By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
At Rancho Cotate High School, if it happened in the last few years, there’s a good chance Michelle Mejia helped make it so.
The 18-year-old Mejia, who graduated June 1 — at a ceremony where she collected a barrelful of honors — specialized in getting involved.
Dances. Picnics, Graduation-related events. School spirit activities — Mejia was in on it, even as she balanced a full schedule of school sports and 20 hours a week of work at In-N-Out Burger in Rohnert Park.
“If there’s something that needs to be done, she gets in there and does it,” said her high school counselor, Cheryl Hlebakos.
Mejia says the reason is simple: She has sought out leadership positions that required her to step up. And she enjoys it.
“I like, probably the best, that you have to plan things,” she said of her role last year as junior class president and this year as senior class president.
As well as the enjoyment, she says, is that you’re right in the mix.
“You get to be actively involved in the things that happen at your school,” she said. “You get to have a say in a lot of things that affect a lot of people.”
Her ability to juggle a full slate of activities may be due to what Hlebakos describes as Mejia’s focus on and appreciation for the present.
“She plans for the future but she lives in the moment,” Hlebakos said.
Born in Santa Rosa, Mejia attended John Reed Elementary School, which has kept its eye on her. At her graduation, she was awarded the John Reed Elementary PTA Scholarship.
She also garnered a scholarship named for the high school’s first principal, Bob Daggett; a Burger King Scholars award; the school’s scholar athlete of the year award; and The Press Democrat’s female scholar athlete of the year prize. And she was named a 2012 California Interscholastic Federation Farmers Insurance Scholar Athlete.
The scholar in Mejia earned a 4.31 grade point average this year and won her admission to UC Santa Barbara. She favors the sciences and is eyeing a future in pharmacology or perhaps oncology — for similar reasons.
“I love helping people,” she said. “That’s my expertise.”
Her athletic half shows up on the basketball court. A center for the Cougars, and the team’s only senior, she averaged 7 points a game, showing off a variety of post moves and outside sharpshooting.
“She just grew immensely,” said Dough Haught, her coach for three years.
“She was just the hardest-working player I’ve had, and she led by example,” Haught said.
In all her pursuits, Mejia said, she has a special guiding light: Her older sister and only sibling, Jennifer.
“I’ve always looked up to her,” she said.
“She’s always been there for me and she showed me what I want to be because she always strived to be the best she can be.”
You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Favorite Food: Cioppino
On her iPod: Drake and Rascal Flats
Favorite Movie: “Love and Basketball”
Lives with: Mother, father and sister: Heather, Steve and Jennifer.
Favorite Book: “The Hours,” by Michael Cunningham,
Favorite quote: “In silence, the universe answers.”