Isabel Hammett figured out what she wanted to do in life a little easier than most students. All it took for the Port Townsend High School senior was one class during her sophomore year: psychology.
Learning about the brain and how it works was immediately fascinating to her, Hammett said, and she’s known ever since what she wanted to study in college and do with her degree.
After graduating with the class of 2020 June 12, Hammett plans to attend Pacific Lutheran University this fall to study psychology. Afterward, she said she wants to become a counselor or psychologist.
Hammett said the PLU campus was the first she visited, and she knew as soon as she got there it would be the perfect fit for her.
Benjamin Dow taught Hammett for two years in psychology and contemporary world problems. What makes her unique from other students, he said, is her dedication to overcoming barriers.
“Her interest in learning, willingness to push herself to overcome obstacles and go deep into material, combined with her off-the-charts work ethic, will make her successful no matter where she ends up,” Dow said.
One major obstacle that Hammett has always faced is dyslexia, she said. But she wouldn’t let it stop her. It just meant she had to work harder than everyone else.
For a while it was really difficult, Hammett said, until she attended a summer camp program that taught her special strategies and introduced her to computer programs that could help.
For her senior project she had planned to give a presentation on what it’s like being a dyslexic student and recommend ways PTHS could make itself more accessible to students like her.
But making the switch to distance learning through the second half of the school year was particularly challenging. For a while, she felt she could not learn outside the classroom.
And still she persisted, which helped her succeed not just in the classroom but on the court as well. Hammett played varsity volleyball and basketball for her entire high school career.
In whatever group she’s a part of, Dow said, she is able to impact, support, and encourage other students to succeed.
“The shift in culture in any group she becomes a part of in the classroom or on an athletic field is tangible,” he said. “She makes things better, leading by example.”
It was for these reasons that Hammett was selected as the 2020 recipient of the Andy Palmer Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship, named for a 2008 graduate who lost his life less than two months after graduating, is awarded yearly to a student who exemplifies the same qualities Palmer did in life, Principal Carrie Ehrhardt said. Hammett was chosen for her part in creating a culture of kindness, loyalty, humility, and integrity at PTHS, Ehrhardt said.
Besides her goal to study psychology, Hammett has another dream. Ever since she was in seventh grade, Hammett said she has always dreamed of traveling to Italy. Something about the architecture, the culture, and the beauty of the place has always resonated with her. So she told her mom that one day they would have to go.
Finally, this summer, after years of waiting, her entire family was set to take a European cruise to France, Spain, and Italy, partially as a present for her graduation. It would have been the first time she had left the country.
But COVID-19 had other plans, so now she is landlocked.
But Hammett said she won’t let it get her down because she knows it won’t be her last opportunity to visit Europe.
“I know that once I do go, it will make it even better,” she said.