Rhian Mathis has been described as the ultimate team player by her Tenino High School coaches. But it’s not just in sports, Rhian carries this outlook to the community as well. “Rhian is someone who is always looking for ways to help lift people up,” says her mom, Shannon.
This high school senior is beyond busy. Rhian is a year-round athlete. She is four-year varsity player in soccer and basketball. In spring during her freshman and sophomore years she competed in track. As a junior and senior, she switched to tennis. “By the end of this year she will likely be a four-year, three varsity sport player,” says Shannon.
“Rhian is one of two students at Tenino High School who has completed three years of German online in 2.5 years,” says Dr. Sherry Connally, one of Rhian’s teachers. “She is conscientious, dedicated to learning, intelligent, and motivated to succeed. In the 45 years I have worked in education, she stands out as one of the more memorable students with whom I have worked.” She has taken AP classes, and this year Rhian entered the Running Start program at SPSCC. She carries a 3.8 GPA.
Each year of high school, Rhian has held a leadership position. As a freshman, she was class president. Sophomore year, she was an ASB Officer. Her junior year, she became the first student to serve as Tenino School Board Student Representative. As a senior, Rhian is the National Honor Society club president. Rhian really enjoys being involved in Big T where high school athletes go to Parkside Elementary School and play with the younger kids at recess. Rhian will go home and proclaim, “I played with the littles today!”
Rhian couldn’t wait to start piano lessons, and also participated in ballet and tap until her schedule got too busy. “Rhian entered my piano studio at the age of five,” says Linda Bates, Rhian’s piano teacher at Evergreen Piano Studio. “She was tenacious then and is tenacious still,” Linda adds. “I recall one year, in order to avert a scheduling conflict, she ended up giving her Spring piano performance in her dance costume, complete with hair and makeup.”
During homecoming of her senior year, Rhian decided to decorate the town, literally. There has always been a parade, but she thought it would be nice to make Tenino look festive too. “It was a windy, rainy day by the time the parade came around,” says Shannon, “but we got a lot of comments from people in the community who thought the decorations were awesome.” Rhian hopes she started a new tradition, so the whole town will feel involved in homecoming.
Along with all of her personal achievements, Rhian has always held concern for others, especially those who are in a difficult position through no fault of their own. The Mathis family has a long tradition of donating to the Adopt-A-Family program at Christmas. For her eleventh birthday, rather than gifts for herself, Rhian requested her friends bring stuffed animals to donate to the program that year.
Christmas is brighter for the people staying at the Interfaith Works Shelter over the holidays thanks to Rhian’s efforts to make sure each of them gets a Christmas stocking. The Mathises are members of the First Christian Church of Olympia, which houses the IW shelter. Many homeless people attend the church. In eighth grade Rhian wondered, “What do they wake up to on Christmas morning?” She began collecting donations of a few essentials along with something fun. “This year people started reaching out beforehand, saying they had stuff they’d been collecting to give Rhian for the stockings,” says Shannon. “People are in tune that she does this every year, so now the donations just come.”
“I enjoy helping others in any way I can,” says Rhian, and she has proven to be excellent at raising money for a cause. While in elementary school, with the help of her grandmother and YouTube videos, Rhian learned some basic sewing skills and started making crafts to sell at booths for Team Noah and the Foundation for Fighting Blindness. Noah is her cousin who is legally blind. For years, the whole family has been involved in Team Noah, but one year Rhian was recognized as one of the top fundraisers in the Foundation’s nationwide flyer. Rhian sewed and held craft booths until she entered high school when life got a lot busier. Rhian was the top fundraiser for the Crop Hunger Walk in the Olympia area at age 15 as well.
“I don’t really get overwhelmed by my schedule,” says Rhian. “I have a hard time not being active in some way. I do all these things because I enjoy different aspects of them, and I think they have had an important impact on my life.”