You may catch Jayden Henry when she’s not laughing or smiling, but don’t bet the bank on it.
That upbeat vibe goes soul deep with the Auburn High School senior.
Who knows, maybe all that Bob Marley she digs has something to do with her “don’t worry, be happy” attitude?
But her tightly-knit family, now, her family definitely has a lot to do with it.
Her mother, Katie Henry, formerly a health teacher at AHS, is today the school’s athletics director, her older sister, McKenna, a 2017 Auburn High alumna, set a powerful example for little sis in sports, academics and activities. Katie Henry also adopted one of her former students, Donna, Henry’s oldest sister.
Henry’s grandfather, Pat Hoonan, athletics director at Rogers High School in Puyallup for 35 years, never misses any of Jayden’s events.
“It’s been good to have my family here at school. I love that my mom’s here. and I am always in her office. Then there’s my little brother who graduates in two years and my big sister. She and I are really close, we’ve always gotten along, kind of,” Henry said with a laugh.
Throughout her years at Auburn High, Henry’s been a wunderkind in the classroom and in whatever sport or activity she set her eyes on.
In the teeth of every AP and honors class she took in her high school years, she graduates this weekend with a 3.9 grade point average.
Growing up on Bonney Lake and living today in the same home on Lake Tapps where she has always lived, Henry’s also a natural water baby.
“I got pretty good at wakeboarding and swimming in Lake Tapps,” she said.
All four years, Henry has been on the swim, gymnastics and water polo teams, making it to district every year in swimming and water polo and to district in gymnastics for two years. She made first-team all-league in 2018 for swimming and second team in 2019, first team for water polo in 2019 and picked up an honorable mention in 2018 for water polo.
Henry’s peers thought so much of her they made her team captain two years for swimming and team captain for water polo this year.
She’s also involved with ASB, DECA and is a barista at Gibs coffee in Auburn.
Given that load, one may wonder how she found the time?
“I didn’t,” Henry said with a laugh.
This fall Henry attends the University of Idaho, from which she plans to emerge in four years as a bona fide math teacher.
“I want to come back to Auburn and teach math,” Henry said of her all-time favorite subject.
Whenever Jacob Valdez talks about the things he loves, his arms wave about, and he stretches the word “love” to its maximum before snappage.
Indeed, while he loves all musical genres, Valdez said, he “looovvees” rhythm and blues, rap, hip hop and gospel music, and really “looovves Chancellor Rapper” for his upbeat approach to life.
After Valdez graduates from Auburn High this weekend, he expects to spend a lifetime making music happen.
This fall he heads to Green River College to immerse himself for two years in the basics of musical production. After that, it’ll be on to Portland State University, where he’ll study to become an audio recording engineer.
“That’s the person who takes the song after it’s recorded and makes sure it all sounds good for release,” Valdez explained to the uninitiated.
But there’s a lot more to this kid than meets the eye.
Valdez enjoys math, digs the challenge of a brain-busting problem and is crazy in love with history.
“If I don’t go into music, my backup plan is to teach history. The World War II era is my particular favorite. I love all stories from that era,” Valdez said.
He ran track and field all four years, swam and dived in his senior year, and, away from the public eye, indulged himself in a fondness for the nerdier side of life, including all things Star Wars and the humor of Monty Python.
While Valdez himself does not play an instrument, he sang in the school jazz choir this year, warbles in a barbershop quartet and is now auditioning for Green River’s jazz choir.
His top memories of AHS, however, center on his stint in 2019 as the ASB’s spirit ambassador, yelling himself hoarse at raucous football and basketball games hanging with friends.
None of which he did until his senior year.
“I was a shy kid, but I decided that in my senior year I should have fun,” Valdez said. “You don’t want to have regrets.”
So, he pitched into having fun with every corpuscle in his lanky frame, and along the way, having as many laughs as possible.
“One thing people don’t know about me is that I have a dark sense of humor, so that sometimes I’m the only one laughing. I laugh at things that aren’t supposed to be funny,” Valdez said. “Laughter has made me a better person and more able to look at the bright side of things.”
Valdez said he has two heroes and role models: the first is his hard-working, outgoing, upbeat father, Jaime Valdez, who, said the son, has always put his family first.
Hero two is the aforementioned Chancellor Rapper.
“He’s a good guy,” Valdez said of the artist. “He’s from Chicago, he gives back to Chicago and does charity work. You can see him give back. I like that.”
Auburn Memorial Stadium, 801 Fourth St. NE
Saturday, June 15
• 11 a.m. – Auburn Mountainview High School
• 4 p.m. – Auburn Riverside High School
Performing Arts Center, 702 Fourth St. NE
• 1:30 p.m. – West Auburn High School
Sunday, June 16
Auburn Memorial Stadium
• 4 p.m. – Auburn High School