By LARRY GAGE
Special to the PRESS
Port Isabel Lady Tarpon senior student-athlete Karina Vela is about as active a high school kid as you will find anywhere. She has been a football cheerleader, competes in two sports, and is active in several clubs and organizations. She consistently scores in the 90s in her classes and has been taking online college courses since her junior year.
Vela is a member of National Honor Society, which requires a cumulative class score of at least 90 percent. She also participates in DECA and is a member of the Lower Valley Cotillion Club, which celebrated its 60th anniversary last year.
The Lower Valley Cotillion Club is, “A social organization designed to bring together and present to society Lower Rio Grande Valley college-bound, civically and socially active girls.” New members are selected during their junior year in high school by an advisory board that considers leadership, community activities, college intentions, and suggestions by their senior advisory members.
First-year junior members are required to wear white at the annual presentation ball and all other club functions. As a senior they can wear other colors.
“It’s a select group of girls,” Vela told the Press this week. “It teaches … manners and how to present yourself to people.”
Vela definitely plans to attend college after graduating next spring and planned to send applications to several schools this week. She was working on those applications before showing up in Tarpon Gym for the start of basketball practice on Monday.
“I’m done with my essays,” Vela said. “I just need to get all my transcripts, income tax (information) for my parents. I’m applying to Texas State, UTSA, UT, and I’m thinking of A&M or Kingsville.”
Blake Ramsey is Vela’s basketball coach. Vela is one of the team’s two returning starters from last season. “She’s a good team player,” Ramsey said Monday and he stressed the importance of her defensive abilities on the court. “She’s huge. If we didn’t have a solid last line of defense we wouldn’t be able to gamble up top.”
Vela was brought up to varsity in time for the team’s bi-district playoff in 2014. “She was our leading rebounder in her first varsity game as a sophomore.”
“I like the sport,” Vela told the Press. “I’ve always liked it. I’m a very competitive person.”
In the Lady Tarpons’ 36-32 win over La Villa Tuesday night in Tarpon Gym Vela was the team’s leading rebounder with 12 boards, four blocked shots, and six points scored.
Ramsey is well aware of each one of his players’ academic situations. “I stress to these girls that education is important. We’re student-athletes and student comes first. So I expect them to get good grades and work hard in class.”
The amazing thing about Vela’s academic workload is that she is already accumulating college credits by taking online courses. That’s in addition, of course, to her regular course work at Port Isabel High.
“I’m taking Comp. (Compostion) II. I took College Algebra last year. I’m taking Government and Economics this year … and I’m taking Biology II, a college class.”
Time management is an important skill for busy high school students like Vela to have and she talked about the necessity of having a plan. “I have to know how to manage my time … know when I can see my friends, when I have to do my work. And if I have to stay up late to finish my work, (it’s) because I know it’s going to bite me in the butt if I don’t! If I don’t get it done it’ll hurt me.”
Vela has stayed up as late as 2 a.m. to study.
She’s a member of Living Way Family Church in Brownsville and, “I help every other Sunday with the kids.”
Certainly, Vela has not chosen the path of least resistance as she navigates through her high school years, and that decision will be all to her benefit as time goes on. “And I’m not going to quit … that’s the one thing I cannot do. I cannot quit.”
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