2023 Students of Distinction
Wren Rioux is committed to fighting stereotypes
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: Wren Rioux
School: Gig Harbor High School
Category: Overcoming Adversity
Wren Rioux is a transgender man who has made it his mission to make other kids in similar situations feel welcome in school and in society.
“I have had the amazing opportunity to be included in school events and social activities despite my gender identity and the diversity of my situation,” he said. “But I am one of the very few students who are part of the LGBTQ+ community who’ve experienced these amazing, positive things and have the relationships and connections I have.”
Among the positive experiences Wren has enjoyed at GHHS was being elected the first transgender “Tide Guy” and first transgender nominee for Homecoming King. Tide Guys are “like chilled-out cheerleaders at football and basketball games,” he said. “We’re spirit leaders. We dress up and make sure that the student section at games is being loud but not disrespectful, and that everyone is having a good, safe time.“
Winning that honor took him completely by surprise. But It was an affirmation from his fellow students that he fits in, he said.
As it was for students throughout the district, dealing with the isolation of the pandemic was his biggest challenge. “I’m not a big academic guy,” he said. “So it’s always been kind of a challenge to do well in school. But COVID was hard. I thrive in a social environment. We were told it would be two-weeks off, and then it was a year. But we found ways to stay in contact with each other.”
Wren is proud that he has been able to make a difference, opening doors for other trans kids to feel comfortable at sporting events and elsewhere. His passion project for English class was to design affordable, stylish clothing so the students and staff can show their support to LGBTQ+ students even after he graduates. “I want them to feel welcome,” he said.
Tifny Elcher, administrative assistant in the GHHS office, speaks highly of Wren. “A more affable and delightful student you will never find,” Elcher said. “He has faced prejudices that many of his peers have not experienced, but he is resilient and determined and faces challenges head on. I’ve never seen him without a smile on his face and spring in his step. He positively radiates through his personality and delights those of us lucky enough to interact with him.”
This fall, Wren will attend Western Washington University to study business, with a focus on advertising. He plans to minor in journalism. “I want to use my creativity and experience to spread love and community on a mass level,” he said.
His advice to students just starting high school: “Put school as a priority. Enjoy even the littlest moments because they can also become big moments.”
Parent: Kimberly Rioux
Activities/Accomplishments: Tide Guy (Spirit Leader); Homecoming King nominee
Favorite teacher: Ms. Lenkaitis– leadership and digital photography teacher. “She has always been so welcoming and supportive of mine and others’ situations. Ms. L takes the time to make sure her students are OK and feel comfortable while also doing her job extremely well. She makes school a fun activity and makes sure the school functions will be good memories that will never be forgotten. I wish everyone could have the opportunity to be taught by Ms. L.”
Best thing about GHHS: “The sense of community in the administrative staff. They care about each student individually and even when it doesn’t seem like it, they have our best interest in mind. There’s never a dull moment with them and they always seem genuinely invested.”