Neah Bay High School valedictorian has choice of 12 different colleges and universities
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Neah Bay High School graduating senior Joey Monje, who was accepted by 12 colleges and universities, stands with NASA astronaut George Driver “Pinky” Nelson during a science education event at the high school earlier this year. -- Cape Flattery School District photo

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

NEAH BAY — A Neah Bay High School student has taken his school’s challenge to succeed to an usual level.

He’s been offered a total of more than $400,000 in scholarships, with a choice of 12 different colleges and universities.

In addition to being class valedictorian, Joey Monje is the Neah Bay High student-body government president, was on the school’s state championship football team and is a member of the National Honor Society.

It wasn’t always this way.

Monje, the son of Josh Barton, said he struggled four years ago as a freshman

Monje, who had a 4.0 grade-point average in middle school, hit a “rough patch” after reaching high school.

“I expected smooth sailing,” he said, but he found that high school was more work than he expected.

“My stepmother [Deena Barton} told me that if I didn’t get my act together, I would be stuck in Neah Bay with no college degree,” he said.

Neah Bay isn’t a bad place to live, he noted, but without a degree and good education, it’s not a good outcome.

With new dedication, Monje pushed himself, eventually competed for valedictorian with another student who also had a rough freshman year and big comeback, and was challenged to excel by Neah Bay teachers, administrators and at home.

“[Principal Ann] Renker has been my No. 1 supporter,” Monje said.

With two solid years of academic achievement under his belt, Monje applied to a dozen different colleges, including his top three choices: Carleton College, in Northfield, Minn., Hanover College in the Indiana city of the same name, and the University of Washington.

No one knew what to expect.

Monje said Sunday that he applied to many institutions of higher learning because he was afraid he wouldn’t get into any of them.

Renker said she knew he would get into a college somewhere despite Monje’s fears, and once the stack of a dozen acceptances arrived, she was jubilant.

“He got into all 12,” Renker said.

Not only was he accepted, but was offered several full-ride scholarships — to Laurence University in Appleton, Wis., Dominican University in San Rafael, Calif., and Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa.

So which one won?

Hanover College in Indiana.

Monje was selected as a recipient for the Benjamin Templeton Scholarship, which is worth $125,000 and provides a full-ride through Hanover’s academic program.

“I had to compete against 3,000 other students, and I was one of 11 selected for the scholarship,” he said.

He said he hasn’t yet decided on a major, but is considering dentistry, neuro­psychology or clinical psychology.

Monje and his 19 fellow classmates are scheduled to graduate at 1 p.m. Saturday in the high school gym.


Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at

Last modified: June 02. 2013 6:07PM
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