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Branan, Nemra are students of the month

MARYSVILLE Asked to talk about themselves, the March Students of the Month for Marysville-Pilchuck High School gave a couple of diverse answers.

For Ben Branan, 18, the first thing he mentioned was his involvement with his church, Mountain View Presbyterian.

Among other activities with that institution, Branan has been on three mission trips and, providing he can raise the needed money, plans to go on a fourth this summer.

As for Haley Nemra, 18, the dedicated runner holds one individual school record and is part of a relay team that holds a second.

The solo record arrived her sophomore year, when she finished an 800-meter dash in two minutes and 15 seconds. As part of the school 4x400 relay team, she helped break the original record her freshman year, then was part of cracking that mark the following year.

With his Marysville church, Brannan's mission trips have included visits to Costa Rica and New Orleans. Both Costa Rican trips involved building homes.

"It was a great experience," Branan said of his first trip to South America in 2005, adding he knows just enough Spanish to talk a little bit with the locals. Before his church helped change things, he said one woman his group helped was living, with what he called a large number of children, in a corrugated tin shack.

During their time in New Orleans, Branan said the church did whatever was needed to help clean up after Hurricane Katrina. He said his biggest memories of Mississippi include heat and bugs.

Besides going on mission trips, Branan also helps run an after-school group for elementary students at the church on Wednesdays. He further has been part of various youth groups and been a group leader for a vacation Bible school.

Nemra has three varsity letters in track and field and four in cross country to go along with those school records. She placed in the top 20 in the state for cross country this year. The track and field relay squads have placed as high as third in state competition. Still, for all her accomplishments, Nemra started her sports career playing soccer, then sort of fell into running.

"I just kind of kept up with it," she said. "I learned to really love it."

Records aside, all the work has paid off. Nemra has been offered a number of sports scholarships, though she's narrowed her choice of colleges down to two. After graduation from Marysville-Pilchuck, she'll attend either the University of San Francisco or Mary University in North Dakota. She admits the two schools seem miles apart in more ways than geography and couldn't say how she might end picking between them.

For his part, Branan actually also is a member of the track and field team, though he admits he doesn't hold any records. He added that, unfortunately, he was injured two weeks into the season last year.

"I got stuck on the bike," he complained, referring to a stationary bike in the high school trainer's room. He has been able to return to the track this year.

"I'm not hurting at all and I'm liking it," Branan said.

Confessing to an enjoyment of the outdoors, Branan talked about spending a lot of time with the Boy Scouts of America. The scouts actually helped him reach a major summit in his life, namely the top of Mt. Rainer. He's not positive there will be further mountaineering in his future, but did mention possibly taking on some other area summits.

Outside of running, Nemra has been involved in numerous other school and community activities, including the Volunteer Club and the Big Buddy Program. She currently works after school at a local pizzeria.

"I don't have a lot of down time," she admits.

Both Branan and Nemra are members of the National Honor Society, sporting 3.6 and 3.8 GPA's, respectively. For the future, Branan hopes to attend school in Hawaii, possibly majoring in psychology and working with children.

For her future, Nemra plans to major in business or perhaps sports management. She's looking forward to graduating, but also knows she'll miss some things about being in high school.

"I'm going to miss some of the students and some of the teachers, but I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next," she said.

Branan is the son of David and Theresa Branan of Marysville. Nemra is the daughter of Korap and Mary Nemra, also of Marysville.

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