on the cross country and track teams and the lacrosse team that won the state championship in her junior year.

Simmonds was captain of the JV soccer team as a senior and was so good that her coach drafted her to play with the varsity team in the state playoffs. As a freshman, she was a nominee for the Tacoma Athletic Commission’s Athlete of the Year in cross country. She won the award in her sophomore year.

And that’s just her sports achievements.

Knowledge Bowl star

Academically, Olivia has earned varsity letters in Knowledge Bowl and placed fifth in the state.

“I joined when I was a sophomore and I was the only girl and the only underclassman. But then in my junior year we did really well and I placed fifth in state.” This year she was Knowledge Bowl captain and has recruited many new team members.

She earned Student of the Quarter awards in Spanish and chemistry, and accumulated 336 hours of community service through her work with her church, Leadership activities, F.I.S.H. Food Bank and S.A.V.E. Thrift Store.

It’s hard to pick her favorite high school experience, she said. But the underlying factor in all her good memories has been spending time with “so many great friends and great teachers and great coaches.”

Leadership and service

The biggest challenge was being isolated from her classmates during the COVID shutdown. In the early phase, school was optional and it was difficult to stay on top of studying and learning. Then in her junior year, she took several very stressful, difficult classes.

In spite of the challenges, she said, she is most proud of being involved in a leadership role in ASB and serving her community through her church and other activities.

In a letter of recommendation, PHS history teacher Kyle Kendall noted that Olivia’s “involvement in school athletics, leadership positions in her church, volunteerism in the community and clubs paint a picture of a young woman who possesses great integrity, is involved and cares deeply about others. She wants others to feel valued and ‘seen’ and goes out of her way to make this happen.”

Olivia credits much of her success to her faith. “My faith is part of who I am and my values from my faith have helped me be successful, kind and loving. It’s a source of hope when I’m freaking out. I just know that it’s going to be OK.”

This fall, Olivia will attend Grand Canyon University in Phoenix to study for a career in international business or international law.

Her advice to younger students just heading into high school: “Don’t be afraid to try new things. Get out of your comfort zone. High school only happens once so take advantage of all the things it offers.”

Olivia Simmonds

GPA: 4.0; Class ranking 1 of 341

Achievements: 11 AP/Honors courses; Student of the Quarter in Spanish and Chemistry; ASB Secretary; PHS Senator; Knowledge Bowl captain; varsity letters in track, cross country, lacrosse, soccer; 336 hours of community service

Favorite teacher: Mr. Kendall. “He is a genuine and caring teacher who always works hard to make lessons interesting. He cares about his students and fosters an atmosphere of mutual respect between himself and the students in his class.”

Best thing about PHS: “PHS has a great community with lots of school spirit and I love how teachers genuinely care about their students. I believe that the people and relationships at Peninsula are what makes this school so special.”