By John Knebels
Sports columnist

If there are some eighth-graders out there who aren’t sure how to handle their upcoming high school years, they may want to take a cue from Maria Ferrari.

A senior at Villa Maria Academy High School in Malvern, Ferrari has fully immersed herself in countless activities and advises perennial high school students to do the same.

“I have found and continue to discover every day that the more I involve myself in different activities, the more I can get out of life,” Ferrari said. “I love bonding with people who I usually do not spend time with through the various events at and outside of school.”

Among her many friends at Villa Maria is senior Kara McDonald, Villa’s student body vice president and a former standout athlete at St. Katharine of Siena School in Wayne, where she teaches CCD in her spare time.{{more}}

When asked to describe someone who has served as a great example for other students to emulate, McDonald listed several. Then she thought about Ferrari.

“She is an amazing person,” said McDonald. “She is such an important part of the school, and she always has an excellent attitude. She’s a great girl.”

Ferrari lauded her parents for instilling in her – along with her three siblings – a sense of active involvement that began at SS. Philip and James School in Exton and continues to grow both in and out of the classroom.

“My parents always encouraged us to be open to new people, new ideas and new activities and to remain close to God,” Ferrari said. “Thankfully, I followed their advice and my involvement in the various activities has made me a better person intellectually, spiritually, socially and emotionally.”

For the past two years, Ferrari has been a midfielder on the varsity soccer team. Through Sept. 27, the Hurricanes were 8-3 overall and 5-1 in the very competitive Catholic Academies League. Ferrari labeled it “quite an honor” to share captain duties with classmates Kerry Schubert and Kasey Schiavoni; other seniors include Erin Miller, Rachel Gannon and Lauren Martinelli.

When soccer is finished, Ferrari will play basketball in the winter and then run track in the spring. In the meantime, she will devote her time and energy as vice president of the National Honor Society and as member of the Student Integrity Committee and Spanish Honor Society.

But perhaps Ferrari’s favorite activity is Villa’s Athletic/Spirit Association, where she shares her gregarious people skills as club president.

“Our main mission is to promote a sense of unity among all the grades and activities at Villa,” she said. “We plan pep rallies, ‘raise the roof’ days and fundraisers and support the performances and games of the school.”

Ferrari has not decided what college she will attend. However, she plans to study secondary education and hopes to be a high school math teacher. She also has decided that she will not be playing sports in college.

“Playing sports is great in so many ways,” she said. “The amount of time is pretty intense. If I played a sport in college I would want to put everything into it, so instead I think I’ll get involved with other things and work really hard on my grades.”

That is why for the past four years Ferrari has worked hard to balance her love of athletics with other school opportunities.

“As a three-season athlete, I definitely am competitive; just ask my friends and family,” Ferrari said. “But by participating in non-sport events, I am constantly reminded that the goals scored and passes made are not the most important factors of high school.

“There are so many other people who are so talented in other ways. It makes me thank God for the gifts with which He has blessed me, and the countless others gifts he has given the other girls of the Villa Maria community.”

So any last-minute advice for soon-to-be high school students?

“I would say to think about the kind of person he or she wants to be when they get older, and try to achieve it,” Ferrari said. “Not the job they want to have or the person they want to marry, but to focus on the character that they want to develop for the future.

“Also, surround yourself with people who bring out the best version of you, because that makes all the difference.”

Ferrari should know. She has the resume to prove it.

John Knebels can be reached at