The two most prestigious student honors presented annually to graduating seniors at Coronado High School are the Jike Wong Award and the Molly McGowan Award. The Wong Award for 2020 has been presented to John Shoemaker and Kendall Chapko is the winner of the McGowan Award.
Awarded since 1944 in memory of McGowan, who passed away during her junior year in 1943 after a lengthy illness, this perpetual award honors the senior girl who best achieves the ideals of friendliness, scholastic achievement, and service. The Wong Award is named after Jike Wong (CHS ’48), who died in a car accident shortly after his class graduated. The criteria for the Wong Award inscribed on the trophy are, “Scholar, athlete, leader, and friend. To the boy who best exemplifies these ideals.”
Shoemaker, who served as Associated Student Body (ASB) President and Chapko, who was on the ASB Executive Committee as Commissioner of Publicity, both provided their insights during separate interviews regarding the Coronado High School Class of 2020’s unusual graduation week. “It was really difficult to switch things with such late notice,” Shoemaker said. “I applaud the work of our class officers and the graduation committee. It was truly a team effort to have the drive-through graduation, the event at Sunset Park Thursday evening and the Class of 2020 Parade Friday morning. It was a really great week and we loved being together and celebrating our class. The Class of 2020 was a special class and a great group of kids. I was blessed to be part of that.”
Chapko said, “I thought it was a really fun week. Obviously, the week took an unexpected turn. I just wanted to spend time with friends and classmates. The last part of the year was taken away from us and this was our last time together celebrating.”
Although being an athlete isn’t a prerequisite for either award, both Shoemaker and Chapko were varsity athletes. Chapko was the starting goalie on the Islander Girls Lacrosse Team for four seasons. Her team, under the direction of Head Coach Caroline Dineen-Carlson may have been impacted more than any other CHS team with the cancellation of the spring sports season, as they were off to a fast start in games played against very good competition. Included in the 3-0 record to start their shortened season, was a 15-0 win over Rancho Bernardo, Chapko’s first career high school shutout.
Shoemaker had a very successful season as the JV Football team’s starting quarterback as a junior, where he threw for 830 yards and 11 touchdowns, plus rushed for another 439 yards and three touchdowns. He was a backup signal caller his senior year. Shoemaker served as the holder for the kicking team that was 40-44 on their extra point kicks. They were also 4-5 on two-point conversions, with one of those scoring plays coming via a Shoemaker pass against Mar Vista.
Chapko was born in Coronado, the daughter of Terry Chapko and Paige Shuman. Kendall was born four minutes ahead of her twin brother Brendan Chapko, who is the Class of 2020 Valedictorian. Their older sister Tanner Chapko is a junior at George Washington University, where she is majoring in business, with a minor in statistics. Kendall, who is no academic slouch herself, having graduated with a weighted grade point average of 4.41, said of her sister, “She’s really smart.”
During our interview, I politely questioned Kendall’s sanity, as she spent four years playing goalie for one of the higher-profile prep lacrosse programs in San Diego County. Kendall explained her athletic journey and said, “The spring of our eighth grade year, some of my friends were trying lacrosse and I started off playing defense. They asked if anyone wanted to play goalie. You don’t have to run when you play goalie, so I volunteered. As soon as I got to the position, I loved the combination of the mental and physical parts of the game. I played club that summer and I played on the Varsity starting in ninth grade. Jim Fabiszak runs the youth lacrosse program and he played goalie himself in college. He was able to coach me one-on-one that first season. I owe a lot to him. As a goalie you can get into a lot of bad habits quickly and he made sure I wasn’t repeating the same mistakes again.” Chapko earned First Team All-Western League honors as a senior and graduated with four varsity letters in lacrosse.
Chapko played club lacrosse with the Pacific Falcons, which are based out of Scripps Ranch and she will continue her lacrosse career this fall at Claremont McKenna, where she will pursue a major in Economics and work toward a minor in Legal Studies. She said, “They are one of the strongest Division III programs in California and I have seen them play in person a few times.”
Chapko is more than an athlete with a big-league GPA. She detailed her well-rounded approach to high school. “I think that it has always been important to me to not be defined by just one thing. I entered high school and decided to enroll in ASB and that gave me a lot of confidence. I was thinking about playing other sports in high school, but when I do something, I am 100 percent dedicated to that. So playing one sport, taking Advancement Placement classes every year, being in ASB, and the clubs I was in, I gave my all to everything I was doing. Personally, I would rather see someone be dedicated to a few things, rather than scattering their time and doing 10 things. I was recruited for my sport in college, but I wouldn’t have gotten in without my extracurricular activities, test scores and GPA.”
One of Chapko’s primary activities was serving as the student representative to the Coronado Schools Foundation Board. “I think for me, that was a good experience to sit on a real board, especially learning to adapt to different situations. This year the CSF Telethon had to adjust, and it was done so well and so quickly. I’ve been interacting with CSF my whole life. Learning what they do, the effort, work and time that goes into it was really amazing to see up close. Sitting on a professional board as a high schooler is pretty rare. Jeanmarie Bond (CSF President and CEO) is amazing. When she got here, she showed how much she cared about CSF and she had so many great ideas. I was impressed with her and I learned a lot from her, the Board and the employees at CSF.”
As for her most enjoyable moment at CSF, Chapko picked an unusual event. “I would say the Powderpuff game last year. I was in charge of the uniforms for the Boys (the Girls play a flag football game with the Seniors playing the Juniors, and the Boys serve as cheerleaders) and two days before when the shorts came, they were orange and they were supposed to be pink. So I hand-dyed 50 pairs of shorts to make them pink, over my stove. Seeing all of the guys in their matching uniforms was a nice moment. Our whole class came together. That happens just a few times a year, when we come together as one and the work behind the scenes comes together. It was really fun, a good atmosphere and an exciting time in general.”
Academics and her teachers played a huge role for Chapko at CHS. She discussed both and said, “U.S. History with Casey Tanaka was definitely the favorite class I have taken. I have always loved history. One summer ago I saw “Hamilton” on Broadway and that really sparked my interest. I loved the style of the class with the trivia, the competition within the class, and the subject matter was my favorite. Nicole Belong had a positive influence on me, I had her for four years in ASB. In middle school I was pretty quiet and shy. Once I got into high school and joined ASB, being in the class gave me confidence in myself. My brother Brendan and I both owe her a lot. Grace Kim would definitely steer you in the right direction and I got pretty close to her. I took AP Chemistry as a sophomore and I would walk into her room, vent to her, and she was always there to calm me down and give me advice. And Nathan Aldworth taught Honors and AP World History. He’s just such a funny person. My brother and I, along with a few other friends, would always go to his room and joke around with him. We had great teachers at CHS all four years. My brother and I wouldn’t be in these positions without them.”
As for winning the McGowan Award, Chapko was still surprised four days after the announcement, when we did our interview. “Honestly, I didn’t expect it. Obviously, I am very grateful for it. I’ve been going to Coronado schools my whole life. I tried my best to make sure the school and our class have had the best possible time they could. I hope I had some sort of impact on the school and the student body in general.”
As for other people she wished to acknowledge, Kendall started with her twin brother Brendan. “He’s the reason I took the challenging classes I did. I always wanted to be in the same classes as him. At CMS, I didn’t consider myself very smart and I didn’t think I would be taking AP classes or being Class President my junior year at CHS. Brendan was the one who encouraged me to apply to ASB my freshman year. He helped me study and he would say, ‘We’re going to learn this,’ and no matter how long it took, he made sure I got it. He’s been there for me no matter what, for the past 18 years. I owe him and the rest of my family a lot, my Mom, Dad and Sister. And I would like to say a general ‘thank you’ to Coronado and Coronado High School for the past four years and for my whole life here. It’s such an amazing community and I couldn’t have asked for a better place to grow up or school to attend. The hardest part is I’m ready for college, but I’m not ready to leave here.”
As we transition to Shoemaker’s side of the story, Kendall discussed why she thought John won the Jike Wong Award. “I would say John is one of the best natural leaders I have ever met. He is a really good person and leader. Everything he does seems natural and he is good at everything he does. You can’t find anyone who dislikes him. In a nice and encouraging way, he got students to work hard. I was really, really impressed with John in ASB. Nothing against anybody else, but John is the best ASB President Coronado ever had and most people would agree with that.”
Unlike his friend Kendall Chapko, who was born and raised in Coronado, Shoemaker has lived a nomadic life to this point. The oldest of Daniel and Jennifer Shoemaker’s four children, John was born in Richmond, Virginia and has lived in Washington, D.C., Chicago, London, and Nashville. “My Dad previously did background investigations for companies, including pre-employment screening. We moved every three years and he transitioned here to work with a different company, doing the same thing, and now he’s a consultant.”
As for his favorite city, Shoemaker said, “Probably London. I was in third through fifth grade when we were there. It was great being in the city for the 2012 Olympics; the Queen’s Jubilee; the birth of Prince William and Duchess Kate’s first child; and the riots on Notting Hill. Those are experiences and memories I will never forget. I’ve spent time in L.A. and New York, and they’re nothing like London. The culture is so vibrant, and it was great to meet people from around the world.”
The Shoemaker Family includes Will, a rising junior at CHS; sister Charlotte, a rising eighth grader at CMS; and sister Kitty, a rising sixth grader at Village Elementary.
Like Chapko, Shoemaker was heavily involved in extracurricular activities in addition to sports and ASB. Shoemaker, who has played the drums for most of his life, was a member of the CHS Band under the direction of Matt Heinecke. “I learned a tremendous amount in that class, expanding my sight reading and musical knowledge. I loved that class.” Shoemaker was also the Vice President of the Student-to-Student Club, and for three years he helped with the STEAM Class at Coronado Elementary School.
The ASB President has traditionally served as the student representative to the Coronado Unified School Board and Shoemaker discussed that responsibility. “It was a good learning experience, talking with the Board members. I shifted that role a bit and expanded my report to include all of the events and happenings at all the CUSD Campuses and brought them to the Board.”
Shoemaker discussed how being ASB President might benefit him in the future. “When I met with last year’s President Warren McBride, she stressed the position immediately prepares you for the workplace. I had interactions with contractors and companies, along with teamwork and interactions behind the scenes prepping for events. It was an honor to be ASB President. My goals were to improve communication, school spirit and inclusivity. We improved by leaps and bounds in all three areas, and I hope that continues for years to come.
As for the immediate future, Shoemaker will take is 3.75 GPA to Clemson University next year, where he plans to major in Political Science. “I have academic interests in national security and foreign affairs, as well as international and domestic terrorism,” Shoemaker explained. “I would like to work in either the Secret Service or the FBI. Political Science is the starting point.”
Back to Coronado High School, Shoemaker recalled his favorite moments at CHS. “There were a couple. There were certain times throughout the four years where I truly saw our school spirit shine. Like standing in the theater for the curtain call of a production, when the entire crowd was on their feet applauding. Another was standing in the front row of the Coronado vs. Point Loma basketball game, when our entire student section was dressed all in white and screaming at the top of their lungs. Or seeing our dance team perform at the Homecoming pep rally. There were so many instances like that where I was so proud to be an Islander, and thankful to have a supportive and fantastic student body.”
As for his favorite academic subject at CHS, for Shoemaker it was AP U.S. Government taught by Ian Silverman. “That was by far my favorite class. It confirmed the love and appreciation I have for Political Science. I always learned something new and was challenged. Silverman was unbiased and open to discussions. He would also start conversations with the class about current events, government and history.”
As for other teachers who had a positive influence on him, Shoemaker said, “Ian Silverman definitely and Matt Heinecke. I loved having Jean Pehrsson, who teaches AP Literature, for my freshman and senior years. And Nicole Belong, our ASB Advisor, because I worked closely with her. She is awesome, selfless, and driven to help ASB succeed. She is the glue who keeps ASB together and events couldn’t happen without her help and support. She did so much to help us and I am thankful for her.”
Shoemaker obviously had a major impact on ASB and CHS, as he was awarded the John Christenson Award, which is not presented every year, and goes to the student who embodies the highest ideals of school service and altruism. The Christenson Award was last presented in 2016.
Shoemaker talked about students who had been role models for him. “Last year’s Jike Wong Award winner Bruce Alexander is a role model for me. I think highly of him and our families are close. He was a football captain his junior and senior years, which speaks volumes. He pushes, does the right thing and I look up to him. And our current ASB Vice President Evan Grim is like Bryce, a guy who constantly does the right thing, and is incredibly supportive. He can joke around and have a good time, but he still made sure we got things done. I look up to him and he will do outstanding things in the future.”
Shoemaker shared his thoughts about Kendall Chapko winning the McGowan Award. “She’s incredibly genuine, down to earth, committed and motivated. She wants to help her team, the school, she was captain of the lacrosse team and willing to do anything she could to help them succeed. She was a four-year veteran of ASB, an incredible athlete and an incredible person. A lot of people don’t know this, but she took ownership of the Executive Committee position as Commissioner of Publicity. A lot of commissioners do the same things as the previous year’s commissioner, with no changes. She changed our marketing tactics for the better, removed deficiencies from publicity, and capitalized on a lot of our strengths. When I give advice to next year’s Executive Committee, I tell them to look at what Kendall did. She reviewed what we were already doing and made it 10 times better. I’m incredibly proud of all of her work. She spread our message, goals and ideas to the student body, and she played a vital role this year.”
As outgoing as his personality is, Shoemaker paused for a moment when I asked why he thought he won the Jike Wong Award. He said, “It has a lot to do with my character, the whole philosophy that we’re not at CHS for long, but how can I positively impact the lives of those around me? At CHS I wanted to get involved and help people. Serving as ASB President and on Student-to-Student allowed me to fulfill that goal. I loved being able to serve my students and to push my ideas. A lot of it has to do with my parents and their love for government and service, which has rubbed off on me.”
Shoemaker acknowledged a number of people who helped him along the way. “Certainly, my parents for being so supportive of me. My Mom was the CHS PTO President and it was awesome to work with her in that setting. She proofread and helped me prepare stuff for ASB. A lot of people talk about what made this year great and I tell them it was my team of 44 ASB Students, the largest ASB Class Nicole Belong has ever had. I had an outstanding team including my Executive Committee, Evan Grim, the 2020 Class officers, and it was an absolute team effort to make this year happen. This team was committed and persevered. I had absolute confidence in them, to be able to navigate through distance learning, while pushing content and information out from ASB to the students speaks volumes about them. It was such an honor to serve as ASB President and I loved every second of it. I had the greatest job in the world. This past year has been fantastic and so many memories will stick with me forever. I am appreciative of the CHS Administration, to Ms. Belong, and I am appreciative of the recognition.”