˶ names 2023-2024 co-valedictorians and salutatorian

Photos of Sidney Coates, Sarah Niemi, and Cree Bell

LACEY, Wash. – ˶ is pleased to announce co-valedictorians Sidney Coates and Sarah Niemi and salutatorian Cree Bell for the 2023-2024 academic year.

Co-Valedictorian Sidney Coates 

Valedictorian Sidney Coates is graduating with a bachelor˶degree in mathematics. She earned a cumulative grade point average of 4.0. Sidney grew up in Olympia, Washington, and attended school in the North Thurston Public School District. After graduation she will be pursuing a master˶degree in data science. 

Coates spends her time weightlifting, playing soccer and tutoring fellow students. In 2023, she was inducted into the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and earned the Euclid Award in mathematics. In addition, she participated in the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) Putnam Exam and the Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling/Mathematical Contest in Modeling (ICM/MCM) and was President of the Math Club during the 2023-2024 school year. 

She would like to thank her grandma, mom, sister, family, friends, and professors Bonnie Amende, Ph.D., Kayla Blyman, Ph.D., Katherine Porter, Ph.D., and Cameron Sweet, Ph.D., for supporting her throughout her time at ˶. 

Co-Valedictorian Sarah Niemi 

Sarah Niemi is graduating with a bachelor˶degree in elementary education. She earned a cumulative grade point average of 4.0. Niemi grew up in Tieton, Washington, which is located in the upper Yakima Valley. In Yakima, she attended St. Joseph Marquette Catholic School and La Salle High School of Yakima. After graduating, Niemi will be teaching fifth grade at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic School in West Seattle while pursuing a Master of Education through the University of Portland Pacific Alliance for Catholic Education program.  

Niemi is currently a student teacher in a fifth-grade classroom at Garfield Elementary School in Olympia, Washington. During her time at ˶, Niemi was a mentor on the Norcia Leadership Floor, a resident assistant, and an office assistant for Housing and Residence Life. She is also a member of Cohort Nine of the Benedictine Scholars. In May 2023, Niemi was inducted into the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. 

Salutatorian Cree Bell 

Salutatorian Cree Bell is graduating with a bachelor of science degree in environmental science. She earned a cumulative grade point average of 4.0, was on the Dean˶list every semester and was honored with the Upper Division Biologist Award. Cree is a proud Canadian from Hamilton, Ontario. After graduation, she plans to pursue a graduate degree in holistic nutrition to prepare for a career dedicated to enhancing the wellbeing of others, particularly aspiring athletes. 

Cree made the most of her time at Saint Martin’s. An NCAA scholar-athlete in track and field, she also tutored fellow students in biology and chemistry, job-shadowed veterinarians and worked as a lab assistant performing animal husbandry for invasive species. Committed to community service, she volunteered at Wellwood Cancer Centre Hamilton, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), McMaster Sick Children˶Hospital and Missoula Food Banks. Cree also enjoys expressing herself creatively through music, art and modelling, saying that her favorite job thus far has been modelling for the Lululemon Team Canada Campaign for the upcoming 2024 Olympics. 

Cree acknowledges the significance of representing the diversity of her heritage, embracing her mosaic lineage of Chippewa, Nigerian, Hungarian and Scottish roots. She recognizes the imperative of amplifying the voices of Indigenous women on both national and global platforms. As she embarks on her journey toward the Miss Universe Canada crown in July 2024, Cree plans to use the platform to honor the memory of murdered and missing Indigenous women across Canada. 


The ˶ 2024 Commencement ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 4, at the Hal and Inge Marcus Pavilion on the University˶Lacey campus, 5300 Pacific Ave SE. Tickets are required for attendance; doors will open at 9 a.m. For more information on 2024 Commencement, please go to www.stmartin.edu/commencement.   

˶ is an independent coeducational university, with undergraduate and graduate offerings, located on a wooded campus of more than 380 acres in Lacey, Washington. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 13 Benedictine colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. ˶ empowers students to pursue a lifetime of learning and accomplishment through its 31 majors, 11 master˶programs, one doctorate program and seven certificate programs spanning the arts and sciences, business, counseling, education, engineering, nursing, and leadership. Saint Martin˶welcomes more than 1,300 undergraduate students and 250 graduate students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its Lacey campus, and more students to its extended campus located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.   


Commencement information

Commencement is on Saturday, May 4, at 10 a.m. in the Marcus Pavilion on campus.

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