2020 Amazing Kids - Columbia County Spotlight
School: Scappoose High School
Hometown: Warren, Or
Why he is Amazing: D.J. served as a leader everywhere he went at SHS, both as student body president and an all-league soccer player.
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SCAPPOOSE TEEN GIVES HIS ALL IN LEADERSHIP
No one can do everything during high school, but Scappoose’s D.J. Backus sure took a shot at it.
He served in student leadership for four straight years, advancing from a freshman Cabinet member, to sophomore class president, to ASB Cabinet as a junior and student body president as a senior.
He played varsity soccer for four years, winning all-league honors twice and helping the Indians navigate the move from Class 4A competition to Class 5A.
D.J. was a member of the school’s Future Business Leaders of America chapter for three years, served as president for two, and led one group to nationals where his team finished ninth. Oh yeah, he also played golf for the Indians, was a member of the National Honor Society, went to Germany on a foreign exchange trip this year and continues work on a Safe Routes to School project that will continue next year when D.J. begins his college career at the University of Portland where he’ll study engineering with a minor in either computer engineering or neuroscience.
For all those reasons and many more, D.J. has been selected as the 2020 Amazing Kid for Scappoose.
D.J., 18 and a resident of Warren, certainly left his mark at SHS. Scappoose High School teacher and FBLA chapter adviser Ryan Poster shared his thoughts about the student’s impact.
“D.J. is a natural-born leader. When he talks, people listen,” Poster says. “He is charismatic, energized and full of imagination. His future is limitless.”
D.J.’s post-SHS future will begin at UP, where its solid engineering program, outreach, scholarship support and location — if necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, D.J. could live at home next year — made it the right fit.
“I was really excited by their study abroad options and the outreach, how much good they do in their local community but also abroad,” he says. “As an engineering student, I’ll be able to travel to Puerto Rico (or the) Dominican Republic and build housing or schools and work with their communities. … Being able to make an impact on lives here and abroad is a huge part of what I want to do in the future.”
In soccer, D.J. did what he does best — he led. He played all over the midfield in the Indians’ second 5A season, helped Scappoose compete in the state’s toughest league and was named Honorable Mention all-league for his efforts.
“It’s just really fun for me. I enjoyed getting out of the school setting and being able to develop better friendships and better leadership skills on the field because it’s just a totally different situation than in the classroom,” he says, crediting Scappoose coach Scott Stanton for his direct instructional style and the impact it had on D.J.’s own leadership. “I thought we did real well and I was really proud of our team. … Our team, even when we tied or lost, (we were) so excited and happy that we were able to perform at that level.”
While D.J. didn’t participate in FBLA as a senior, it was a huge part of his SHS career. After his introduction to FBLA as a freshman, D.J. served as chapter president during his sophomore and junior years and helped his team — along with Emma Phillips and Matthew Myton — place ninth nationally in the Public Service Announcement category.
“That was a really fun project,” D.J. says. “We ended up placing in the top 15 and that’s just crazy. … That’s still a huge accomplishment.” “I am excited to see where life takes D.J.,” Poster says. “I am eager to see him in 10 years and talk to him about his adventures.”
While soccer and FBLA played huge roles in D.J.’s school life, it was in leadership where he found his true calling. Over the course of his four years, D.J. loved nothing better than facilitating the school’s annual fundraiser for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. In his four years, that fundraiser donated a total of $160,000.
“Our leadership adviser, Courtney Scott, really pushed me to always strive for better and always help others. It’s something that just makes me feel proud that I have the ability to do,” D.J. says, noting that their contributions have served (among others) Scappoose residents Joey Bates and Sophi Hering.
That success included the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 school year when SHS still reached its fundraising goal.
“Being able to still reach our goal, that was a really big accomplishment,” D.J. says, recalling his own trip to Doernbecher’s. “I got to see where all the money was going, all the kids that their lives were changed, so that was something that really stuck with me.” D.J. capped his year by helping make the Class of 2020’s virtual graduation a success. “It was really cool to see it all come together,” he says. “I was really happy with the outcome. The way that they did it, it still felt like graduation.”