STAUNTON – At the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind, senior Lourdes Benitez is into just about everything.
And whether its athletics, academics or involvement in school life, she does it very well.
For her accomplishments, the Cardinals have selected Benitez as their nominee for the City/County Student-Athlete of the Year award, sponsored by The News Leader.
“She’s just a neat person,” VSDB athletic director Jim Kiser said. “You could always depend on her whether it was basketball or volleyball, or leadership or unity.
“I’ve watched her participate from the first year she got here. She has always had an eternal drive. You never had to motivate her.”
When it comes to athletics, Benitez has lettered three years in volleyball and four in basketball. Of the two sports, she favors volleyball over basketball.
“I really didn’t want to play it when I was in the eighth grade,” Benitez said through an interpreter. “But I picked it up in the ninth grade, and I really wish I had started to play it when I was younger.”
Benitez said that she likes all aspects of the game, including digging up the ball. At the fall Mason-Dixon tournament, she was selected to the all-tournament team. Previously, as a sophomore and junior, she received the team coaches award and was the most valuable player this year.
The VSDB senior took up basketball in her eighth-grade year. She has played both center and forward, and prefers the defensive aspects of the game.
As a junior, she won the Mason-Dixon free throw competition and received the team’s coaches award. As a senior, she was team captain and most valuable player.
Whether it’s volleyball or basketball, she likes the team aspects of the game.
“I love being part of a team,” she said. “Everyone works together with all the energy combined. You can accomplish more than just by yourself.”
Academically, Benitez has a 3.468 grade point average and currently ranks No. 1 in her senior class.
Her favorite subject is history while math is the most challenging.
“Growing up in a Hispanic family, there is so much there,” she said. “No end to what you can learn.”
Benitez is involved in numerous activities at her school. She was freshman and sophomore class president, and the top student in science her freshman through junior years.
She particularly likes biology.
“There is a lot of fascinating analysis there,” she said.
A member of the honor roll, she also has served as Cardinal Forum president. Benitez is a member of the yearbook staff as well as the academic bowl team.
“We challenge other residential schools for the deaf, and other deaf students in public schools,” she said. “I loved it. You learn so much being there.”
Benitez is also a part of Kids Witness News.
“We cover current events at school,” she said. “It’s internal programming. We sent ours to the national competition, and we were in the top 10.”
Recently, she received the Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce Academic Achievers Award.
Outside school, Benitez helps at the local SPCA.
“I work with some of the dogs and cats that come in,” she said. “I also help clean the kennels, and exercise the dogs.”
Benitez also has volunteered working with the elderly, especially taking cookies at Christmas time.
The VSDB senior, whose home town is Alexandria, plans to attend community college in Northern Virginia.
“I’d like to become a veterinarian technician,” she said.
Benitez said her interest in that field came with a personal experience with her family dog, a beagle named Corky. The dog had health issues, and it got her thinking on how she could help provide veterinarian care. Hamsters, turtles, fish and a rabbit around home also contributed.
Thinking back on her years at VSDB, Benitez is glad her family enrolled her at the Staunton school.
“I’m thankful for my parents for letting me come to school here,” she said. “It has really benefited me.
“I couldn’t be where I am today without my teachers,” she added. “They really motivated me. A lot of my success today comes from them.”
Each public school from Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro selects fall, winter and spring nominees, then selects one finalist. One finalist will also be chosen from nominees made by area private schools.
Next: Tori Eller, Grace Christian