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The Activities Matter - Student Spotlight Blog

February Student Spotlight

Roberto Duenaz

Academics vs. athletics has long been a hot topic regarding student athletes. Roberto Duenaz, a senior at Seattle Lutheran High School, is one of many students who has been motivated by athletic eligibility. Captain of this year's basketball team, Duenaz is the male recipient of February's Student Spotlight.


According to Seattle Lutheran’s Athletic Handbook, “A Student must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0 to be eligible for co-curricular participation. Grades at the end of every four weeks are used to calculate GPA for eligibility. Students with one or more “F” grade (63% or below), regardless of GPA, are considered ineligible.” For Duenaz and other student athletes, this GPA is not always attainable for one reason or another.

Athletic Director David Sleighter said of Duenaz, “Although he has struggled with grades periodically throughout his four years, he has matured and made tremendous progress. I know for a fact that activities matter for Roberto.”

Head basketball coach Brett Kapels described Duenaz as “smooth, patient and unselfish,” all characteristics of a mature senior who has learned a lot over his last four years of athletics.


Beyond time management skills and a way to be part of a team, Duenaz has learned to have patience with players who aren’t as good as him, to appreciate the competition his teammates give him at practice, that “it doesn’t matter who scores as long as the team does good,” and regarding referees, they “don’t always do the best of jobs, but they do have a difficult job that not a lot of people could do.” That’s more than most adults can say about officials.

When asked of challenges he’s encountered in his four years at Seattle Lutheran, Duenaz noted his eligibility. Last year he had to sit out for six games early on in the basketball season. Considering the Lions have placed at State the last two years, it wasn’t easy for Duenaz to sit and watch.

Duenaz gives credit to overcoming his eligibility struggles by working harder, setting alarms for homework time and listening to everyone saying “time flies,” especially with the busy schedule of a student athlete.

For Duenaz, the day  starts at 8:00am. He’s in class for six hours, has practice for two hours after school, then carves out time for homework, a shower, food and finally sleep - only to wake back up and do it all over again. Being a multi-sport athlete (Duenaz participates in two of three seasons) guarantees the four years of high school to go by quickly.

Although he feels like he’s missed out on activities with friends due to his commitment to being a student athlete, Duenaz said, “priorities matter.” Priorities for him have become committing to hard work on the court for his team and even harder work in the classroom for himself.


School hasn’t always been Duenaz’s favorite, but participating in school sports the last four years has turned his attitude around. Coach Brett Kapels explained further: “For some, it [extracurricular sports/activities] is the motivation to do well in school. For others it is one of the best things they have going in life, it keeps them moving everyday. Roberto has changed his view and really started to appreciate the opportunity to play and recognize the need to keep his work in order to do so.”

Bella Hillman

Bella Hillman is a senior at Olympia High School. She's a dance/drill captain and is described by her coach, Chelsea Peterson, as a "living example of somebody who gets what they put into it." Hillman is the female recipient of February's Student Spotlight. 


Dance/drill is not often what one thinks of when the subject of team sports is brought up. After hearing from Hillman herself, it is clear that dance/drill requires as much if not more grit, perseverance and teamwork than the higher profile athletic activities.

In 2001, dance/drill became an official WIAA competitive activity paired with an annual State Tournament.


Although still not considered a mainstream sport, Hillman explained why she is proud to compete for Olympia with her dance/drill squad.

“It gives us a chance to represent our school in a positive and different way - we pull a different crowd, it’s our own culture. It’s taught me a lot about myself and others, we’re close, we have no boundaries.”

She went on to explain that trust is one of the most important parts of a team and in her squad. It has challenged her to trust her teammates in a way that has been hard for her in the past. It has allowed her to “feel her feelings.”


Anybody who has been a part of a team has experienced the strength of a teammate relationship. Like Hillman, you spend practically all day around each other, whether in season, or training during off-season, often sacrificing weekends for more practice or a tournament.

It’s not just teammates that an athlete builds these strong bonds with, the coaches are along for the ride too. As a student-athlete, your coach may also be your teacher during the school-day, as is the case with Hillman and coach, Peterson.

When asked what all good coaches have in common, Hillman explained there has to be “passion for the players and dedication to the sport.”

Peterson has known Hillman as a student since she taught her in eighth grade and as an athlete since ninth grade. She described Hillman as talented, humble and tenacious. Peterson has been able to watch Hillman grow as a young woman and as the strong and talented dancer she is today.

Tearing up, Peterson explained that Hillman is “truly, one hundred percent dedicated. She is one of them.”

“I watched her find her voice. She has massively come out of her shell, I see that in a lot of students who participate.”



February 2017

2/8/2017 February Student Spotlight

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