Sydney Bertholf has explored a variety of interests while in high school. In addition to maintaining excellent grades, she’s been playing basketball, volunteering for various organizations as well as managing her own nonprofit.
Her passion for animals has led her to become involved with pet rescue. Bertholf was 14 years old when she rescued her first cat, and at 16 founded her own nonprofit called Piper’s Pals, whose mission is to rescue kittens.
“The best part about it is knowing you’re making a difference, even if it’s a small difference — to be able to help animals and find them homes.”
Bertholf used her own money from paid jobs, as well as some donations, to buy supplies for the rescue. Originally, she had to advertise her service widely but eventually people began seeking her out thanks to the reputation she’s built.
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“It took a full year to get it going, and I proved to myself that I can do it,” she said.
Her work includes taking the rescued kittens to a veterinarian, nursing them back to health and then rehoming them. She frequently receives thank-you notes and photos from the families where she’s sent the rescued kittens for adoption.
Her volunteer work included organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club and Harbor WildWatch. “I’m the happiest when I help others,” Bertholf said.
Harbor Hope Cat Rescue has been influential in her work with animals. Bertholf volunteered there, helping rescue adult cats, when she was inspired to focus on kittens.
“Sydney went far above and beyond the usual volunteer duties here,” said Harbor Hope Cat Rescue Director Laura Carlson. “Her genuine concern for the animals’ welfare is evident to people as well as the cats. She genuinely has the best interests of the animals at heart.”
For the past two years, Bertholf has been participating in the Running Start program. She’s attending Tacoma Community College, where she’s maintained a 3.5 GPA. Despite being off-campus, she’s continued her involvement with the varsity basketball team.
“It’s time-consuming and hard work, and you have to put a lot into it,” she said of basketball. “I like the challenge and working with my teammates, and putting in 100 percent of the effort.”
Bertholf will graduate high school with an associate’s degree and plans to attend University of Washington Tacoma and then go to law school. Her goal is to become an environmental lawyer and continue to be involved with pet rescue.
Category: Business and entrepreneurs
Education: Senior, Gig Harbor High School
Parent: Lysa Barbano Activities/Achievements: Running Start; Piper’s Pals nonprofit founder; varsity basketball Most Fearless, All-Narrows honorable mention; volunteer for Harbor Hope Cat Rescue, Harbor WildWatch, Boys and Girls Club, Tacoma Symphony Orchestra, American Heart Association, Olympic Alzheimer’s Residence; National Honor Society; part-time jobs
Favorite teacher: Mr. Duchin, history (TCC), “because he made learning fun and interesting. His class was hard but I also learned a lot.”
Best thing about high school: “I have always wanted to be older. The best thing about high school was moving from ninth grade to 12th and growing along the way. I am truly enjoying my senior year.”