Making the Grade - Gema Garcia (Harmony Public Schools)

"She's very strong, very strong individual. If you look at her, if you look at her performance, you look at what she does, you can tell that she's a strong individual," says soccer coach Kristie McClain.

“She's had somewhat of a personal tribulation this past year, but she's gone through it smiling, working past it and has been very successful this year," says teacher Isabel Williams.

Success in the classroom and a two-sport star to boot – with all that success, Gema Garcia’s leadership skills and courage would be tested. Those tribulations?

In July 2018, Gema was at home with her sister and dad when her dad passed out. The series of events that followed would change her family’s lives forever.

“At one point I had to perform CPR. My sister was freaking out. During the whole time, we were on the phone with 911. And I was there performing CPR until the medics came. And then the whole ride to the hospital, I was emotional, but I was -- I had hope,” she says. “I was really hoping that he would survive.”

In July 2018, Gema’s father died of cardiac arrest.

Then, in December 2018, Gema underwent brain surgery.

“Basically they took out some tissue in my brain because I was classified as epileptic. They thought surgery would be a good idea to stop the seizures. They cut me up over here and here and took out tissue.”

It took her a month to recover. She returned to competition, never lost her courage or vision, but she needed to regain her conditioning.

“I knew I had to limit myself and not push hard. Because I did just have brain surgery. I had to realize that. But I just kept going,” she says. “I knew I could do it. I’ve always been the athlete to push my body to its limits and that's what I did.”

Gema plays the position of defender on her soccer team and setter on her volleyball team.

“She's always there to encourage everybody and the fact the moment she steps on to the court, she makes everybody fight that much harder.”

Gema has that same mindset academically. Her course load?

“AP psychology, calculus, European history, dual credit English 1301, 1302, macroeconomics and US government.

She has a 4.2 GPA, is ranked number 6 in her class and, upon graduation, a Terry Foundation Scholarship Scholar who will study marine biology at Texas A&M Galveston.

Gema Garcia has earned total respect from her teachers and coaches

“She tries very hard. She gets her work done on time. You don't have to ask twice. She puts a lot of effort into it. She's happy to do it. She wants to achieve," Williams says.

“She would be there to encourage everybody, tell everybody where they need to be, how they need to be. And she just shows purely by example. She was always in the right place, right time. As a player she's never, ever let me down,” says volleyball coach Jonathan Jungklaus.