Meet Our Alumni
Our students continue on through middle school, high school, college and beyond to do amazing things in so many different disciplines. We hear time and again how their education at TIS shaped their views and processes in undertaking these endeavors. It’s our pleasure to share some of those accomplishments with you!
Ciara WilliamsCiara Williams
Spanish, Class of 2010
The global influence of an education at The International School is evident in alumna like Ciara Williams. Ciara graduated in 2010 from the Spanish track. However, like many of our alumni from the mid-2000’s, Ciara speaks highly of her time performing Chinese dance at TIS – she smiles as she remembers performing at the LanSu Chinese Garden and the Oregon Convention Center. Because of the influence of Chinese dance and culture, she continued on to study Mandarin at West Sylvan middle school and Lincoln High School in addition to being part of the Spanish immersion program. She graduated from Lincoln in the IB diploma program, and even wrote her extended essay entirely in Spanish!
Being bilingual is clearly something that played a role in Ciara’s daily life. She’s been a nanny for a Spanish-speaking household; volunteered with the Bienestar summer lunch program in Hillsboro, and worked in an IB Spanish class St. Paul, MN, where she now attends Macalester College. When Ciara was beginning at Macalester, she tested into 300-level Spanish classes as a Freshman! She is pursuing a double major in International Studies and Spanish, and works for Macalester as an instructor in the Language Lab helping her peers practice their grammar and improve their speaking skills in Spanish, in addition to working as a Spanish tutor in the Macalester Spanish & Portuguese Department. In Fall 2019, she will study abroad at the University of Granada (Spain).
In addition to her rigorous academic and extracurricular schedule, Ciara is a NCAA athlete as a sprinter on the Macalester Women’s Track and Field team. In the most recent indoor season, she competed in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Meet in the 4x200 and the 600.
Knowing another language allows TIS alumni to communicate with so many more people in the world. That was made all the more apparent to Ciara in high school when she was on a family trip to Spain and a family member was involved with a car accident. Everyone was fine, but Ciara was called to action to translate between the parties involved in the accident. As Ciara put it, “I expected to be speaking Spanish and translating while in Spain, of course, but that was a whole different way of using my language skills that I didn’t expect!”
During Ciara’s senior year of high school, she returned to TIS as a 4th grade classroom volunteer and also as Coach Rob’s Run Club assistant. She laughs as she tells of 2 girls in Run Club enrolled in the Chinese Track. Once they found out she was studying Mandarin despite graduating from TIS in the Spanish track, it became their own little game to quiz Ciara on her Mandarin skills. Ciara enjoyed returning to TIS and “coming full circle,” helping out today’s little global citizens (and perhaps more future track stars!).
Sara OnitsukaSara Onitsuka
Japanese, Class of 2007
Sara is quick to point out that she was certainly good at procrastinating when she was a student at Mt. Tabor Middle School and Grant High School. However, it differed from the usual teenage procrastination. “My version of procrastination was doing a bunch of research and trying to decide what to do with my life.” That’s how she found neuroscience.
As she began her studies in neuroscience at The College of Wooster in Ohio, she became enthralled with how humanity played a part – or at least how it should play a part – in the hard sciences. She doesn’t shy away from having difficult discussions about the intersection of science and social justice, and she pushes for diversity in science. She is currently applying to PhD and MS programs in neuroscience with her eye to institutions that have research projects at the convergence of humanity, sociology and science. Sara will talk passionately about a particular body of research she encountered regarding the long-term effects injustices have on not only those who have directly suffered, but on the genetics of generations that follow. This is of great interest, as her grandparents were incarcerated along with the majority of Japanese and Japanese-Americans in the United States during WWII. “I want science to make the world a better place. We have that capability.”
As with many TIS alumni, Sara has embarked on language studies beyond her track language. While at Wooster, Sara studied abroad in Denmark and picked up some conversational Danish. She also studied Spanish for a year in college. (While in Denmark, she took a side trip to Vienna, Austria and found herself unexpectedly speaking Japanese when she overheard a group of Japanese tourists needing help!)
Sara might always be game for a serious discussion about neuroscience, trauma and social injustices, but don’t think she doesn’t enjoy a good laugh. When asked about memorable experiences at TIS, she bursts into laughter. “We had a GoGurt and carrot battle once – I don’t even remember who started it. Is it bad that pops into my head?!” However, she also vividly remembers and speaks highly of the time she participated as the sun in the “North Wind and Sun” performance as part of a sakura celebration. “Performances at TIS – and learning to be comfortable performing – has definitely impacted me. I still sing, and I was involved with the Wooster Chorus and two a cappella groups in college.”
Along with applying to graduate school and working part-time as an intern at the Portland Metro STEM Partnership, Sara is actively involved with a number of organizations around Portland including Art For Ourselves, Asians For Black Lives, The Arts and Media Project at Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, the radio show Pacific Underground on KBOO, and the science and social justice organization Free Radicals. She definitely feels her ties to activism are connected to the cultural exposure she had at TIS. “It wasn’t simply about language. Cultural education was a huge part of what I’m thankful for.”
Madeleine AdamsMadeleine Adams
Chinese, Class of 2008
Madeleine’s list of accolades runs deep: high school Valedictorian of the International School of Beaverton, Assistant Vice President and Scholarship Chair of Chi Omega Fraternity, Junior Class Representative for the Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering (CBEE) Student Club, Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) recipient from the National Science Foundation, and a prestigious Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) Scholar from the American Chemical Society.
Madeleine attends Oregon State University’s Honors College, where she says has been “amazing.” In 2016, she traveled with classmates to San Francisco for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers National Conference to present her research as well as volunteer. Madeleine also started doing research in an OSU bio-engineering lab to continue merging her interests of engineering with humanitarian applications.
Her REU program was held summer after her freshman year at the University of Notre Dame – she says it “basically means the National Science Foundation funded me to conduct research there!” The program was entitled Analytical Chemistry for the Developing World, and “I worked with my mentor there to develop a small, portable, and really inexpensive device to detect antibiotic resistance in low-resource settings, specifically developing countries. I got to use my Chinese there too, because part of the project involved working with Notre Dame’s electrical engineering department to research a potential heating element for the device. Most of their department was from China and spoke primarily Mandarin, so much of our collaboration took place in Mandarin as well as English.”
She also communicated in Mandarin for a summer SCI scholar program in Columbia, Maryland while working at W. R. Grace’s corporate headquarters in research and development. “I’ve always loved the idea of crossing cultural boundaries as part of my work as an engineer, which is a truly collaborative discipline, so getting to work with that firsthand has been amazing.”
Moving forward, Madeleine says she’d “love to find more ways to connect engineering and problem solving with working across cultural boundaries, something I was well-prepared for thanks to TIS. I would find it extremely rewarding to combine that with working for a nonprofit doing humanitarian engineering work, if possible. I love to travel and explore new places, so any work that allows me to experience a new place and culture is something I would be interested in!”
Kilian JonesKilian Jones
Japanese, Class of 2010
Kilian knows that Japanese language and culture have had a profound impact on his life. “People ask me how long I’ve been around the Japanese language. In a lot of ways, I kind of feel like it’s been with me since birth. My family had a Japanese exchange student when I was born, and she was one of the first people to ever hold me. I heard the Japanese language as soon I heard English as well!”
Kilian graduated from Grant High School, where he participated in band, golf and other intramural sports during high school; though he most enjoyed mock trial given his comfort with public speaking. He also spent 4 weeks during the summer of 2018 at TIS working at Summer Camp in the Japanese classes.
He is now an Evans Scholar at the University of Oregon studying education. The Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship is a full tuition and housing college scholarship for golf caddies; recipients have “a strong caddie record, excellent grades, outstanding character.” As part of the application process, students must be interviewed by a panel. As Kilian described, “think of a sports-style post-game interview.” The panel is typically composed of 4-5 executive Evans Scholar Program administrators, which would be a daunting experience for many adults – let alone a senior in high school! Kilian passed the interview with flying colors, and says he drew directly from all his time speaking to larger audiences as a kid in elementary school at TIS. He also says that capstone itself helped prepare him for such a situation, because being thrown into a totally different culture for two weeks at 10 years old teaches you to deal with difficult situations. “TIS taught me to not be scared before I knew I was supposed to be scared!”
There was also a required essay for the scholarship application. Kilian wrote about how his education in Japanese put him in a position to fully understand golf, of all things. He wrote about how it occurred to him one day that golf and the Japanese culture both share a deep regard for respect. In both the culture of Japan and in golf, there is structure and ritual that is expected in certain situations. Kilian says when he would be on the course, caddying, it wasn’t uncommon to chat or joke before teeing off or in between holes. But once the game was on, “you had to flip a switch” and respect the golfer’s concentration. It was quite an impressive and distinctive essay.
Despite all the discussion about the serious structure revolving around golf and parts of the Japanese culture, Kilian clearly retains a sense of humor. When asked about one of his most prominent memories of TIS, he responded, “Well, one time I drank a bunch of milk and ate mandarin oranges in a fruit cup. Then I puked all over Hideko Sensei’s shoes.” Our TIS alumni are pretty phenomenal, but kids will still be kids!
Kylie JonesKylie Jones
Chines, Class of 2014
Kylie started training in martial arts at age 3; when she was almost 4 she began training in Wushu (Kung Fu) at the US Wushu Center with Masters Yu Shaowen, and Gao Jiamin in Portland's Pearl District. Kylie began competing around age 6 and has been a member of the US National Traditional Wushu Team. Kylie has traveled to Chizhou, China to compete in the World Traditional Wushu Championship where she placed 2nd in the Girls 12 and under Other Weapons competition and 15th in Hand Form. Kylie's competition season usually begins in March and ends in August or September, depending on when the World Championships are held. She has also competed in International Tournaments held in Berkeley, San Jose, and Las Vegas. Kylie has also excelled in competitions, having been declared Overall or Grand Champion at 3 past events in addition to winning from between 1-4 of her events and usually finishing in the top 3.
Jared KermanJared Kerman
Chinese, Class of 2009
Jared currently attends the University of Chicago. “My goal is to get an MD-PhD in Epidemiology and to research/treat HIV/AIDS... Knowing Chinese and attending TIS has really been instrumental in guiding me towards the career path of global health; [it] has helped shape me into someone who is open-minded, disciplined, creative, intellectually curious, and broadly engaged.” He attributes his acceptance into the University of Chicago to TIS. “My interviewer moved from Taipei to the United States when she was about six…After I told her that I had been learning Chinese for about thirteen years, we continued our interview in a Chinese-English mix… What set me apart in the application pool was that I was able to adapt to the change in circumstance...and connect all of my interests and skills together in a way that I definitely would not have been able to without attending TIS.” This past summer, Jared was accepted into the Health Policy Scholars Track within UChicago's Careers in Health Professions Program. He also worked giving tours of the UChicago campus (some in Mandarin!), and was hired as an intern of the Chicago Center for HIV Elimination in the Pritzker School of Medicine. If that wasn't enough, he also interned at the Illinois Department of Public Health designing patient handouts to inform people about Naloxone. Quite the accomplishments!
Landen LucasLanden Lucas
Landen graduated from Kansas University, where he was a forward on the KU men’s basketball team. He attended TIS in the Japanese track after living in Japan. In 2015, Landen started 14 and played in 32 games for the season. Landen has played for team USA at the 2015 World University Games in Gwanju, Korea, where his team posted an 8-0 record and brought home the Gold Medal! “Landen often thinks of his time at the International School” says his mom, Shelley Lucas. “He still studies Japanese in college and practices with other Japanese students. He gets asked to do interviews and make speeches in Japanese. He feels that being bi-lingual will always enhance his ability to communicate across cultures and advance him in his future career.” Landen keeps in close contact with his teachers from TIS - two even had the good fortune to see him play at KU!
Landen currently plays professional basketball for Toyota Alvark Tokyo in Japan, and has started the Landen Lucas Foundation to provide opportunities for kids who want to participate in sports but can't afford fees or equipment:
www.LandenLucasFoundation.org. Photo credit: Nick Krug
Alexander MackworthAlexander Mackworth
Spanish, Class of 2012
Alexander is currently studying math, music, and philosophy at Stanford University, where he notes his biggest accomplishments are “finishing my first quarter and finding the bathrooms nearest to my classes.” Humor and humility aside, Alexander is quite a remarkable young person!
Before leaving Portland for Stanford, Alexander graduated from Catlin Gabel high school. He was part of the upper school robotics team, where he participated in the Robotic World Championship won the Innovation in Controls award in 2016. Also in high school, Alexander won first place in piano competitions for both Baroque and Romantic music. He was the first-ever high schooler to have been offered a part-time paid internship at a local Portland software company during the school year, and then followed that up with working at local community radio station KBOO 90.7. At KBOO he engineered, hosted and mixed live music and talk shows to support the mission of KBOO to elevate marginalized voices.
He stays connected with the Spanish language and Spanish-speaking cultures both through his maternal family and his personal passion for South American literature. He is planning on applying his language skills in the coming months on campus with unionization efforts for workers' rights.
“My experience at TIS equipped me in ways more powerful than just speaking two languages, a huge gift in its own right. The program prepared me for writing, public speaking, and empathy across cultural boundaries that have proved invaluable in my academic life and, more importantly, in my personal development. I truly feel like I carry my teachers from The International School with me everywhere I go.”
JinMei MerchantJinMei Merchant
Chinese, Class of 2010
“I would not be as driven as I am if it weren’t for TIS,” JinMei says when asked what she thinks of her education at The International School. “A second language is really important. It makes you think, and the way language is taught here builds a really good foundation as a student moving forward.”
By far her favorite single memory at TIS was Capstone. “It was so scary at first, but learning in a real Chinese school and just being there with my classmates and teachers was amazing.” JinMei continues to credit her TIS teachers, like Jennifer Laoshi and Sophia Laoshi, as one of the best things about TIS. We are so grateful that JinMei spent her summer with TIS!
Post-TIS, JinMei attended Hosford Middle School and Cleveland High School, both as part of the PPS program for Chinese language immersion. She is currently attending Portland State University, where she is continuing to study Chinese. She feels the language foundation she gained in Chinese at TIS was so evident during her freshman year at PSU. She is enrolled in Chinese classes that have expanded her studies to traditional Chinese as well. While her major is yet to be determined, she has her eye toward incorporating her love of social and environmental studies with film.
During summer 2018, JinMei returned to campus to work with the Chinese language summer camps for 6 weeks. It was fantastic to have her spend her summer back at TIS!
Logan SpearLogan Spear
Logan graduated from Stanford University in Spring 2018 with a major in electrical engineering and a minor in Japanese. As a member of the Stanford NCAA men’s sabre team, he was captain during his junior and senior years and graduated with highest cumulative GPA for a senior varsity athlete.
During his sophomore year he studied abroad in Kyoto – something he knew he wanted to do as soon as he got on campus. “I used to always think people were exaggerating when they said their quarter abroad was their most impactful quarter of school, but after that I knew they were actually telling the truth.” In that study abroad program, he stayed with a host family and took classes at the Stanford Center, located on the Doshisha University campus in Kyoto.
One of his most memorable parts of the program was getting to volunteer at a Japanese elementary school. “Volunteering was super fun because the kids reminded me so much of the kids I volunteer with at TIS! I normally worked with them in science class and then was there for one period of recess, and they always wanted to play freeze tag and make me ‘it’, just like the kids at TIS always do!” Studying abroad also gave him the opportunity to deeply connect with students from another country that were his age. “Thanks in large part to the fluency I learned at TIS, I was able to have deep and authentic conversations in Japanese with friends, and those friendships are one of the highlights of the experience.”
Also notable is the first place prize Logan received his sophomore year when he participated in a Japanese speech contest. He spoke on the effect of exposing young people to international cultures, and how he thinks it increases thoughtfulness and empathy. The subject stemmed from his experience as an exchange student to Japan in 3rd grade; which, as he says, “obviously wouldn't have been the same without the ability to already speak Japanese, thanks to TIS.”
Logan has had a number of internships in electrical engineering throughout his time in college, most recently for Tesla. He’s currently working on a 5th year master’s program at Stanford.
Logan is picture with his sister, Anna, and brother, Brenner , also former students in the TIS Japanese track.
Katie Stern-StillingerKatie Stern-Stillinger
Chinese, Class of 2007
Katie double majored in International Business and Chinese at the University of Oregon. When she talks about choosing to major in Chinese, she comments, “Well… they ran out of Chinese classes!!” Katie was so advanced in her Chinese language skills that she tested into 400-level language classes her first year in college. There were no additional courses for her to take after that first year, so in order to complete her major, she had to study abroad to receive the required amount of advanced credits!
After her time at TIS, Katie attended Hosford Middle School and Cleveland High School, continuing on in Chinese immersion and also studying Spanish. She has consistently participated on recreational soccer teams, and also did a 2-week middle school exchange program in China. At University of Oregon, Katie received both a Summit Scholarship and the Gilman study abroad scholarship through the US Department of State.
While her TIS capstone trip to China was a formative one, it’s her time studying abroad in Shanghai as a college student that really impacted her. Katie recounts that during this study abroad experience, it wasn’t simply studying the Chinese language where she grew, but having the level of language that she had allowed her to engage with the students her age socially and thus have a rich cultural experience.
“Because I received such a great beginning to my Chinese education, as I progressed in school my Chinese classes had to be more advanced; I was able to pick up new characters and learn the material pretty quickly.”
Having graduated from U of O spring of 2018, Katie came back to the Portland area to work at a language translating firm. She’s a Project Manager, and while not directly involved in translating materials, she says fluency in another language is a huge bonus for that scope of work. She is quite happy in her current field given the globally-minded work, and is looking forward to how her bilingualism will impact her future!
Riley StevensonRiley Stevenson
Spanish, Class of 2003
“Every single decision I’ve made since TIS, is because of TIS. If my parents didn’t give me that education, I don’t know what I’d be doing.”
Riley and her two siblings attended TIS in the early years, and the Stevenson family has continued to be an active part of the TIS community.
After TIS, Riley went to middle school at The Madeleine and high school at Central Catholic in Portland. She attended college at the University of Oregon as part of the Honors College, majoring in Journalism and minoring in Spanish. Riley participated in a number of activities through her school career, including tennis, soccer, swimming; she notably founded the podcast This Oregon Life and has worked for Portland Monthly and Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Loud. Riley has worked on immigration and migrant worker issues, and has also done a fair amount of Spanish language tutoring and translation work. Most recently, she worked as a training director for Amigos de las Américas, a nonprofit international youth development organization, and is currently working towards her Master Degree in Media Studies, also from U of O.
In addition to graduate school, her time is now dedicated to the Journalistic Learning Initiative, which integrates journalistic learning techniques into classes for 5th – 12th grade students. She is working in part with middle school students in an Oregon community where a large number of students come from Spanish-speaking households, and thus has great interest in how the journalistic learning style will play out in a dual-language setting. (Journalistic Learning is a learning approach that empowers students to learn based on their own interests; learn more about it the project at www.journalisticlearning.com). As Riley says, “there are stories everywhere to be told.”
When talking to Riley, it’s obvious that so many of her decisions were directly influenced by her early education at TIS – and that her fluency in two languages and exposure to culture can’t be separated from who she is. The Spanish language and Latin American cultures are in her heart, and she will continue to forge her career and choose her personal interests based around those two things. It’s always a treat to catch up with Riley and hear what she’s accomplished, and we look forward to sharing updates with our community!
To read more about Riley and her work:
Lucie Wharton-MoeurLucie Wharton-Moeur
Chinese, Class of 2010
One of Lucie’s favorite things to tell people about herself is that she is fluent in another language. “It means so much to me that I learned Chinese at that age. I think in a different language – I don’t even translate in my head. I don’t know how my brain does it, but I love it!”
After The International School, Lucie went on to Gilkey Middle School, Lincoln High School and Scripps College in Claremont, CA. She spent a summer traveling again to China and Vietnam with her family, where she had many conversations with local people in Mandarin. Most people she talked with in China were surprised that children could go to school in the United States in a Chinese language – and speak so well!
Lucie always raves about being introduced to Chinese dance. It’s by far one of her best memories. She has found dance once again by participating in the Claremont Colleges Ballroom Dance Company, which she loves. She also is participating in Scripp’s Asian American Sponsor Program.
Most of all, Lucie loves to travel and experience other cultures. Travel and culture is what steered her to her current major of anthropology. She’s undeniably comfortable in other cultures, and doesn’t balk at communication challenges. Her moms are quick to remember a story when Lucie was only in second grade and they were traveling into China by train. A ticketing issue resulted in the train attendant initially denying them entry; however Lucie seamlessly stepped into the conversation in Chinese and solved the issue.
Lucie also tells a memorable story of her junior year at Lincoln, when she was assisting a Chinese exchange student. She studied both Spanish and Chinese at Lincoln, and took the student to her Spanish class. Her Spanish teacher challenged her to translate what the student was saying from Mandarin directly to Spanish – and his responses from Spanish to Mandarin. “That was hard,” she says. But listening to her tell the story, you can tell she was up for the challenge.