Student values family ties

Above all, Dahna Black cherishes family. The 17-year old Ashland High School senior, honor student, athlete and debate-team member is happiest spending time with her parents, siblings and cousins. Black travels to the Middle East with her parents and her twin sister to visit extended family in Bahrain once or twice a year. "It's great, I really enjoy my family. They all travel a lot and we all have stories to catch up on. And someone is always having a baby or something wonderful," said Black. Just before leaving for a trip to New York and then Bahrain, the busy student took some time to talk with the Daily Tidings about school, her life as a senior, and of course, her family.

DT: What are your favorite subjects in school?

DB: I have to say my favorite subjects are currently Philosophy and Literature with Joel Cicerrella, and Spanish. The philosophy class is unlike any other class I've taken. Almost all the classes I've taken are good and all the teachers are really good at what they do, but Mr. Cicerrella treats us with maybe more respect than I've ever gotten from a teacher before. The class is set up like a college course, where he sets out the assignments in advance so we can work at our own pace. And the class is largely discussion based. He really leaves the discussion up to us. He sits back and mediates. It's a kind of like a small seminar, it's great and I love it.

DT: What do you like to do outside of school?

DB: I like to do Speech and Debate. It's part of school, but we do a lot of tournaments out of town. I really enjoy that. I think it has taught me a lot and given me a lot of skills as well. I'm really looking forward to spring because I'm a debate lab leader. I take the skills I learned at debate camp this summer and teach them to the novices. There is so much we can do with debate, so much we learn. We are really lucky that the community supports us, because we didn't know what we were going to do if the [youth activities]levy didn't pass. We really don't know what we would do without it.

Second would be crew. I row with the Ashland Rowing Club. I've done so many sports growing up, track, basketball, soccer, and snowboarding. I got into crew last year, and it has been the best decision I've ever made. It's a lot of fun and it is low impact. In the winter, I like to snowboard.

DT: Talk about your work with the AHS design/construction team.

DB: It has really shaped my experience at Ashland High. I feel, as a student, like I have a better connection with the school and the community. I have a much better understanding of what is going in my school and with the construction. I also got to spend time on committees with Juli Di Chiro, the principal, and people in the community. It was a great chance to really understand how hard everyone in the district works, especially Juli Di Chiro. I have such respect for what all of them are doing.

DT: Do you have trouble balancing school and outside interests, especially with the travel associated with speech and debate?

DB: Yes, definitely. Sophomore year, I was able to go to all the speech and debate tournaments, then junior year I had to be really selective. And this year has been a struggle because of college applications.

DT: What do you want to do after you graduate high school?

DB: I would really like to attend a 4-year college and study international relations and languages. Hopefully, I'll find something I love and make a career out of it. There's the possibility of law as well.

DT: In addition to Spanish, are there any other languages you would like to study?

DB: Because my mom's family is from the Middle East, I'd like to study Arabic. There is so much culture in Arabic and I feel like it would open so much for me. It would give me the key to my family history. I'd also like to study Chinese, but I don't know if that will happen any time soon.

DT: Talk about something you have done that makes you proud.

DB: This summer, I attended a government camp through the American Legion Auxiliary. Through the camp process, I passed a health-care bill that will actually be looked at by the Oregon Legislature in January. The camp has a mock Oregon legislature, and if your bill gets passed through the mock government and they think it could get passed in the actual government, they send it to the legislature for review. I'm really proud of that. It's an insurance-policy extension plan that could help a lot of families.

DT: Tell us about someone at school who inspires you.

DB: Leeanne Wallace. She has been teaching for years. She was my English teacher sophomore year, and I've been her T.A. She's funky. She really cares about what she's teaching and she doesn't let anything get in her way. She makes sure her students learn and have an opportunity to take advantage of what's around them. And she has done a lot for the school and for the students. She is also someone I can talk to. She's another one of those teachers who really respects her students and treats them like real people.

DT: Tell us about someone in your family who makes you proud.

DB: They all make me proud. My mom and dad had both been in other marriages and they made sure they built a house together where all the siblings could come together and feel like they were truly at home. Growing up, I never knew the meaning of half-sibling until I had to do a project in 5th grade or something. Except for my twin, all my siblings are half-siblings or step, but I don't think of them that way, I never knew that. It makes for a constant adventure. It's really nice having a large family. I'm probably most proud of my twin sister, Layla. She has just done a lot. She is diabetic and she has never really let that get in her way. She's bubbly and kind and true to her emotions. I'm really proud to be her sister. She is fun and smart and she truly cares about people.

DT: Tell us about your travels to Bahrain.

DB: My mom's family lives there. I went the first time when I was 7, and then we've been going back once or twice a year ever since I was in 8th grade. It is really fun. Whenever we go, everyone always says things like "be careful," but you wouldn't know there was a war going on in the region. We have a really big family. I have so many cousins I can't even name them all. Everyone there is family and even if you aren't a part of the family they treat you like family. The weddings are great. They last all night. After the wedding you get to bed at 6 in the morning, sleep until 12, and wake up talking about the wedding. Everyone is so happy.

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