Mr./Ms. Spartan 2018: The Contestants



It’s seven months of non-stop action. It’s over a hundred thousand dollars for five local charities. For some, it’s the pinnacle of their high school experience. What is it? The Mr./Ms. Spartan program. For the next few months, the High-O-Scope will be providing you with the inside scoop on this year’s Mr./Ms. Spartan program. Each month, we’ll focus on a different aspect of the program. This month: the contestants.

If you’ve been following this column, or you’ve been around for a little while, you’ll know that the Mr./Ms. Spartan program is a philanthropy program. But for some contestants, like Katherine Dong, it took them a little while to figure it out. “Before high school”, Dong admits, “I thought Mr./Ms. Spartan was some sort of beauty pageant. Now I know that there are numerous fundraising events, a pageant, and letters to send out to family and friends for donations.”

The Mr./Ms. Spartan program wouldn’t be possible without the contestants. They represent the best of the program: dedicated teenagers willing to sacrifice precious hours of their last year of high school for charity. Lexi Mickelsen emphasizes that it’s all about motivation.

“We have to have the drive to put up posters, sell tickets, and put in extra hours of work, all to make sure we’re bringing in as much money as we can”, she says. “After all, money won’t raise itself.”

Of course, it’s not all about being a martyr. The events that the Spartan contestants are a lot of fun, like candy grams, where students can buy someone else a Valentine’s day card, and the contestants will deliver it to them, with a special Spartan flair. Dong recalls, “I enjoyed going into classrooms, singing cheesy love songs, and handing out candy grams to students and teachers. Plus, it was fun to dress up entirely in pink!”

Although the contestants certainly spend a lot of time preparing for and running events, that time is usually spent working with their partners or the team as a whole. Most of the contestants agree that spending time with their fellow seniors is definitely the best part of the program. Matthew Gradwohl, Dong’s partner, points out that while he’s known his peers for a long time, it wasn’t until the Spartan program that he really got to know them well. Isai Aguirre, thinks that working with his partner, Mia Garza, has been the highlight of the program.

“[When we first met], we were so excited that we couldn’t even think about how to introduce ourselves… We have a really close connection that gives us the ease of being able to do something without having a problem.” Building closer connections with classmates, especially as the seniors get ready to leave the nest, is definitely a huge motivator for joining the program, but nothing can match the feel-good feeling of raising so much money for charity (for more on the program’s charities and how they’re planning on using the money, check out

Mickelsen explains, “I wanted to be a part of a program that betters the lives of others and impacts their lives for the good… I wanted to put others’ needs before mine.”

Because charities, voted on at the beginning of the year, are local, the bond built between the program and the community is strong. Gradwohl thinks the program is important for Corvallis because it provides a way to spread the love in the community. The common saying “it takes a village to raise a child”, could certainly be applied to many of the contestants, who have spent some portion of their lives in Corvallis. Now, almost finished with their k-12 education, the seniors are trying to find a way to say “thanks”.

Check out all Mr./Ms. Spartan 2018 articles here:

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