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New school, new appreciation
by Garrett Valenzuela
Apr 01, 2013 | 2355 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Reed High School sophomore Austin Graham.
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Reed High School sophomore Austin Graham.
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SPARKS — Being heavily involved in the Reed High School musical productions was not something 16-year-old Austin Graham imagined himself doing. In fact, he didn’t realize he had a voice for musical theater until his first year at the school.

“I actually didn’t know I could sing until last year,” Graham said. “Someone told me to go try out for the musical last year and then from there my voice was kind of there and it was not that great, but from there it has gotten a lot better and a lot stronger.

“I am one of those guys who just sings to himself all the time out loud. At home I will calm down if everyone in the house is sleeping, but I do it a lot in the halls and I hang out in the choir room a lot and get involved with what they are doing.”

Graham found his calling when he performed in two musicals at Reed, including the most recent Les Misérables production, where he played multiple roles each calling for different preparation. He said in the three months he spent preparing for the show with his cast mates he found transforming from role to role most memorable.

“For me, a role I had to do was as a slave in the opening scene and I had to be full of despair,” Graham said. “Then throughout the rest of it I played sillier side roles because I played a sailor who goes to the whore house, and then I was part of the gang of thieves. So we did a lot of the comic routines. That part was fun but I had to get used to being serious as well because it was a pretty serious musical.”

Now in his sophomore year, Graham keeps himself busy maintaining a full slate of Honors courses and planning events around school in Leadership. He said his time spent in Leadership has given him life skills he feels will translate to anything he does later in life.

“It definitely helps you be a lot more open,” Graham said of the Leadership class. “I found out more about what is going on in the school than I knew all of last year. The group’s very open and you can be crazy and they will accept you. Everyone has their own personalities. It is nice because we get to speak for the student body on issues like Homecoming.

“It is good because I have gotten a lot more community service hours than I usually get, and I have gotten to meet a lot of people. It is great because you get to learn new things and you get to learn a lot of life skills and how to plan an event, what it takes and teamwork. Those are skills than you can use anywhere.”

Graham said he plans to study to become a pediatrician after high school, which is something he has been dreaming of from a very young age. Graham works as a junior counselor in Seattle during the summer, which he said only affirms his love for working with children.

“I have wanted to be a pediatrician since I was in second grade, even though back then I called it a kid’s doctor,” he said. “I feel like as a kid I never minded going to the pediatrician and I had to go to the emergency room a lot because I was one of those kids who tore up his head or hand or something.

“Over the years, especially being a junior counselor, I have found that I love working with kids because of the imaginations they have and the smiles are always worth it. I have always wanted to help people and I have just hooked on to the idea of being a pediatrician. It has fit with me throughout the years.”

Graham said he will be searching for a higher education system where he is granted the most scholarship money and close to his home in Sparks or his summer home in Seattle.

Looking back on the nearly two years he has spent at Reed High School, Graham said he was able to break out of his shell, meet new people and tackle a personal identity crisis. Being so close with his twin brother, Alan, Austin said becoming active in choir and performing in musicals brought a little separation from being exactly like his brother.

“This high school has literally changed my life,” Austin said. “We were originally zoned for North Valleys (High School) so when we came here I didn’t know anyone aside from my brother. The one thing I liked about coming here, and it kind of hooks into the whole musical thing, is working through individuality issues. Because he is my twin, I was in Honors classes and he was in there too. And any sport I did, he did.

“When we got here, I joined the musical and he did tech crew and there was finally something different about us. It kind of made me happier. I have met a lot of great people here and they have helped me develop my character a little bit more. I honestly don’t think I could have been as happy anywhere else I would have gone. Reed opened up my eyes to all the possibilities and the things I am capable of.”
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