Senior Spotlight: Chanel Zahradka
Senior Spotlight: Chanel Zahradka
Posted on 06/02/2017

The Senior Spotlight series features interviews with Sibley seniors who have shown commitment to academic excellence and personal achievement. The series will highlight two seniors each week until graduation.

Chanel Zahradka Senior PhotoCHANEL ZAHRADKA
Daughter of Kristine Salinas and James Holden of West St. Paul

Since she was young, Chanel Zahradka has enjoyed caring for and helping others. She also has a passion for volunteering. Chanel finds outlets for all of these interests in school clubs and classes at Henry Sibley that emphasize service and build student leaders.

“Volunteering really helps everyone,” said Chanel. “Not only does it make you feel good, it brings people together and it’s really fun. Everyone should help when they can—adults, students … everyone.”

As a freshman, Chanel’s friends convinced her to join a club called ALMAS (Anglos Latinos Motivated to Succeed). Her first activity with the group was simply for fun, riding on the ALMAS float in the Homecoming parade. Chanel soon found out, however, that the club’s focus on service and leadership was exactly what she was looking for and through ALMAS she has made many friends who share her desire to give back to the community.

ALMAS’s connection to the West St. Paul YMCA even led to Chanel’s part-time job. She currently works nights and weekends at the YMCA as a swim instructor.

When Chanel became a junior, she was eligible to apply for an elective course at Henry Sibley called Youth Leadership. Throughout the class students develop their skills in areas such as communication, leadership, decision-making and collaboration. Students must also complete 35 hours of community service.

While in Youth Leadership, Chanel volunteered throughout the Twin Cities with the Special Olympics, the Salvation Army, Dodge Nature Center, Feed My Starving Children and more.

“I just really enjoy community service, especially if it’s doing something different or new,” said Chanel. “I know that it is helping the community, which makes me feel like I am doing something meaningful.”

In addition to her drive to help others, Chanel has stayed focused on her plan to attend college by enrolling in advanced courses at Henry Sibley. She will graduate with college credits from her PSEO English course through Inver Hills Community College and a College in the Schools (CIS) Physics course through the University of Minnesota. Chanel has also been involved with the Upward Bound program at Henry Sibley since 10th grade. 

Upward Bound provides students with academic support, college counseling, mentoring and other support. Students meet with program leaders twice a week after school and one Saturday a month at Henry Sibley during the school year. In the summer, students participate in a six-week program that includes several visits to colleges and the opportunity to stay overnight on a college campus. Upward Bound is coordinated through Dakota County Technical College.

“Upward Bound has been very helpful,” said Chanel. “Without their help I wouldn’t have known about things, like how the ACT is formatted. We do lots of practice tests and then go over the practice tests. It has been very helpful.”

Chanel will attend the University of Minnesota this fall. Always the caretaker, she hopes to turn her love of animals into a career. Chanel is considering a major in the Department of Animal Science, which may lead to veterinary school in the future.

Before Henry Sibley High School, Chanel attended Heritage E-STEM Magnet Middle School.

District 197: How has Sibley prepared you to succeed after graduation?
Chanel: There have been many ways that Sibley has prepared me to succeed after graduation. One way Sibley has prepared me is by having a wide range of classes and many college options.

Who is your favorite teacher or what is your favorite subject?
I have many favorite teachers but if I had to choose, I'd choose Mr. Friberg. Mr. Friberg would make Biology so interesting and made learning fun. He was always there if you needed help and would explain everything until it "clicked'. In all my years at Sibley, Biology was a class that I truly obtained information from and remember and that is all thanks to Mr. Friberg.

What’s a memory from your time at Sibley that will always stay with you?
I have many memories from Sibley that will stay with me. One significant memory I have is doing cool experiments in all my different science classes. Being able to see explosions and dissecting various things was very memorable and fun.

What advice do you have for younger students about high school?
I would tell them that sometimes it’s hard and you might struggle but you just have to push through and keep going.

Anything else you'd like to share about your time at Sibley?
Being at Sibley was such a wonderful experience. I met a lot of new people and made a lot of friends.

Read about other achievements by students in the class of 2017: