RAYTOWN, Mo. -- Each week FOX 4 News salutes outstanding young achievers in the metro area. And this month we begin our ninth consecutive year putting them in our Reaching 4 Excellence spotlight. This week we meet Monica Hernandez, a senior at Raytown High School who really puts the "scholar" in "scholar athlete."
Monica Hernandez dives into everything she does -- and makes a big splash doing it. This champion swimmer has been a state tournament qualifier all of her four years at Raytown High School and recently came home with a third place trophy in her signature event, the 100 yard breaststroke, her highest finish ever.
"It feels good," says Monica. "Swimming has really shown me how hard work can pay off, like spending hours on one thing and working until you get it down perfect."
Water -- and being so disciplined in her swimming -- have come up huge for Monica, now more than ever. She's secured a much-sought-after appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy where she'll swim for the Midshipmen and plans to major in Oceanography.
"I'm thrilled," Monica says with a big smile. Monica was so intent on getting to Annapolis she didn't apply to any other colleges.
"I'm very honored," says Monica. "It's a big deal to me."
Getting that prized appointment to the Naval Academy is the result of much more than just Monica's prowess as a champion swimmer. Monica shines as an actress in Raytown High theater productions, like the Neil Simon comedy, God's Favorite, in which she had a starring role last month. She's also a terrific viola player in the school's symphony orchestra and a fine singer in the Camerata choir.
"Yeah, it's more of a laid back kind of fun and relaxing thing that I like to do," says Monica.
But wait, there's more. She's also a strong leader in Student Council and National Honor Society. And she's an academic powerhouse, taking some of the school's most challenging courses.
"She has that inner drive that helps her go far beyond what everybody's expectations are for her," says Brian Huff, Raytown High School Principal. "She has much higher expectations for herself."
"She is very confident, quietly confident," says Raytown High swim coach nancy Young. "Most people don't describe Monica as quiet because she's very social but when she sets a goal, she won't stop until it's done, until it's accomplished. She never gives up."
And her crowning achievement just might be how she helps others be the best they can be, too.
"She provides an anchor for positivity amongst everyone around her," says Huff. "Whenever anyone is getting nervous and that sort of thing, they look to Monica because she's a rock and she helps them be positive and she helps them have a great attitude about it."
Coming up a champion -- in the pool and out of it.
"So far, I'd say, I've done pretty well," Monica says with a modest smile. "I'm pretty happy with the things I've done in high school and, I guess, just looking forward to the future."
It's a future that begins this summer for Monica. She reports for basic training in June ahead of starting classes at the Academy in the fall on her way to becoming an officer in the U.S. Navy.
FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for
Reaching 4 Excellence every Monday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m., every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 5 p.m.