So long, high school
by ADRIANE TILLMAN & ANTHONY GENTILE | Beach & Bay Press
Published - 06/24/09 - 08:24 PM | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mission Bay High valedictorian Megan Upp congratulates her senior class. 	DON BALCH | BEACH & BAY PRESS
Mission Bay High valedictorian Megan Upp congratulates her senior class. DON BALCH | BEACH & BAY PRESS
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David Semelsberger was the ace of the Buccaneers' varsity pitching staff.
David Semelsberger was the ace of the Buccaneers' varsity pitching staff.
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Holly Nery earned the respect of the Pacific Beach Town Council with her dedication to the community.
Holly Nery earned the respect of the Pacific Beach Town Council with her dedication to the community.
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Mission Bay seniors waved goodbye to high school on June 15 and set their eyes to the future. The Beach & Bay Press spoke with four high flying students who took their Pacific Beach education by the horns.

Meet basketball captain and activist Madison Victor, a young woman who knows what she wants. Victor left The Bishop’s School after two years to finish at Mission Bay High School. She decided to head to the University of Wisconsin for school. And she managed to convince the high school basketball coach to push back practice so she could squeeze a fourth class into her busy schedule.

Victor said being assertive, driven and building relationships with teachers and counselors helped her succeed at Mission Bay High School.

“The resources are there; you just have to take advantage of them,” Victor said.

Victor is one of seven students to complete the full International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Mission Bay.

The IB curriculum is recognized internationally as a rigorous, comprehensive curriculum that requires 150 hours of extra requirements and a thesis paper, as well as the end-of-year exams.

For the IB program Victor had to complete 50 hours of work in each category: creative, action and service. For her creative piece, Victor cooked food at Rachel's Women's Center, where she often volunteers with her mom, dad and two sisters. Victor organized a fashion show in December to raise $3,000 for the senior class prom and brunch, held at the Catamaran and Bahia Belle respectively.

“We tried to keep everything local,” Victor said. “We wanted the school to support Mission Bay community in the hope that they will reciprocate,” Victor said.

Victor headed the basketball team for her two years at Mission Bay High. She worked with the coach to help motivate teammates to strengthen their fundamental basketball skills. Leaving The Bishop’s School basketball team for Mission Bay was a transition: Bishop’s had gone to the first round of state whereas Mission Bay only won one game in 30 during Victor’s junior year.

“The second year I built a relationship with the coach and came up with strategies for what would make the girls successful,” Victor said. “I learned that you always encourage and don’t degrade people, even if you disagree.”

For her service work, Victor organized a clothes drive for disadvantaged women as part of My Girlfriend’s Closet. She also served at the Taste of North Pacific Beach. Victor said she enjoys volunteering and takes a philosophical approach towards it.

“It teaches you that if you are ever in need, you would want people to help you,” Victor said. “I need to do that while I can and while I’m able.”

Finally, Victor wrote a thesis paper about the lack of women in politics. In the first half of her paper, she presented statistics and research to prove her thesis and then attempted to understand its cause.

“There are no laws or policies that prevent women from being active in politics,” Victor said. “I ended up not figuring out why.”

In the fall, Victor will head to the University of Wisconsin to study nursing with an emphasis on pediatrics. She wanted to attend a large school and was attracted by pediatric hospital on campus. Victor has vacationed in northern Wisconsin at Eagle River since she was seven.

“I like the fact it’s in the capital [of Wisconsin] and that it’s a big town with a small town feel,” Victor said.

Victor said she will miss her friends that she grew up in Pacific Beach. Only two of her friends are heading out of state for college.

Meet valedictorian Megan Upp. She viewed her Advanced Placement classes as a swallow-and-regurgitate approach to learning but felt her International Baccalaureate (IB) education forced her to understand the significance of an event.

Upp was one of seven students to complete the full IB program – and Mission Bay’s second class to graduate from the program.

“The IB program encourages you to learn how to think and problem solve,” Upp said.

Upp describes herself as a perfectionist whose parents were encouraging but “not obsessed with achievement.” (There were never any cash prizes for A grades).

“I’m really competitive,” Upp said about her Valedictorian achievement. “If the best I can be is the best in the school, that’s really great. I do it for myself.”

Upp credits IB math teacher Gualter Moura and theory of knowledge teacher Sam Sample for inspiring her. Upp even considers becoming a high school science teacher to inspire young minds – or becoming a dentist. Upp heads to Occidental College in Los Angeles next year. Upp admits that she largely lived in the IB bubble at Mission Bay High but that other IB requirements – like the art class she had to take – forced her to engage other parts of the schools, which she appreciated. For her 50-hour service component Upp caroled at the Point Loma Convalescent hospital, served Meals on Wheels and learned how to crotchet baby caps to donate to hospitals.

“IB is not just about students sitting at home in front of their books all day,” Upp said, who added that crocheting helped her relax. “It’s about getting out there.”

After studying Russia in her History of the Americas class, Upp decided to base her IB thesis paper on the question: “To what extent did the system Lenin set up make it inevitable that Stalin would rise to power?”

Upp was also a volleyball powerhouse for Mission Bay. She served as co-captain for all four years, earned MVP for three years and the Union-Tribune Scholar Athlete Award for two years. She plans to play for Occidental.

Upp’s parting words to incoming freshmen is to play a sport and become part of a team.

“Get involved in the school,” Upp said. “Have school spirit. You’ll be forced to like the school a lot more.”

Meet baseball ace David Semelsberger. As a Pacific Beach kid who attended PB Elementary and PB Middle, it only made sense to David Semelsberger that he would attend his neighborhood high school rather than a private or charter school. Four years later, Semelsberger completed the full International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Mission Bay, along with seven other seniors.

“I had a great experience, met a lot of different people and don’t regret going,” Semelsberger said. “I think it’s more the real world. It’s not going to be as isolated as other schools are.”

The IB program is in its second year at Mission Bay and is a two-year academic course that couples intensive coursework with 150 hours of extracurricular activities and a thesis paper.

“It’s the best college preparation that you could possibly ask for,” Semelesberger said. “Everybody talks about senior year as ‘Alright keep it easy, cruisin’, have a lot of fun.’ But not with the IB program – you’re working your butt off and on task the entire time.”

Semelsberger wrote a thesis paper comparing Renaissance Art to art in the Ming Dynasty during the same time period. He said the idea came from an Art History class he took sophomore year at Mission Bay.

“Not your typical paper, but that’s what I did mine on,” he laughed.

The required 150 hours of extracurricular activities for IB are divided into three categories – creative, action and service. Semelsberger paired the creative and service aspects together volunteering with Meals on Wheels in La Jolla, where he delivered food for the organization and created holiday grams for the patients.

Semelsberger took care of the action requirement on the baseball diamond where he was the ace of the Buccaneers’ varsity pitching staff this season. Semelsberger finished his senior season 4-4 with a 3.26 ERA and six complete games. His last start of the season was a complete game win over San Marcos in the play-in round of the Division III playoffs, the Buccaneers’ only win of the postseason.

“It was great to make the playoffs because we hadn’t missed the playoffs in 35 years at Mission Bay,” Semelsberger said.

Semelsberger has a three-pitch arsenal of fastball, curveball and change up. For him, baseball itself is a change up.

“It was the oasis away from school. It was a chance at the end of the day for two or three hours to do something completely different,” Semelsberger said. “You’re playing a completely different game; you’re out there with a completely different group of people.”

The pitcher’s fondest baseball memory at Mission Bay was his final home outing as a Buc – a crucial game against Western League rival La Jolla.

“Right at the end of the year we had to win one game to make the playoffs,” Semelsberger said. “I started that game and we ended up winning that game and we made the playoffs.”

Semelsberger plans to continue his baseball career next spring at Occidental College in Los Angeles. The Tigers are a Division III program and play in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

As Semelsberger moves into the next phase of his life, things will change. But there is one thing that won’t – his feelings about his hometown.

“For me, it’s home,” he said. “You’re home; the people are nice, not a lot of issues, laid back, it’s sunny. Not a lot of bad days in Mission Beach.”

Meet volunteer star Holly Nery. The Pacific Beach Town Council (PBTC) honored her with the Dan Froelich Award for the hundreds of hours she spent helping run community events. She volunteered at the Halloween carnival and Easter egg hunt at the Santa Clara Recreation Center. She offered her time to set up anniversary celebrations for the Pacific Beach/Taylor Library and Discover PB’s BeachFest. Nery also earned the Salutatorian title with a grade point average only .01 percent behind the Valedictorian. Apart from Nery’s leadership in the Key Club, Nery’s passion lies in fashion. She designed her prom dress that her mother sewed together. Nery will head to the University of California, Berkeley next year where she considers studying accounting.

PBTC member Karl Jaedtke presented Nery with a $500 check from the PBTC.

“This should pay for your entire education, shouldn’t it,” he joked.

Nery thanked the Pacific Beach community for welcoming her. Nery’s family moved to Pacific Beach when Nery was in her last semester of middle school. Her family had immigrated to the country from the Philipines when Nery was 11-years old.

“I really do love Pacific Beach and I’m glad to call it home,” Nery said.

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