Saint Francis Xavier Eighth Grader Talks Competitive Horseback Riding

Ella is a competitive horseback rider. She rides as part of the Scottsdale Equestrian Team for the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) and is looking forward to many more years of riding! Last year, Ella competed for the first time as a middle school student and made it all the way to Nationals with her teammates, which was quite a thrilling experience!

Q. You are a competitive horseback rider and made it to Nationals last year with your team tell us more about that?

A. I have always had a love for horses; so being able to ride and compete with a great team of people is a dream come true for me! I’m on the Middle School Team for Team Scottsdale and we compete as part of the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA). During the season, we compete for both individual scores and team scores. I was lucky enough to compete as an individual rider and as a team rider during our Zone Finals, which took place in Colorado. Even though I didn’t place in the top two in my individual rides, which means I didn’t get to go to Nationals as an individual rider, going to Nationals to compete as a team was still a possibility. In order to go to Nationals, you have to be either the first or the second highest scoring team in the Zone competitions. Since I was in the youngest age group/division last year, I rode last during each competition. All of my team members rode and scored points for the team before it was my turn to ride. It got down to the last ride of the day and in order to go to Nationals, we needed seven points, which meant I needed to place first, and to my surprise, I got it! With all of our team’s points added together, our team placed second in the Zone 8 Finals, which meant we would go to Nationals! I was so proud to be part of such a fabulous team of riders and it was by far one of the best experiences I have ever had! The girls on our team and our coaches are all really amazing. It was a huge opportunity that I am so grateful I got to be part of and so thankful to my parents, my coach and my team for making the year so special and such a success.

Q. You are involved in a lot of activities at SFX tell us what you are in involved in?

A. At St. Francis Xavier, I like to stay involved and there are a lot of fun things to be part of so it’s hard to choose! I play on the volleyball, softball, and basketball teams, I’m part of student council, campus ministry, and the yearbook committee. I try to be involved in as many things as possible because it lets me spend time with my friends while growing closer to my community. I also really like building my leadership skills. Watching how my friend lead and learning from my teachers and mentors is a great way to do that.

Q. You are quite the giver in your community tell us about your community service projects you have been apart of?

A. A huge part of St. Francis and its Jesuit traditions is being an active participant within the community, so I try to as much as possible to do that. Last year, as a seventh grader, we are able to be part of the The Arrupe Marketplace. Every seventh and eighth-grade student receives twenty dollars to create a project that can turn that twenty dollars into more and eventually be donated to a charity of our choosing. Each grade has a different goal to achieve with that money. Seventh grade uses it to create a craft that we then sell during a super fun craft fair on campus. Eighth graders use the money for holding an event. Both grades support local charities, which is really inspirational. This is my favorite service project because I feel so much more connected to who I am serving during this process. Other than working on the Arrupe Marketplace, I am a member of the National Charity League, which I really love because I get to volunteer alongside my mom, and it offers us a lot of different ways to give back. I also volunteer with my classmates at St. Vincent de Paul, which I enjoy because it allows us to give our time to families within our community that are in need. Each opportunity is special and leaves a lasting impression, which is one of the best parts of the experience.

Q. With all that you are involved in outside of the classroom you still maintain great grades. How do you find the time to juggle both?

A. Although I love the things I participate outside of the classroom, school is my number one priority. I put school before all of my other commitments because it is the most important thing I am a part of and I really believe in education and all of the doors it opens. Since it is so hot in Arizona, I usually don’t ride until 5:30 or 6:30 in the evening for many of the calendar months, which gives me two to three hours of time to complete my homework and prepare for school before I have to ride. I try to be super organized, so planning how I spend my after school time doesn’t take me long, but it can be challenging sometimes when two different activities happen on the same day. I have two brothers and a sister who has similar schedules so managing that within our family dynamic is really important too.

Q. What was one amazing thing you did this summer?

A. I spent most of the summer in San Diego with my family and a lot of my best friends. Being able to spend time at the beach, having my grandmas come visit, going to local sites and just hanging out with my family and friends was definitely the highlight of my summer. In San Diego we did fun things like snorkeling, surfing, and visiting amusement parks. The part I appreciate the most is having the opportunity to share that all with my friends and family.

Ella is an eighth grader at Saint Francis Xavier.

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