You can cheer for her, laugh with her, play ball with her.
But you cannot give into that sympathetic ache you immediately feel in your chest when you hear children, like Gabrielle, have lost their moms.
She simply won’t have it.
“I hated the thought of that,” Pe said. “I personally couldn’t handle that, I guess, pity feeling from any of my teachers or my coach.”
Not that it wouldn’t be understandable.
The summer before her junior year in high school, Pe lost her mother to breast cancer. It was an experience, she said, that has not handicapped her, but impelled her.
“At 16, I had to be an adult already,” Pe said. “Once my mom passed, I had to take a lot of responsibility for myself. I knew I didn’t want to let my family down or my mom down. It was a push to be better.”
With a laser-sharp focus, Pe continued her role as a successful student-athlete; a star on the school’s volleyball team and a dedicated scholar with a higher than 4.0 grade point average.
“Gabby is quite possibly the most dynamic personality I have ever seen,” said Jack Wheeler, Pe’s volleyball coach at Ocean Lakes. “Watching her strength and dedication grow after the loss of her mother was amazing…but the real benefactors from Gabby’s experiences have been everyone who has come in contact with her. We have all been blessed to be a small part in such an amazing young woman’s life.”
For instance, Pe decided to take on another role at Ocean Lakes: philanthropist.
In honor of her mother, and the many others in the Ocean Lakes community affected by breast cancer, she helped orchestrate the largest Dig Pink event (a volleyball game where attendees and players wear pink to raise awareness and funds for Breast Cancer research) in school history.
At the event, Pe spoke openly about her mother, but in celebration of her life – not in mourning. She continued with a smile, not reduced to tears – unlike everyone else in attendance.
“The fact that it made it personal hit harder,” Pe said. “Everyone was crying. When I was finished, I had to laugh because everyone was crying.”
For her efforts in spurring the largest fundraising year in the volleyball team’s history, Pe was recently awarded National Recognition for her efforts through Dig Pink and the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
Now, Pe is looking forward to continuing her success as she goes to play for the William & Mary Griffons, where she has earned a full athletic scholarship. But as she gears up for her first year of college life, she is grateful for her time at Ocean Lakes.
“I’ve developed really great relationships with everyone here,” Pe said. “Everyone understood what happened in my life, but they were just there for support. They are always there and everyone is friendly. I like you can have a professional and personal relationship with your teachers and administrative staff.”
Compass Keeper Q&A:
Everything we studied you could see put in practice in real life.
Best Study Tip?
Pay attention in class and take good notes, it’s better than trying to relearn stuff later
Best part of getting a scholarship?
Finally being able to “rep” a school
How did you celebrate signing with William & Mary?
My brother and I freaked out – jumping up and down – while still in the stairwell at the school.
*Do you know someone who should be featured as a Compass Keeper? Send your nomination to firstname.lastname@example.org.