2024 Students of Distinction

Sarah Neff models service and compassion

Posted on May 9th, 2024 By: Joshua Eskew

Gig Harbor Now is posting profiles featuring the Students of Distinction being honored by the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation. These students will be celebrated during a banquet from 6 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 15, 2024, at Ocean5, 5268 Point Fosdick Dr.

Sarah Neff 

School: Henderson Bay High School 

Category: Community Service Achievement 

In a world often consumed by self-interest, Henderson Bay High School’s Sarah Neff stands as a shining example of altruism and dedication to community service.  

Sarah Neff

A journey of compassion

While many students might spend their Spring Breaks on vacation, Henderson Bay High’s Sarah Neff spends hers in service. “Community service is probably one of my favorite things to do.” On a recent InterAct Club trip to Guatemala, she visited clinics, hospitals, and the homes of locals. She witnessed the dire circumstances that many around the world still live in, from unclean water to unsafe housing. There, she felt confirmed in her call to serve, and while she’s still contemplating whether she wants to be a museum curator or an Episcopal priest, she knows that however she lives, she’s going to do it for others.

This call, she feels, has been nurtured by the great teachers and staff she has known at her high school. It has also been nurtured by her frequent interactions with animals and the rest of the natural world. Living on what she calls a “mini farm,” she also owns five goats, which she describes as both “really cute” and “really weird.” “When I come home from school,” she observes with amusement, “I’ll see one of them in our apple tree.” She also appreciates the deer that come to visit her family’s land. 

Pursuing paths of purpose 

As she contemplates her future, Sarah remains open to the possibilities that lie ahead. After exploring coursework at Tacoma Community College, she may transfer to a four-year university. However, for now, she’s taking her time to weigh her options, pursue her service work, and think about the change she wants to see in the world. “I just want people to be able to live happy lives,” she says. And so, while her peers may use their breaks to pursue their own goals, she’ll continue using hers to give back to others.

Sarah Neff 

Category: Community Service Achievement 

Parents: Kate Wolfe and Scot Neff 

Achievements/Activities:  Student School Board Representative; project manager of Henderson Bay high school’s garden project, which started with getting the big toy removed from our back yard; volunteer at the Harbor History Museum; Distinguished Service Citation presented by Gig Harbor Rotary Midday; student of the quarter; volunteer for the greater gig harbor and Tacoma community.

Favorite Teacher: When asked who her favorite teacher is, Sarah says she has two. “Firstly, there is Mrs. Ehli, Band director at Kopachuck Middle School. She inspired me all throughout middle school to continue in music, and while I am no longer involved in band, or playing the clarinet, she helped me become who I am today and has encouraged me to do my very best.  More recently, there is Emily, the leadership teacher at Henderson Bay. When I got to Henderson, I was not ready to talk in front of my entire school, or to put myself out there, but because of her I now enjoy being myself around others, I enjoy volunteering even more than I used to, and I enjoy public speaking with my peers.”  

Best thing about high school: “The best thing about Henderson Bay is the community. We are practically a second family, and because of that, staff and students form insanely strong bonds. Our leadership class is a family, our entire school is a family, and the community we have here makes it easy to have a sense of belonging.”