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Trio of friends begin and end together


Classmates since elementary school, Michael Buck, Ben Headrick and Matt Staples lead NHS class of 2014 in National Merit Scholarship competition

As classmates at Edwards Elementary School, Michael Buck, Ben Headrick and Matt Staples were not only friends, but also found themselves bunched together at the top when it game to academic competitions and games. Staples

In September, the three Newberg High School students found them together again, this time as semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship competition.

On Friday, the trio graduated from NHS, capping a 13-year educational journey that was often spent together.

“It was kind of funny because I remember for third-grade swimming lessons we always sat next to each other on the bus, the three amigos,” Headrick said. “That was incredibly ridiculous and incredibly funny, but then it got incredibly annoying really quickly. Then it all came back when we got the national merit thing.”

Buck, Headrick and Staples were all in Marilyn Jackson’s fifth-grade class at Edwards, where they were introduced to the mathematical game 24, in which students are given four numbers and challenged to create an equation where the result was 24.

Naturally, they finished at the top together and did again during the Penta Games in middle school, so they weren’t too surprised when they got word that they were only three NHS students to advance to the semifinal stage in the National Merit competition.

“We were just always kind of up there,” Staples said. “It was kind of fun to see as we were finding out about all this stuff our names coming up again.”

Staples and Headrick were eventually named finalists, which Buck claims fits the pattern from their early days together.

“I was only a semifinalist and that seems to be the trend,” Buck said. “(Those) two get the highest scores and I get the second highest.”

Falling back into their routine following graduation ceremonies, Headrick quickly pointed out that it was Staples who “always” did the best.

“They’re pretty much exactly the same as they were then,” Jackson said. “They don’t seem to have changed a whole lot as far as their personalities go. Michael was more quiet and shy. Ben was more of an outgoing leader and Matthew could get really crazy sometimes and dance around the room if he wanted to. Matthew is also very musical.”

For the past two years, Headrick has organized the 24 tournament for Jackson, with help from Buck and Staples this past year as he did it for his senior project.

Fittingly, Jackson is also retiring this year and the trio seems to think that as they’ve progressed through the system, their former teachers have all seemed to retire.

They noted that almost none of their teachers at Mountain View Middle School, and possibly at Edwards now too, seem to remain and that they appear to be the second generation in their families to be taught by many of the teachers.

“There are a bunch of teachers in middle school that I had that my parents had,” Headrick said. “Even here (at NHS), I have teachers that my parents had. It’s really funny because there are a lot of them that are retiring or trying to retire but can’t. My uncle had Mr. Sinkbeil. He retired a couple years ago and is still teaching.”

Headrick will attend George Fox University to study mathematics and said it’s his intention to replace Sinkbeil someday.

Staples, who plans to study engineering, will also attend GFU, with Buck headed to Emery Riddle Aeronautic University in Prescott, Ariz., to major in electrical engineering.

“They’re smart kids,” Jackson said. “We just tried to challenge them. They’ve been motivated from the beginning.”