High school seniors are missing some of the school traditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They won’t be walking across the stage for graduation, at least not as of now, sharing their brief message of thanks and what’s next.

The Big Bear Grizzly is spotlighting high school seniors during the next several weeks, helping to honor their accomplishments.

Email Kathy Portie at kportie.grizzly@gmail.com to set up an interview for your Big Bear High School or Chautauqua High School senior to be featured during the coming weeks.

Gabby Arnold

Gabby Arnold graduated early from Big Bear High School, finishing her required classes in December while maintaining a 3.4 grade point average.

Gabby played tennis her junior year. “Tennis was hard for me, but I fell in love with it,” Gabby says. “It was a way for me to be a part of a team and make friends. I am autistic, and I pushed myself to graduate early.”

Art and history were Gabby’s two favorite subjects and among the few that she attended on campus. Half of her schooling was done at home. She credits her home-school teacher Debbie Leong for helping her achieve success. “Mrs. Leong is an amazing teacher,” Gabby says. “She pushed me to be better and taught me that hard work really does pay off.”

Gabby plans to take online college courses in the fall. “Maybe in the future I can help others who have autism to see that if you work hard enough you can do whatever you put your mind to,” Gabby says. “I want others to know that just because you’re different doesn’t mean you can’t reach for the stars. Anything is possible, no matter how many ups and downs you have.”

Gabby credits assistant principal Scott Hird with helping her. “Mr. Hird is just amazing,” Gabby says. “He was always kind when others were not. He has supported and pushed me to be better. He never doubted me.”

Gabby also says her parents inspire her. “They made me understand that life is an amazing gift,” Gabby says. Her uncle, Lucas Roland, graduated from Big Bear High School in 2018 and is now a Marine. He is another inspiration to Gabby.

Gianni Roberts

Running is not just something Big Bear High School senior Gianni Roberts does. It’s who he is.

Gianni was a four-year member of the Big Bear cross-county and track teams, earning Cross Valley League titles his sophomore and junior years in cross-country and Cross Valley League champion in the 2-mile run in track. He competed in CIF all four years in cross-country and was all-CIF in track as a junior.

In addition to sports, Gianni participated in yearbook for two years as well as worked two seasons at Snow Summit. This year Gianni has worked part-time at Sonora Cantina.

Despite his track season being cut short, Gianni averages 55 to 60 miles running each week. He’s keeping in shape because he plans to run competitively in college. He has narrowed his college choices to either Adams State University in Colorado or Greenville University in Illinois.

Gianni says he plans to major in biology with the hope of becoming either a veterinarian or a psychiatrist.

Academically, Gianni’s favorite class was physics with teacher Joe Bradley. He also credits his aunt for taking him in and providing him with a stable home life this year. He also says his coaches, Jonathan Stiles and Andrew Nettlebeck, have been mentors who have helped him through trying times.

Gianni’s advice to the next senior class at Big Bear High School is to keep looking forward.

 “Don’t live in the past,” Gianni says. “Things happen for a reason. They can make you stronger and make you a better person.”

Mackenzie Kawa

Design has long been a fascinating endeavor for Big Bear High School senior Mackenzie Kawa. Her goal is to one day become an architect.

Mackenzie was a member of the Big Bear High School Fashion Club as a sophomore, participated in the Time Travel Club this past year. Mackenzie began participating in cheer in fifth grade and was a member of the Big Bear High School cheerleader squad her freshman, junior and senior years. She was also a member of ASB all four years.

Academically, Mackenzie was in honors English, advanced math and AP physics. Math and physics have been her favorite subjects.

“Physics is one of the classes that have influenced life the most,” Mackenzie says. “Mr. (Joe) Bradley has inspired me. And the teacher who has helped me discover what I wanted to do is Mrs. (Mary) Schermer.”

Architecture seems to be a natural fit for Mackenzie, whose family has been in the construction business for 50 years. “I grew up with it,” Mackenzie says.

Mackenzie will attend the University of Nevada-Las Vegas in the fall to study architecture. Mackenzie said she chose UNLV because it was one of the few colleges that offered her major and out-of-state scholarship opportunities.

Mackenzie’s advice to Big Bear High School classmates is to take it easy and not worry so much about the future. She encourages them to enjoy the time they have in high school.

“Don’t freak out as much as I did trying to figure out what to do,” Mackenzie says. “It will come.”

Trinity Lowe

Big Bear High School senior Trinity Lowe is the latest Bear to be accepted in the Young Americans program. Trinity hopes to earn her associate degree in theater and performance at the Young Americans Academy before transferring to a four-year college to obtain a degree in the performing arts degree. She auditioned in October.

Performing on stage has been something Trinity has enjoyed since she was a child. She was in the chorus at Baldwin Lane Elementary, performed in school and CATS plays and took voice lessons from Diane Sloan Kubeja. Performing is something that runs in her family, Trinity says.

Trinity is president of the Big Bear High School Performing Arts Club and the Big Bear High School Choir. Her first high school performance was as a freshman in “Anne Frank.” She’s been involved in every performance at the high school since then, either on stage, as an understudy or behind the scenes.

Trinity participated in the Miss Big Bear scholarship pageant this past year, and was selected first princess. She enjoys the volunteer work she does as a Miss Big Bear princess. “It’s been a big influence on me,” Trinity says. “Miss Big Bear gave me a lot of fun opportunities during my senior year.”

Academically, Trinity took honors English. Along with performing, she sees herself one day being an English teacher. Trinity says she hopes her younger classmates find the confidence she has developed. “Never doubt what you want to do,” Trinity says. “You don’t have to have to know what you want to do at the start, as long as you find the end point, you’ll find your way.”

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