Gabriella Herrera and Jacob Peterson are among 49 seniors who will be recognized at the section’s awards ceremony Tuesday, April 12, at Hutchins Street Square in Lodi. Both will receive $600 awards based on their accomplishments in varsity sports, in the classroom and in community service.
Herrera has been on West High’s varsity tennis team for three years, including two Tri-City Athletic League championship teams and three playoff-bound teams, with West getting as far as the quarterfinals of the section’s Division I tournament this past fall season.
She also has played soccer and been part of West’s track and field teams.
Other school involvement includes West’s mock trial team, president of the school’s pre-med club, MEChA and the National Society of High School Scholars. Her grade-point average of 4.43, the result of six Advanced Placement classes, helped earn her the honor of valedictorian of West High’s 724-member 2011 senior class.
Her participation in athletics has been a central part of her involvement at West High.
“I knew when I entered high school I wanted to play sports,” she said, adding that while soccer showed her how to be part of a unified whole, tennis taught her how to depend on herself, learn from teammates and deal with pressure for the benefit of a team.
“There were many matches where my match was the winning match,” she said. “You’re building yourself, and you have other people to support you and you support them. You just learn to work with people and look for strengths and find your own strengths.”
Herrera has been accepted to Stanford and the University of California as well as several Ivy League colleges, and has her sights set on Harvard, where she plans to study neuroscience or molecular and cell biology.
Her interest in the field comes from an eight-week internship last summer at Stanford’s neuro-diagnostics lab.
“I did a lot of my own independent research. Not only did I learn about the field, I got a lot of hands-on experience,” she said. “I was watching surgeons every day. It solidified my desire to not only go into the medical field, but to go into that specific area.”
Jacob Peterson Peterson has been on the West High varsity football team for the past three years, including two years as the starting quarterback, and also has played varsity baseball for two years. He has a GPA of 3.97 and is ranked 30th in his class.
He volunteers as a coach with Tracy Little League, Tracy Buccaneers youth football and West’s youth baseball camp. He is also a member of the California Scholarship Federation.
He plans to attend San Jose State University and will major in either engineering or sports medicine. He applied for the scholarship with the expectation that there would be lots of competition for the award.
“Winning it is a big honor. All the hard work in high school really paid off,” he said. “I’m glad that my coaches and my parents pushed me to do well in school.”
He said that involvement in athletics helped instill discipline to do well academically.
“It’s doing your best in school and not taking the easy way out,” he said. “My philosophy is, do your best in everything you do. If you’re putting in the time and effort in school then eventually it’s going to pay off for you. It’s the same thing in sports.”
He added that his roles on the varsity teams have prepared him for challenges he expects to face in college and after graduation.
“Sports has given me the opportunity to gain leadership skills and good communication skills,” he said. “You know how to interact with people. That’s a big step in the world after high school.”