Stepping Stones: Q&A

2020 Graduate talks about West Albany’s effect on his future and past amidst Covid-19


Tobin Burke, 2020 Graduate

Hannah Field, Special Editor

For some, last year’s abrupt end was an exit ticket. To 2020 graduate Tobin Burke, it halted almost everything: sports, graduation, college, everything that made life normal. However stalled, Burke’s optimistic outlook on the world and go-getter attitude helped him determine how West Albany has helped him, not only in school, but also beyond.


What are your plans for after high school?

Right now I am deciding between going into the army or going to the University of Oregon.


How has high school contributed toward you achieving your goal?

It acted as a stepping stool, it’s kinda necessary to take it. If I didn’t have to, I don’t think I would, but it’s kinda necessary. 


What makes you want to accomplish something bigger?

Definitely my family. The thought of having my own family pushes me to even consider going into the army. If I go into the army, It’ll set me up financially for life.


How have your teachers helped?

The teachers at West Albany are very inclusive with all of the students, so, like, I never really—besides a select few which I won’t name—I never felt left out. I was really close with [almost all] of my teachers. I’m a very outgoing person so I like to sit down and talk sometimes. That helped me in the classroom and I don’t think a lot of students get that, which I feel sorry for.


Tobin Burke, West Albany Graduate of ’20

Did you play any sports at West?

I played Baseball all four years. I mean, Varsity [last] year, but obviously we didn’t get to play. We were supposed to be pretty good, we were senior-stacked, and I looked at OSAA and it said we were projected #2 in state. It would have been fun.


How does the school year being cut short affect your future?

Well, for me, I had this idea that I was going to go to University of Oregon. Schools getting shut down kinda halted that idea because, I mean, like, the army for me wasn’t even an option until this Covid-19 started happening. Not a lot of things were happening, pushing me into going to U of O.


Are you still planning on University of Oregon?

Well, it’s still one of my decisions. I have to choose between that and the army, and I’m leaning toward going into the army.


Do you have any big goals besides the army?

I still want to graduate college. Even if I go into the army, I’m going to come out and do college. No matter what, I’m going to go to college, and I’m going to graduate. I’ll do a career I like and live happily-ever-after, you know?


What made you decide on University of Oregon?

I grew up a duck fan. My whole family’s [full of] duck fans. My third grade teacher, actually, suggested to me—I have no clue how she knew that I was interested, but when I looked into it, I was—she suggested architecture. Don’t know how, don’t know why, but when I was in the third grade, I actually went home that day, I looked up architecture and looked into it a little bit online, and I really liked the idea. Being able to design your own homes, buildings, bridges, anything of that sort. U of O is one of the best schools on the west coast for architecture. It kinda just fit perfectly. Architecture is still the one thing I’d be doing if I went to U of O.


How do you decide between the army or a degree in architecture?

They’re two completely different lives. If I choose college, I’m my own person, I’ll have to make decisions on my own and have to live as an adult. If I go the army route, I’ll be property of the government for four years, and, which, I don’t mind, being the fact that coming out of it, I’ll get all of these benefits out of it later on in life when I do become my own person. Yeah, they’re two different lifestyles.


Do you feel prepared?

I feel prepared for whatever I choose. Making that decision on the other hand? I still need more time. I don’t know what I’m going to do.Either way, if I choose college or the army, I’m making a decision that will affect the next four years of my life no matter what. It’s a big deal.



How do you think it’ll turn out for you once you decide?

I’m not sure, and I think I’m okay with that. I’m the type of person that if I’m put in a situation, I’m going to make the best of it. I feel like no matter what I choose, like I’ve said, I feel like I’m prepared to do whatever I can to make it the best experience that I can and come out on top, you know. 


Has it sunk in yet that West Albany is behind you?

I was talking to my friend … and I was talking to him, my birthday was on Monday and he came over and we celebrated, I was talking to him, like, ‘man, let it sink in that we don’t technically have to go to school another day in our lives if we don’t want to.’ Obviously, we both said we would, but if we didn’t want to, we really wouldn’t have to go back to school ever again. That was a weird thing to think of, that I’m all grown up. I’m actually an adult now. I’m eighteen.


Do you feel eighteen?

Not exactly yet. I feel like once I make that decision that we talked about earlier I’ll start to feel it a little bit.


Where would you want to go with architecture?

I would like to design homes, not the biggest building guy, I think it’s awesome to go into a town like Seattle or Portland and look at all of the crazy-looking buildings, that’s awesome, but it seems like a lot of work to me. I’d rather stick to homes. I like the feel of the country homes. That’s what I would kinda stick to. My dream, if I do pursue architecture, would be to work my way up until I eventually design and build my own home where I can raise a family and stuff. I have big dreams; we’ll see if I can pursue them correctly.


For your senior year, what contributed best to you thinking about your future?

Actually, the financial algebra class that we took. That was a big aisle-turn, I guess, for me. It really gave me a perspective on how much it costs to even live. I’ll have to pay all of these different types of bills, do all of this, but that being said—I think Pouliot is the only one who teaches it—he was great at teaching everyone how to do this on your own. In the future, I’ll know how to do the math for a proper loan. A mortgage, car insurance, how to get a good deal, which was all really helpful. That would be my number-one class this year. 


Are you scared for the future?

You can’t not be scared. Nobody goes into adulthood with the utmost confidence in themselves, you know what I mean? It’s scary. It is. Until you admit that, you’re not really ready. I’m going to have to do all of these things I haven’t even thought of yet. Pay bills, work all the time if I want to stay afloat, especially with low-income jobs, being young and everything, you gotta work. You have to work even harder in college. It’s scary. But, I mean, that’s part of the fun.


Burke’s final stance remains clear: life is about having a good time and going with the punches. West Albany helped him in more than just giving him an education, but provided him with bonds and experiences that he’ll remember forever and that high school is somewhere between the end and the beginning.


Interview was conducted in March of 2020.