In our latest installment of Feature Friday, we shine the spotlight on Union Catholic senior Gianna Peralta.
Peralta, who lives in Long Hill, is an Honor Roll student, a Student Ambassador, a two-sport star, and she's involved in clubs and activities at UC.
Here is our Q and A with Peralta -
You do such a great job representing UC! What does it mean to you to represent the school as a Student Ambassador and what’s the best thing about being an Ambassador?
Representing the school as a Student Ambassador is one of my favorite parts about my experience so far. I love my school and I am so passionate about it, so when I am speaking to possible incoming students and or parents, it is so easy for me to explain why UC is so great. If you are passionate about something, you’ll never stop talking about it;I know how great of a fit it has been for me, my peers, and so many past generations that come back to speak about their experiences. UC is a home and I absolutely love to tell people about it.
I know you were inducted into the National Honor Society this year? That’s such a great honor! What does that mean to you?
Being inducted into the National Honor Society means a great deal to me because it is a reward for the extra time and effort I have been putting into my academics. Prior to UC, I played it safe with academics and was seen as a regular student. However, once 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 am so glad I stuck to it though because I was forced to work harder and in turn I came out of my shell and realized I was a better student than I had always thought.
You are such a well-rounded student at UC. Can you list everything you are involved in at UC besides basketball, softball, and being a Student Ambassador? Clubs etc?
I am on the Executive Board for Student Movement Against Cancer.
Let’s get into sports. When and how did you get started playing softball and basketball?
I have been around both sports since I was a baby because both of my parents have been coaching and playing since way before I was born. I first started playing through Little League and going to basketball camps. Honestly, I was not that interested in basketball though until third or fourth grade when travel started. From there on out, I was playing both sports through rec, travel, and club as well.
I know it must have been tough not to have a softball season last spring. What did you do to stay sharp and improve yourself, and what are your personal and team goals for the upcoming season?
It was definitely tough not to have a softball season this past spring, but I still used that time to my advantage. I worked constantly to get better; I hit a few times a week off of a tee and did glove work as well. I tried yoga and spent time running to see what I could find as a real hobby to continue to pursue. I am so excited for this upcoming season because I have gotten better as have my fellow teammates. I think we can really do a lot together. My goal previously was to get 100 hits by the end of senior year, but losing junior year made me face reality on that. Therefore, my team goal is to win a conference and county championship. We have a lot of talent and I think we can definitely do it if we work hard.
How about hoops? There is a lot of great talent returning on your team? What kind of goals do you have personally and for the team for the basketball season?
Obviously this past year has been one for the books. As of now, it looks like we won’t be participating in states nor counties, but I don’t think that truly matters. The fact that we can play at all is a miracle in itself and I just pray that we can all stay healthy and be able to 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.
What about being named one of the captains for the basketball team? That’s a great honor. What does that mean to you, Gianna?
Being named a captain means so much because after playing for Coach Matthews since freshman year, she has watched me grow and develop not only as a player but as a person. Therefore, her choosing me to be one of our official captains this year shows that she has gained trust in me as well as my leadership abilities.
What do you love the most about being a two-sport athlete, and playing at such a high level for Union Catholic?
Being a two-sport athlete at Union Catholic keeps me pretty balanced I think. My favorite part about it is how many people I get to meet and connect with at my school as well as at other schools. Not only am I getting better at the sport, I am becoming closer and gaining strong relationships with teammates.
Can you explain how the balance between academics, sports and extracurricular activities has helped you become a better student, and how important it is to be involved in different things?
I can definitely say without a doubt that sports extracurricular activities are what have 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. Being involved in different things keeps me set on where I have to be and when I need to have things done by.
Can you list all the awards/honors you have received at UC? Honor Roll, academic awards, sports?
High Honors throughout high school
National Honors Society
Spanish National Honors Society
National Girls and Women in Sports recipient in 2019
Basketball: Union County Mountain Division Co-Champions 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 some much academic success? Must be very satisfying and exciting to see all your hard work pay off.
Going into my last some months of my high school career, it is so satisfying to look back and be proud of what I have accomplished. I am decided on a college, so I know my next steps, but I am savoring every last moment of high school. I spent so much time working to get to college that now it is there and I want to enjoy senior year before everything starts all over again.
What do you love the most about being a student at Union Catholic?
What I love most about being a student at UC are the student-teacher connections. The teachers want to see you do well and they motivate you to do so. They will do whatever it takes to help you if you want it.
Why and how did you decide that UC was the place for you to be? What was it about UC that made you want to be a student here?
I have been running around Union Catholic since I was a young girl because of my mom (who was a softball and volleyball coach at UC). I have loved it since day 1 and wanted to be a part of it since I could remember. I went to public school all of my life and would have gone to public high school, but in my mind, UC was the only school I could ever imagine myself at. All I wanted was to play on the court I used to chase my sister across during volleyball games. I wanted to play on the same field my mom had coached on. I knew UC was special and I knew I wanted to be a part of that.
What kind of advice would you give to younger students who are considering attending UC? Why should they come to UC and what will UC give them that they won’t be able to find at other schools?
When you visit Union Catholic, you will see the connections not only between students, but between the staff and students as well. Teachers want us to succeed. They want to make us better people because they care about us. You may not feel the connection yet if you’re not a part of the building, but it will come; you will be joining a family. I don’t know how many other schools can truly offer you that.
What specifically can you point to as the things that you’ve benefited from the most from your experience as a student at UC?
Coming to Union Catholic, I was terrified just like every other incoming student. New students, teachers, a new environment, etcetera. However, joining sports teams, clubs, and participating in extracurriculars changed the game for me. A school turned into my family because I formed so many connections that made me experience better than I could have imagined. How about the future?
Have you made your final decision yet about which college you will attend?
I have decided to attend Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I will be playing softball.
What would you like to major in and what type of career would you like to pursue? I will be majoring in Health Sciences and I would like to pursue a career as a Physician’s Assistant.
What is something about yourself that most people don’t know? Maybe a hidden talent or hobby?
Over the summer, I began painting. I am in no way artistic, but I absolutely love it. I paint shoeboxes and it is one of the best things I have ever picked up.
Favorite thing to do in your spare time? In my spare time, I go hiking, spend time 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 playing on different teams because of age and only ever played together through middle school. Therefore, being able to play high school basketball with her was, and has been, such a terrific feeling.
Favorite UC Softball Moment:
My freshman year, we were in extra innings against DePaul in the quarterfinal round of states. Tied 1-1, I went up to bat and hit a homerun over the center field fence to bring us into the semifinals. It was by far one of the most exhilarating moments of my life as a softball player and I hope to make many more memories just like it.
Favorite UC (non softball/basketball) Moment:
My favorite UC moment was last year’s winter pep rally. Seeing everybody joking around and laughing together was so pure and joyous.
Favorite UC Event:
My favorite UC event is definitely Quarters for Cancer. Sadly, we couldn’t hold it this past year, but every year SMAC(Student Movement Against Cancer) holds a charity dinner to raise money towards fighting cancer. Being part of SMAC has exposed me to so many new opportunities and being a part of this dinner puts me in a position to do something big even through a smaller 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 being honest with. No matter the consequences, it is vital to always be honest.
Life Motto: “If there was no tomorrow, how hard would you play today?”
One word to describe your UC experience: Unpredictable
Share one tip for members of the Class of 2024: Everyone is in the same boat as a freshman; everyone is scared because everything is new. Don’t let that fear take away from your experience because it will be the fastest four years of your life and some of the best. Therefore, my one tip would be to make the most of every memory because not every opportunity comes around a second time.