Making the Grade - Kalissa Niles (Foster High School)

Water polo is not an easy sport.

“I think it's the hardest sport on the planet, just for what you have to do. There's no bottom. There's wrestling. There's physicality. It's a very difficult sport to play,” head swim and water polo coach Scott Slay says. “The simple objective, you score more than the other team.”

"Water polo is just a really fun sport overall. You get to be in a team atmosphere. You get to meet new people. It is difficult. It is a hard sport. It makes you work hard and gives you skills that you need for when you're older and just gives you a good work ethic,” says Kalissa Niles.

That work ethic led Kalissa to water polo. She was initially just a competitive swimmer. She started swimming at the age of 4. Her dad was a swimmer, her mom a volleyball player. Put the two together, Kalissa and both of her sisters are swimmers.

However, it was about a year ago that Kalissa added water polo to her list of sports, thanks to the urging of Coach Slay and others who saw big potential.

“The first day of swim practice, I remember it perfectly. We swam and everyone was staying for water polo practice afterwards. They were all like ‘you should stay. You should stay’. I'm like ‘okay’. I just stayed and tried it. I never left,” Kalissa says.

That’s 12 years of swimming. Fast forward to now, and the Foster girls water polo team is the 2019 state champ. Kalissa is not just winning in the pool, she’s also winning in the classroom where she has the same or better work ethic, says someone who knows her well.

“Her foundation for responsibility has always been there. Her parents have taught her well, too. When she's given a task, she follows through with it. She does not complain. And whenever I’ve asked her to do something, it's always there and she's always going to be there as far as her classmates and her team,” says culinary arts teacher Jocelyn Aventurado.

By the way, Kalissa’s GPA is 3.9 on a 4.0 scale. Her favorite subject is science.

“I like forensics and then I like environmental science. I'm in both of those classes right now. But I don't necessarily want to be a doctor, because I don't want to have to deal with the trauma part of it with people,” Kalissa says.

Her favorite TV show is Criminal Minds – goes with forensics. Her full course load?

“I have forensic science, pre-calculus pre-AP, AP US History, English III AP, environmental science AP and physics pre-AP,” she says.