Student Spotlight – Sarah Gonzales

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Allison Wu, Staff Writer

At a Model United Nations conference, I shared a hotel room with Sarah and Kaitlin. After carrying a large purse of Jif peanut butter portion cups, a copious quantity of rice crackers, and a godly amount of Nature Valley bars, Sarah finally settled on the hotel’s couch—only to work more. She opened her laptop, searched for restaurants, and worked tirelessly to take care of everything. We feasted on the best Burger King that night. Despite her responsibilities, Sarah, Kaitlin, and I had an amazing time at Austin gathering with classmates and playing games. During the Yosemite trip, I remember sitting with Sarah on the bus and laughing hysterically. Our personalities clicked, and I always felt energized by Sarah’s company. Those moments are everlasting in my memory, and I frequently admire Sarah from afar as she wins awards, tackles challenges, and stands up for others. She’s an inspiration. 

Sarah at CTMUN, freshman year

Hardworking, Sarah is involved in many clubs on campus, filling up a 3-page resume! She’s President of Model UN, Class Secretary, editor of Debate in the Keynote, a Science Fair participant, and much more. In addition, she has dedicated four years as an intern and at least seven years as a volunteer at the University Health System’s Children’s Health Department. There, she learned to love the medical field and grew connected with the community, staff, and volunteers. Sarah has also gained international recognition in science. Qualifying for International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), winning 1st Grand Prize Team and a Biobridge Global special award at the Alamo Regional Science and Engineering Fair (ARASE), and attaining a scholarship to the Governor’s Champion’s Academy for research, Sarah is Ellen Ochoa of Keystone. She describes her motivations to succeed in Science Fair as a purpose “to prove”—to prove to herself that she can set goals and accomplish.  Powerful, hardworking, and sharp—Sarah is hoping to publish her research soon (as a high school student!) and work for Doctors Without Borders in the future.

Despite her amazing passion for science, Sarah’s health obstacles have made her achievements possible. Having Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) for ten years, she experiences immense pain in her legs due to hyperactive nerves. Stemming from a traumatic injury, CRPS would change her life forever. Suffering periods of intense pain, called “flare-ups,” Sarah was forced to mature and persevere through her rare disease. According to RSDSA, “CRPS is ranked among the most painful of all medical problems and has been nicknamed the ‘suicide disease’ because there is no cure and limited effective treatments.” CRPS was extremely challenging for Sarah, especially as a child, and her daily life was disrupted. She couldn’t sleep with a blanket or with the fan on because the wind and touch would irritate her legs. Changes in weather would trigger her pain, and she had to re-learn to walk-in physical therapy. She could no longer play basketball, but she still dedicated her time coaching her middle school team—leading them to championships of their league. She’s had to sacrifice so much because of CRPS—a normal childhood, a painless daily routine, basketball, and her family’s stability. Passionate about rare diseases, Sarah continues to find solitude among others with CRPS and advocates for awareness. Her CRPS journey has made Sarah an inspiring and thick-skinned woman, unafraid to take charge and make a statement. I’m incredibly honored to have Sarah retell her story—the ups, the downs, and the in-betweens. I’m even more honored to have known her favorite stuffed animal she received at the hospital; a stuffed animal named Ivy, inspired by IV medication. 

Sarah with her 8th-grade basketball team

In her free time, Sarah is the most passionate reader. Sarah used to carry a book with her everywhere, and she recommends J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series (her favorite being Order of the Phoenix), anything by John Green, Anne Frank’s The Diary of Anne Frank, Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Jacqueline Kelly’s The Evolution of Kalperina Tate, The 5th Wave series, Rick Yancey’s The Last Star, and William Joyce’s Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. She despises anyone who believes The Goblet of Fire is the best book in the Harry Potter series. I’ve been able to spend time with Sarah through girl zoom calls. With other senior girls, Nicole, Kaitlin, Siona, Sarah, Ella, Karina, and Anjali, we watch movies, apply face masks, and talk about the world through virtual events. Sarah also participates in Keystone Golf and enjoys volleyball too after casually playing for two years. As a walking book club and casual sports enthusiastic, Sarah is talented in absolutely everything. 

I genuinely love, respect, and admire Sarah. Known for her reliability, sense of strength, and independence, she’s overcome a tremendous battle for her life to become the beautiful woman she is today. A strong Mexican woman ready to tackle the predominantly white and male medical field, she’s in no doubt ready for anything. She lives by her coach’s words back in middle school: “Excuses are monuments of nothingness, they build bridges to nowhere, those of us who use these tools of incompetence, seldom become anything but nothing at all.” And when asked about her greatest life lesson, she states, “It’s impossible to get through life in a healthy way without asking for help. Your pride, ego, and standards may hurt, but you’ll always be the better for asking. It should be a bigger sign of strength, not a weakness. We are supposed to be perfect the first time, but it’s not realistic. In the bubble we live in at Keystone, asking for help means you aren’t smart enough. When in actuality, it says that ‘I am capable. I am willing to set aside my ego and pride to ask for help.’ It’s a symbol of humility and worth ethic.” Once again, Sarah is inspiring, and I hope everyone can learn something about themselves through her story.