Hastings High School graduation will be held 7 p.m. Friday, June 8, at Todd Field. The rain location is the high school gym.
If Sophia Sanchez has a theme in her life, it is caring about people and social issues.
When the Hastings High senior was a freshman, she co-founded the Feminism Club. Over the past four years, she and the club have organized many projects to help people at the school and in the community.
One of the biggest projects was to connect with the St. Olaf College Sexual Assault Resource Network and the American Association of University Women to bring speakers to Hastings High School.
"We were talking about what we could do to help students," Sanchez said, "and with so many students going off to college or into the workforce, we decided to help them become aware of what their rights are and what they can do to protect themselves and their friends."
"Sophia met with other club leaders over the summer and came to school with agendas for the entire school year," said English teacher Kari Jaeger, adviser of the Feminism Club.
Although Sanchez and her friends had decided during the summer to increase awareness of sexual assault, their cause received a big boost when the #MeToo movement went viral in October.
"That helped encourage a lot of kids to show up for our events," Sanchez said. "It was good that we were doing something."
Jaeger is also the adviser of the Raider's Digest school newspaper. "I was ecstatic when Sophia applied to be the editor of the newspaper and the president of the Feminism Club."
The writing Sanchez did impressed Jaeger. "As the daughter of an immigrant, Sophia has an important perspective, which she is willing to share by battling prejudice through editorials in the school newspaper and volunteering to work with Principal Johnson on a new committee dedicated to influencing school climate."
Jaeger noted that, after her sophomore year, Sanchez and some friends organized a summer reading program. They set a "goal of analyzing several classical texts that are not taught in our school. They chose texts, organized a schedule, found academic journal articles, and facilitated discussions."
Sanchez has spent four years practicing and competing with the school's Knowledge Bowl team, the Nerd Herd. At one meet in the Twin Cities, Sanchez and her teammates placed 15th in a field of 180 teams.
Sanchez helps the Science Club visit third-grade students to "get them engaged in science at an early age," she said. She also volunteers at the Animal Humane Society helping with lab work, surgeries, and adoptions.
She worked through the summer at the Science Museum of Minnesota, assisting with exhibits and answering visitors' questions and continued to volunteer twice a month throughout the school year.
During college, Sanchez, a board member of the Spanish Honor Society, plans to spend a semester abroad in Spain, hoping to put her five years of Spanish studies to good use.
Sanchez will attend Smith College, a private women's liberal arts school, in Northampton, Mass.
She visited the college and noted that "the environment was great. They have rigorous academics and a great study abroad program."
Undecided about a major, she will consider English, history or foreign policy. "I would love to do something with the state department or help out at the U.N."
Principal Mike Johnson said Sophia is " the kind of person who doesn't talk much, but when she does, it means something."
Johnson said Sanchez is a good listener. "She often helps other students find their voice, find the courage to speak. She has a good pulse on people."
She may have a quiet demeanor but her classmates have seen her results. They voted her "Most likely to organize a protest."
Sanchez laughed about the honor, but explained, "I care about social issues. I want to help in any way I can."