We talk a lot about helping our students grow by stepping out of their comfort zones and trying new things. OLMA freshman, Alexi Brunner is quite literally way ahead of the curve as she trains for her first motor cross race. This seemingly mild-mannered young woman recently kicked her soccer ball to the side and replaced it with a dirt bike and a serious fitness regime.
While she wasn’t new to riding, Alexi decided it was time to give it her all with the goal of racing competitively. “I’ve been riding since I was six years old and was inspired by my Dad to take it to the next level,” said Alexi. “I ride one to two hours a day and work out six to seven days a week. I lift, do cardio and mountain bike to build my endurance. That’s really important if I want to race.” Alexi says that she practices at a nearby track and behind her house, which is located in a wooded area. “I loved soccer and played for 10 years as a goalkeeper,” she said. “I enjoyed the team sport but decided to switch to one where everything is up to me.” Alexi also likes the idea of breaking into a traditionally male-dominated sport. “Women are starting to emerge as great racers and I want to be one of them,” she said.
It’s little surprise that Alexi’s favorite course so far this year is Bravery Forward. “I like it because there’s no hiding,” she said. “We are all challenged to participate, but it works because we are in a safe, comfortable environment. I always feel on task in that class.” Alexi is also enjoying the self-defense classes she has as part of Lifetime Fitness. “I had done a little bit of it before, this is giving me an opportunity to get better,” she said. When club block rolls around on Thursdays, you can find Alexi with Mr. Lenguadoro in Archery.
Alexi attended middle school at St. Joe’s in Hammonton where she says she had a lot of guy friends. “There weren’t many girls in my class at the time, so I wasn’t sure how I would like OLMA,” said Alexi. “I shadowed and found that I really liked it. I’m glad that I’m here.”
We are too, Alexi. We can’t wait to see you race!
While this young woman would rather be in or near water than anywhere else, she is most definitely on fire these days when it comes to her academic performance. So much so that she was recently presented with OLMA’s first-ever “Girl on Fire” award. Now in her junior year, Aliana Melendez was recognized with this award during a school-wide assembly for her nearly complete academic turnaround since freshman year.
“I chose OLMA because it was small and all girls,” said Aliana. “Plus, I wanted to do something different than my friends. While I loved the school, the academics were more challenging than I expected and I struggled for part of freshmen year.” The good news is that Aliana did not give up. Instead, she dug in, focused, and leaned on her teachers, friends, and family for support. “I did better last year,” she said. “Things just started to click. This year, I”m going really well with nearly all As so far this semester.” Aliana credits much of her success to surrounding herself with people who really care and want to see her succeed. “It makes a huge difference when everyone is positive and pulling for you,” she said. “I was surprised by the award, but it felt great.”
In addition to excelling academically, Aliana is fish-like when in the water. “I’ve been swimming since I could walk,” she said. “My grandma had a swim school, so my whole family swam all the time. I absolutely love it and enjoy anything involving water and water sports.”
Last year, that love took Aliana to Cedar Key, FL for a biodiversity focused Mini-Mester. “It was so much fun and it was great to understand and see first-hand the effect that plastics are having on our waterways and wildlife,” she said. “It was a great experience.” She is in for a completely different experience in January when she travels to Spain along with other students from OLMA, St. Augustine Prep and Malvern Prep. Aliana will participate in the Spain Exchange Mini-Mester. She will attend school, travel and live as a guest in the home of a local student. “I have to say that I never thought I’d be brave enough to do this, but I am,” she said. “OLMA is all about challenging us to be our best. That’s what I’m shooting for.”
In the classroom, Aliana is really enjoying Anatomy and Physiology. She also loves Psychology and says that it could end up being something she pursues in college. For now, Aliana is looking forward to the rest of her junior year, especially Ring Mass, her trip to Spain and Prom. The rest will come. Congratulations, Aliana. We are so proud of you.