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A roundup of news on sporting events, people and places in Southeast Michigan by columnist Jim Evans.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A true student-athlete

Royal Oak's Mariah Gardziola puts a shot up for the Ravens. The senior center excels both on the court and in the classroom. (Journal Register photo)

The student-athlete.
More and more, it seems, that is a complete contradiction.
Check out the resumes of a lot of the high school seniors who just committed to colleges across the country. They are full of things like height, weight and time in the 40-yard dash.
Does anybody even bother to list a grade point average, or in the world of big time college athletics, is that not even an afterthought?
Royal Oak High School senior center Mariah Gardziola is, by any definition, a student-athlete. She is the talented center on a team that is 14-1 overall and 11-1 in the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division.
Gardziola scored 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the Ravens’ 45-26 league victory over Bloomfield Hills Lahser Thursday night.
She also has a 3.9938 grade point average accrued at the International Academy, a school she has attended full-time since the ninth grade.
The International Academy is a public, tuition-free high school of choice for students of 17 Oakland County school districts collaborating in consortium with university and business partners. It provides a unique blend of rigorous academic standards, practical and career-related learning as well as personal development opportunities. The International Academy has three campuses: IA Central in Bloomfield Hills, IA West in White Lake Township and IA East in Troy.
Gardziola goes to the Bloomfield Hills campus. She attended both grade school and middle school in Royal Oak before going to the International Academy.
She is still deciding which college she wants to attend. Still in the mix are Kalamazoo College, the Residential College at the University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
She’s both a National Honor Society and French Honor Society tutor at the International Academy. Gardziola would like to parlay her interest in languages by studying international relations in college.
Before embarking on a career as an international business liaison or in the diplomatic corps, she wants to spend time in the Peace Corps after graduating from college.
Ideally, those 18 months with the Peace Corps would be spent  somewhere in Africa where she’d like to help build schools.
“Some people think that we have problems in this country, but they are nothing in comparison to what others go through in other countries,” said Gardziola.
She has already done community service projects aimed at helping eradicate illiteracy.
There’s plenty to read into Gardziola’s outstanding high school career as a student-athlete, said Brian Sopata, her basketball coach at Royal Oak.
“Mariah takes in everything you say,” said Sopata. “While a lot of the players might not appreciate the value of what we are doing now until it’s five years or more down the road,  Mariah gets it now. She knows how important this experience is and she wants to be very good at everything she does.
“Mariah is a good player. She is among the top five players in the league. She played AAU for the first time this summer; she played AAU with Sami (Stormont) and that was really important. Those two developed chemistry,” said Sopata.
Stormont is Royal Oak’s best player. A marvelously talented junior, she knocked down a school record 42 points in a victory over Ferndale earlier this season.
Gardziola is one of just four seniors on the team. The others are Lizzie Girardot, Annie Meinberg and Monica Kucharek.
It’s not easy balancing basketball with a rigorous academic schedule. Just keeping up with the academics at the International Academy is difficult enough.
There are students. There are athletes. Occasionally, there are true student-athletes. Mariah Gardziola is one who deserves the hyphen.


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