SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – In the latest issue of Union Catholic's Feature Friday, the spotlight on Long Hill-based senior Gianna Peralta is in the spotlight. She is an Honor Roll Student, Student Ambassador, Two Sports Star, and is involved in clubs and activities at UC.
You are doing a great job representing UC! What does it mean to you to represent the school as a student ambassador, and what is the best part about being an ambassador?
Representing the school as a student ambassador is one of my favorite parts of my experience so far. I love my school and I am so excited about it. When I talk to potential new students and / or parents, it's so easy for me to explain why UC is so great. When you have a passion for something, you will never stop talking about it. I know how much I, my colleagues, and so many previous generations have enjoyed it who come back to share their experiences. UC is home and I love telling people about it.
I know you were inducted into the National Honor Society this year? It's a great honor! what does that mean to you?
I mean a lot to be accepted into the National Honor Society because it is a reward for the extra time and effort I have put into my academics. Before UC, I played it safe with academics and was considered a regular student. However, when I got into high school my course load changed because my classes were at a higher level than I was used to or comfortable with. I'm so glad I stuck with it because I was forced to work harder and I came out of my shell and realized that I was a better student than I had ever thought.
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You're such a versatile student at UC. Can you list everything you are involved in at UC except basketball, softball, and student ambassadors? Clubs etc?
I'm on the board for the student movement against cancer.
Let's do sports. When and how did you start playing softball and basketball?
I've been involved in both sports since I was a kid because both of my parents trained and played long before I was born. I first started playing through Little League and going to basketball camps. In all fairness, I wasn't that interested in basketball until third or fourth grade when the trip started. From then on I played both sports through leisure, travel and club.
I know it must have been difficult not to have a softball season last spring. What have you done to stay sharp and improve, and what are your personal and team goals for the season ahead?
It was definitely difficult not having a softball season last spring, but I still used that time to my advantage. I kept working to get better. I hit off a tea a couple of times a week and did glove work too. I tried yoga and spent time running to see what I could find a real hobby to pursue further. I'm really looking forward to the coming season because I've become just as good as my team-mates. I think we can really do a lot together. My goal before was to get 100 hits by the end of last year, but when I lost the second year I was faced with reality. So my team goal is to win a conference and a county championship. We have a lot of talent and I think we can definitely do it if we work hard.
How about tires? Are there a lot of great talent on your team? What goals do you have personally and for the team for the basketball season?
Obviously, the past year was one for the books. It looks like we're not participating in either states or counties, but I don't think that's really important. The fact that we can play at all is a miracle in itself and I just pray that we can all stay healthy and have this season. We have so much talent and chemistry on this team; I really hope we can play together this season and win a conference championship.
How about becoming one of the captains of the basketball team? It's a great honor. What does that mean for you, Gianna?
Being named captain means so much because after playing for Coach Matthews since year one, she has seen me grow and develop not only as a player but also as a person. Her election as one of our official captains this year shows that she has gained confidence in me and my leadership skills.
What do you like most about being a two-person athlete and playing at such a high level for Union Catholic?
As a two-sport athlete at Union Catholic, I think I'm pretty even. My favorite part about this is how many people I can meet and connect with at my school and other schools. Not only am I getting better at sports, I'm also getting closer and developing close relationships with teammates.
Can you explain how balancing academics, exercise, and extracurricular activities helped you become a better student and the importance of getting involved in different things?
I can say without a doubt that extracurricular exercise has kept my academics in check. Having a routine that forces me to manage my time wisely has played a huge role in my development as a student. When I'm involved in different things, I'm always ready for where I need to be and when I need to get things done.
Can you list all of the awards / honors you have received at UC? Honor roll, academic awards, sport?
- High honors throughout high school
- National Honors Society
- Spanish National Honor Society
- National Girls and Women in Sports recipients in 2019
- Basketball: Co-Champions of the Union County Mountain Division 2019-2020
- Softball: Union County Mountain Division Champions 2018-2019 and Union County First Team All Conference
What does it mean to you to have achieved a lot of academic success?
It is so satisfying to look back over the last few months of my high school career and to be proud of what I have accomplished. I chose college so I would know my next steps, but I am enjoying every last moment of high school. I spent so much time going to college that it's here now and I want to enjoy the senior year before it all starts all over again.
What do you like most about being a student at Union Catholic?
What I love most about UC are the student-teacher connections. The teachers want you to be fine and they encourage you to do so. They will go out of their way to help you if you want to.
Why and how did you decide that UC was the right place for you? What made you want to become a student here?
I've been running around Union Catholic since I was a kid because of my mom (who was a softball and volleyball coach at UC). I've loved it since day 1 and wanted to be a part of it for as long as I could remember. I went to public school all my life and would have gone to public high school, but in my eyes UC was the only school I could ever imagine myself going to. I just wanted to play on the court where I chased my sister during volleyball games. I wanted to play on the same field that my mother had trained on. I knew UC was special and I knew I wanted to be part of it.
What advice would you give younger students considering attending UC? Why should they come to UC and what will UC give them that they cannot find in other schools?
When you visit Union Catholic you will see the connections not only between students but between staff and students as well. The teachers want us to succeed. They want to make us better people because they care about us. You may not yet feel the connection if you're not part of the building, but it will come. You will join a family. I don't know how many other schools can really offer you that.
Specifically, what can you point out as the things that have benefited you most from your experience as a student at UC?
When I got to Union Catholic, just like any other incoming student, I was scared. New students, teachers, a new environment, etc. However, joining sports teams, clubs and participating in extracurricular activities have changed the game for me. A school became my family because I made so many connections that I could experience better than I could have imagined. How about the future?
Have you already made your final decision on which college to attend?
I have decided to attend Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I will play softball.
What do you want to study and what kind of career do you want to pursue?
I will have a major in health sciences and would like to pursue a career as a medical assistant.
What is there about you that most people don't know? Maybe a hidden talent or hobby?
I started painting over the summer. I'm not artistic in any way, but I absolutely love it. I paint shoeboxes and it's one of the best things I've ever picked up on.
Favorite activity in your free time?
In my spare time I go hiking, hang out with friends and family and play Super Mario Brothers with my brother (Christian).
Favorite class and teacher at UC? Anatomy and physiology with Mrs. Goworek
Favorite UC basketball moment?
My favorite UC basketball moment would have to be playing with my sister (Daniela) for the first time. We grew up in different teams due to our age and only played together in middle school. So it was and is a great feeling to be able to play basketball with her.
Favorite UC softball moment:
In my freshman year we were in the quarterfinals against DePaul in extra innings. I went 1-1 to the bat and hit a home run over the fence of midfield to get us to the semi-finals. It was by far one of the most exciting moments of my life as a softball player and I hope I can create so many more memories.
Favorite UC (not softball / basketball) moment:
My favorite UC moment was the Winter Pep rally last year. Seeing everyone joking and laughing together was so pure and joyful.
Favorite UC event:
My favorite UC event is definitely Quarters for Cancer. Unfortunately we couldn't keep it up last year, but every year SMAC (Students' Movement Against Cancer) holds a charity dinner to raise money to help fight cancer. Being a part of SMAC has opened up so many new opportunities for me, and being a part of this dinner enables me to do something big with a small gesture.
Favorite UC Core Value and Why?
My favorite core value is honesty. Being honest shows good character and respect for the person you are honest with. Regardless of the consequences, it is important to always be honest.
Motto of life: "If there was no tomorrow, how hard would you play today?"
One word to describe your UC experience: Unpredictable
Share a tip for members of the Class of 2024::
Everyone is in the same boat as a newbie; Everyone is scared because everything is new. Don't let your experience take that fear away, it will be the fastest four years of your life and some of the best. So my only tip would be to make the most of every memory, as not every opportunity arises a second time.