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Henley High School: Steven Cohara

Henley High School senior and ASB president Steven Cohara, pictured here during Friday’s graduation practice, is the epitome of a successful graduate. But he didn’t start out that way. The ACE (Accepting the Challenge of Excellence) award winner used self-discipline and motivation to dramatically improve his academics and GPA.

Henley High School’s Steven Cohara is the epitome of a successful senior. He is student body president. A student-athlete, he takes honors classes and volunteers with the Key Club and SMART reading program.

He will attend college next fall, studying communication disorders and sciences with the goal of earning a master’s degree and working as a speech pathologist.

But four years ago, Cohara was a C student with no specific goals. His two older sisters didn’t graduate from a traditional high school, and he hadn’t ruled out following the same path.

“I just didn’t have the motivation. I didn’t really believe in myself … so why even try?” he said. “That was my mindset until I met some amazing people who changed my life.”

Reaching goals

On Sunday, he will be the first child in his immediate family to graduate high school, crossing the stage with 141 of his classmates. He credited his parents, Brooke and Scott Cohara, as well as the school’s faculty for helping him reach his goals.

Cohara’s efforts were recognized this spring when he won an ACE award, which recognizes high school students who have made dramatic changes in their attitudes and performances during their high school years.

His mother, Brooke Cohara, is proud of the young man her son has become.

“He’s got a lot of self-discipline and he likes to learn. If he has a goal, he goes after it,” she said. “It’s so neat to see.”

She credited his success, in part, to the positive impact of his teachers and coaches.

“Once he became active in sports and leadership, I just saw a remarkable difference,” she said. “It’s always good to know there are other people out there who love your children and are looking out of them.”

Leadership, work

One of those people was Henley math teacher Dee Hahn, who first met Cohara when he was a freshman.

“I talked to him about his goals, and he pretty much didn’t have any,” Hahn recalled. “We talked about being a leader, working hard and having dreams.”

She encouraged him to take two math classes – geometry and algebra II – his sophomore year so he could take college-level math classes the following year. He continued to challenge himself, taking both pre-calculus and trigonometry his junior year.

Cohara decided to try honors courses and discovered that he was a good student. He started getting As and Bs, nailing 3.5 GPAs both his junior and senior years.

“I’m not at the top of my class, but I work really hard,” he said. “It doesn’t come easy to me, but I enjoy school.”

His school resumé today includes leadership positions – he was junior class president before being named ASB president his senior year – honors classes and Key Club. He was a four-year football and track athlete.

The next steps

Cohara, after winning the ACE award and a $500 scholarship at the county level, now has a chance to win at the regional and possibly national levels. ACE, which stands for Accepting the Challenge of Excellence, is sponsored by the National Exchange Club.

He has earned other scholarships as well, accumulating several thousand dollars to help him with college costs. This fall, he will use the Oregon Promise – which pays for two years of community college – to attend Linn Benton Community College in Albany. After two years, he plans to transfer to University of Oregon or Portland State University to continue his studies.

His immediate future starts Monday, when he begins full-time summer work as a wildland firefighter for the Oregon Department of Forestry.

“He’s the young man we want all our kids to emulate,” said Jack Lee, principal at Henley High School. “He’s a leader mature beyond his years who, for decades to come, we’ll be proud to call our own.”