Only 10 students from Washington state are selected annually for Washington State University’s Distinguished Regents full-ride scholarship. This year, Friday Harbor High School’s own graduate Taylor Hollis achieved that honor.
“She first qualified because of her high GPA combined with her high SAT scores,” Gordy Waite, the Friday Harbor High School guidance counselor who nominated Hollis, said. “A student has to qualify this way first then I can nominate them.”
The process is two-tiered. First, each high school statewide nominate up to two students for WSU’s $4,000 Regent’s Scholarship. Ten Distinguished Regent winners are then selected from that group.
“I was not expecting the full-ride. It was a pretty special moment,” Hollis said. “I was relieved, excited, happy, all those emotions. It was pretty amazing.”
Looking at her accomplishments, one can see why WSU chose Hollis. Despite working part-time jobs; being active in tennis, participating in theater productions, and participating in Running Start — a program that allows high schoolers to take college-level courses — as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted her senior year, Hollis maintained a 3.95 GPA.
“Taylor is an intelligent, curious, student who loves to learn and pushes herself academically,” Waite said.
Running start entailed online classes, which Hollis said prepared her as the pandemic struck and high school classes became virtual as well. She was disappointed her class was unable to participate in the usual senior traditions due to COVID-19 but understood that it was necessary for everyone’s safety.
“The teachers did an amazing job,” Hollis added.
Hollis is used to change. Throughout her childhood, her family moved from California to the islands and back to the mainland again, only to return to Friday Harbor where her mother’s extended family resides.
With travel on the mind, attending an out of state college was her original game plan, Hollis explained. Waite suggested an alternative option — applying to WSU and the scholarship program. She visited the campus and loved the university’s atmosphere.
“Taylor … really earned this scholarship. She had to write essays and make her application outstanding in order to earn the scholarship,” Waite said. “It is very competitive and she joins a very special small group of Friday Harbor High School students who have earned this scholarship over the years.”
Hollis said she ended up completing the application packet, essays and all, the night before it was due.
“I guess sometimes procrastinating produces the best work,” she said.
Once attending WSU, her focus will be on criminal psychology and the criminal justice system.
“I’ve just always been fascinated with the criminal mind,” Hollis explained, adding that she has been an avid fan of crime shows for years.
Acting has also been one of her passions. In January, Hollis took on the role of Ronnette, one of the chorus girls in the high school production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” She has performed in other productions as well, including “Midsummer Nights Dream.”
“There was a point in time when I would have been interested in studying acting further,” Hollis said. “I still love it, but not as a career path.”
WSU classes will be held virtually this year, but Hollis will not be attending from San Juan County.
“A friend of mine who is also going to WSU and I are moving up to Alaska where her stepdad has a place we can stay,” Hollis said, adding that they will also get part-time work. The two will take their first WSU classes online from the land of glaciers instead of the prairie lands of Eastern Washington.
“I’m very excited. I grew up moving around the county, it’s in my blood,” Hollis said with a laugh.