Senior Spotlight: Erik Anshus | Whatcom Intergenerational High School, Bellingham

Jun 24, 2024 | Student Spotlights

As Erik Anshus, a member of the 2024 Graduating Class of Whatcom Intergenerational High School, reflects on what brought him to the charter public school before he joined in his Sophomore year.

Before, I went to a traditional public school. For me, it was too many people and crowded – I felt unimportant. I was down all the time. When I came to Whatcom Intergenerational High School, having fewer people than a larger public school gave me a chance to check-in more often with teachers who knew me better. Being able to be in a more focused environment really helped me to do better.”

Erik Anshus

Erik continued, sharing that “traditional public schools are not for everyone – people get in a mindset that they have to stick in one school but that’s not true. Not everyone learns well at the same schools – we have to realize that so people can find other options. That’s really important.” He laughs, saying that his friends thought that his new school was a private school. “But it’s just a much smaller public school. It’s very open to anyone that comes,” he told them.

Finding A Better Fit

If I was helping a family find a good school for their student, I would suggest that they look around – a lot of parents don’t know about options. A student can’t make the decision on their own to transfer but the student has to agree. Listen to your kids to help find the best spot for them.”

Erik started at a traditional public school for his Freshman year, but it wasn’t a good fit for him. “My parents discovered Whatcom after I told them I wasn’t doing well at my old high school. They did some research and found out about the charter public school, which was going to open later that year. We went to their open house event and met teachers and after that, decided to sign up.

Erik’s Journey at Whatcom Intergenerational High School

Phenomenon-based learning helped me learn in a new environment. Basically, you take on a project and make it something that you care about. I could fine-tune the learning for something that felt really important. One project I worked on for a while was chess – I’ve always been passionate about it. This school didn’t initially have a chess community – I made it my mission to involve as many people as I could in chess. That included making a giant chess board with reusable materials in the common area – it gave me a chance build my own project and an understanding of chess at my school at the same time.

In addition to projects and field trips, Erik loved Math. “It’s probably my favorite subject,” Erik shares. “The teaching here felt really good and not just a single curriculum. Instead, it could be fine-tuned in a way that made sense for each student. I was doing well, so it got harder and harder and I could learn more and more.” Erik also enjoyed Social Studies. “In World History, we’d have discussions about conflicts in different countries. We’d get into character to represent each country’s perspective and try to negotiate a solution.

At Whatcom Intergenerational High School, Erik’s favorite part was the community.

Everyone is inclusive and non-judgmental. Everyone cares about each other and isn’t putting each other down. It’s a community where we build each other up.

Advice for Incoming High School Freshmen

Erik suggests that while working on schoolwork is important, so is working on yourself.

Grades are important but they are not everything. Focus on improving yourself. When I was a Freshman, I was very depressed and not in a good headspace at my old school. But after focusing on myself and improving my mental health, I came out better in the end.

What Comes Next for Erik?

Erik knows what he wants to do. He did Running Start and already has his Associate of Arts from Bellingham Technical College’s Computer Networking Program.  He will be starting at Western Washington University in the Fall (where his older sister is graduating this year) – his credits will transfer to their Cybersecurity Program. “My dad does a lot of IT and I’ve always been around it. I want to work in a cybersecurity position and improve the safety of networks and test them to see if they can be penetrated.

We congratulate Erik on his journey through high school and his hard work building community while valuing his own mental health at school. His experience at a community-driven charter public high school is a great example of the diverse needs and talents that are unique to each student.