Santa Rosa High senior Isabella "Buddy" Burch, 17, is on the debate team, tennis team and in chorus, plus volunteers with Challenger Little League. Press Democrat photo by Crista Jeremiason



Isabella “Buddy” Burch isn’t your typical Buddy, but then there’s little typical about her.
The senior at Santa Rosa High School has been going by the normally male moniker since her parents began making a play on her middle name — Rosebud — when she was just a baby.
An unusual name, though, may prove to be the least of what makes Burch memorable. At 17 years old, she is developing a record of effort and excellence that suggests she’ll soon be making a mark in the world for more substantial reasons.
Apart from stellar grades, Burch is co-captain of the school’s debate team, one of three presidents of the Chorale Student Union, a member of school site council and captain of the tennis team, where she is the top singles player.
“I pretty much haven’t put a racket down since the end of eighth grade,” Burch said, although she admits all that practice hasn’t made perfect.
Her booming serve is can be offset by moments of performance anxiety. Such battles with pressure, even when she loses them, are the very reason she enjoys playing a solo sport.
“I like being in control entirely of how things play out,” she said. “It’s totally mental for me.”
Burch said she approaches school and life with the attitude it’s important to take the opportunities available, a fact reflected in her schedule.
She arrives at school each day at 7 a.m. for chorus, carries a course load replete with AP and honors classes, stays after the final bell for tennis and often competes in debates on Fridays and weekends.
It’s the kind of schedule some students force on themselves in hopes of wowing college selectors. But Burch seems to love all aspects of her day. She says AP Biology, for example, was the best class she has ever taken.
In addition to school responsibilities, Burch has a long-running commitment to Challenger Little League, which provides youth baseball to disabled children.
She started volunteering as a fifth-grader, fittingly working as a “buddy,” one of many children who assist the athletes in the field.
By ninth grade, she had been helping long enough to notice occasional communication problems between teams and her fellow buddies, who sometimes wouldn’t get word of canceled games till they arrived at empty fields.
That led to her joining the league’s board as the buddy coordinator two years ago where she continues to serve. Now she’s busy trying to recruit a replacement as college looms.
Burch isn’t sure where she’ll head next year or what she’ll study. For now, she has her eye on a trio of academic heavyweights — the University of Chicago, Pomona College and Claremont McKenna College in Southern California. Regardless, she’ll be busy.
“I have put my fingers in a lot of areas of life,” she said. “I think you should try as many things as you can if you have the opportunity.

You can reach Staff Writer Sam Scott at 521-5431 or

Isabella ‘Buddy’ Burch
Age: 17
Birthplace: Santa Rosa
Lives with: Dad, Michael; Mom, Susan; brother, Henry, 15
What’s in her iPod: Whites Stripes, Eric Whitacre, Young the Giant
Fave hobbies: Singing and traveling
Dream job: Still thinking about it
Fave TV Show: “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations”
Fave food: mac and cheese