Whether she’s in a classroom or on a volleyball court, basketball court or softball diamond, Grace Academy senior Sam VanderWel is motivated to excel.
“She gives her all in everything that she does. That’s just part of her makeup,” Eagles girls basketball coach Bill Kelley said. “She does things other people don’t do to get her body ready for competition. She’s demanding of herself and her teammates. She’s got speed and quickness and strength, but she’s an extremely hard worker.”
VanderWel has played volleyball and basketball at Grace Academy and softball at Granite Falls, earning all-conference honors in each sport. She’s also been a member of the Snohomish Shock Softball Club for the past four years.
Here are five things to know about VanderWel:
1. She’s worked to become a more positive person. “I used to be more negative,” VanderWel said. “It hit me hard when I got to high school. A coach told me, ‘You’re not going to play if you’re negative.’ Even in school I got frustrated if I didn’t get straight As. Sometimes I’m still negative, and it’s a struggle. I’m not perfect. But it’s a struggle I’m going to beat because I hate being negative. My friends have helped me so much. One of my select softball teammates, Anya Mesa, has been a big role model for me. She’s the sweetest person in the world, and has had a big impact on me.”
2. She’s a member of National Honor Society. She’s put in 50 service hours in each of the past three years as part of her commitment to Grace Academy’s NHS chapter. “We’ve helped at food banks, cleaned up streams, picked up garbage, helped homeless people,” VanderWel said. “I love serving my community. It shows you that not everything is about yourself. It’s fun to help your fellow human beings.”
3. She’s got a head for numbers. “I’ve been looking (at pursuing a career in) accounting, or (becoming a) mathematician, or maybe teaching math,” said VanderWel, who hasn’t chosen a college yet but hopes to continue her softball career at the next level. “I love math. I’ve always been good with numbers. At school we have the Math Olympics, and I’ve won almost every year. I like it because I think it’s cool to see how many different ways you can get the same answer if you do the steps properly.”
4. She’s a voracious reader. “I’m a hoarder. I’ve got so many good books in my room, so many options to choose from,” VanderWel said. “I love fantasy and science fiction. One of my favorites is the ‘Ruby Red’ series (by Kerstin Gier). It’s about a girl who travels through time. I re-read it whenever I want to.”
5. She was a Girl Scout. VanderWel was a member of a troop in Granite Falls for about six years when she was younger. “That was a good learning experience, too, because the Girls Scouts are all about helping the community,” she said. “I had the chance to do a lot of different things that I don’t normally get to do. I really enjoyed it. I wish I could still do it, but I don’t have the time.”