Teen Face: Working hard for herself but sticking up for others

  • El Molina senior Maria Membrila practices for the upcoming spring show with the school dance company. (photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

No one will accuse Maria Membrila of being shy.

The El Molino High School senior is described as a leader, focused, determined and engaged. She's a lot of things, but wallflower isn't one of them.

"I talk a lot," she said, laughing. "Sometimes I feel like I over-talk."

And though confident, Membrila can feel self-doubt, too, especially when she enrolled in two rigorous advanced placement classes this year based largely on the encouragement of her teachers.

"Do I belong here?" she wondered early on.

Veteran teacher Bill Olzman, who encouraged Membrila apply for a spot in his rigorous AP English class, reassured her.

"He said, 'You belong here. Don't doubt it for a second,' " she recalled.

"She is far brighter than she thought she was and she kind of ran with that," he said. "She is a leader in how much she cares for under-represented people. She will take a minority position and back it up with real stuff, not just her own opinions."

Membrila's leadership goes beyond the classroom.

She is a gifted dancer who, for the past two years, has been a member of El Molino's elite 12-member dance company. Membrila teamed up with her younger sister Catalina, a freshman at El Molino, to choreograph a hip-hop number for beginning dancers that will be staged at the Dance Spectacular later this month.

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