When her forearm was yanked off in a jet ski accident eight years ago, she not only bounced back quickly, she embraced the experience.
"It's been a big blessing to me," said Sonnenburg, who is now 18 and graduating from Kamiak High School.
"I feel like it helped bring me out of my shell. It kind of formed me into who I am today."
Sonnenburg is one of several 2013 graduates who have in their young lives achieved great success or overcome some obstacle who are being featured today in The Herald.
Sonnenburg was only 10 years old in August 2005 when she was spending a day jet-skiing at Lake Goodwin with her family.
She fell off while riding. A rope attached to the jet ski got wrapped around her arm, and the jet ski kept going.
Her arm was instantly severed just below the elbow.
"I can remember everything. I didn't pass out at all," she said.
After an initial recovery period, about two months later, dozens of people attended a Sunday afternoon fundraiser at Mukilteo's Amici Bistro to help Sonnenburg and her family.
"The thing that sticks out to me the most is how much the Mukilteo community supported me," she said. "I'm lucky to grow up in such a caring environment. There are so many families I want to thank."
Sonnenburg has a prosthetic arm but rarely wears it, she said.
"I feel more free without it. It's so heavy, it's kind of restricting to me. I feel more like I can be myself, more comfortable without it," she said. "I suppose the one thing would be image, but I'm so comfortable in my skin that I don't really care."
Sonnenburg still has her elbow joint and uses it to brace items that she controls with her right hand, such as her cellphone.
"I hold shopping bags with it. My friends always say it's good for massage, like when they have knots in their back," she said, laughing.
She attributes her strong self-image and positive attitude in large part to dancing, which she's been doing since she was 4.
"I think a lot of it has to do with being a dancer, because dancing is a lot about body image and how you feel about your body," she said. "Through dancing I was able to focus more on what I can do with what I have than focusing on a loss."
She's continued to dance in a variety of styles at Kamiak and at Mukilteo's Allegro Dance Studio, with jazz being her favorite.
Sonnenburg also played soccer, participated in the One Voice Christian club and, in her senior year, began cheerleading.
She's maintained a 3.5 grade-point average. She'll be going to Azusa Pacific University near Los Angeles in the fall, aiming for a career in public relations or human resources.
"She's a super kid. You ask her to do anything, she does it to the best of her ability," Kamiak math teacher Bob Hannah said. "She's willing to accept help and willing to give help. She learns from her mistakes, she can take the ups and downs in stride and she just wants to improve on her performance."
Sonnenburg doesn't shy away from talking about losing her arm, but she certainly doesn't dwell on it, either.
"It's a big part of who I am, but I haven't let it define me. It's just something that happened, it's not who I am.
"I had to grow up very fast, but I'm very grateful for it."
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Class of 2013
• Ruby Kassala: Ace student thrives on challenges
• Brendon Krall: Driven to succeed -- and to help others
• Erika Middleton-Sharpe: Headed for New York with an upright bass
• AnhViet Nguyen: Before Stanford, he'll learn to drive
• Debbie Peterson: She's got her eye on medical school
• Victoria Sonnenburg: Accident was 'blessing' to Kamiak senior
• Nicota Stevenson: His heritage helped him chart his future
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