Gateway: Living

2016 Student of Distinction: Sara Undem

Sara Undem
Sara Undem lgiles@gateline.com

Sara Undem is a natural leader who excels both in and out of the classroom. An athlete who swam and played soccer when she was younger, she joined the cheerleading team at Peninsula and by her junior year was selected as captain.

“The hardest part was that our team was extremely competitive,” she says. “It was difficult but it was a good experience and we learned different leadership skills.”

A major part of her school experience was the marketing club DECA. In addition to competing at area and state levels, Undem has been serving as the chapter’s president this year. Under her leadership, the chapter raised $2,600 for the Honor Flight program, which will pay for three World War II veterans to fly to Washington, D.C., this summer.

With two teammates, Undem also implemented “Project One,” a community service project benefitting Food Backpacks 4 Kids. They organized fundraisers including a concert and a “food bowl” between Peninsula and Gig Harbor high schools, and wrote letters requesting financial support from the Ben Cheney Foundation.

Their efforts raised $2,600 and more than 2,500 pounds of food for the organization, in what DECA adviser John Selfors describes as one of the most successful projects he’s ever seen.

“Sara truly is the definition of a student leader,” he says. “She has demonstrated outstanding leadership and maintained a clear sense of purpose.”

This spring, the team presented their project at a state DECA competition and placed seventh.

“The plan was well thought-out and comprehensive,” says Mary Williams, executive director of Food Backpacks 4 Kids. “Very few of the adults I’ve worked with have been as organized, dedicated and effective as Sara.”

Undem says her team had to overcome some challenges along the way and she’s proud of their success.

“Planning all the events for the community service project taught me skills I’ll use the rest of my life,” she says.

Undem has maintained an excellent GPA but says she plans to step up her study habits even more in college.

“Her compassion and intelligence makes other students comfortable and they respect her ideas and opinions. Because of that, she is an asset in the classroom for both students and teachers,” says English teacher Andrea Kurtz.

Inspired by her marketing class and involvement with DECA, Undem plans to pursue a career in marketing for a large company, such as Nordstrom.

“I like the idea of advertising and business because it’s creative but it also changes over time,” she says.

She will be attending University of Washington and major in business and marketing.

Category: Business and entrepreneurship

Education: Senior, Peninsula High School

GPA: 3.84

Parents: Tod and Kristin Undem

Activities/Achievements: DECA area and state competitor, 5th and 7th at state, chapter president, leadership conference participant; Young Life; varsity cheer captain, All-American Cheerleader, Scholar Athlete; Outstanding Junior Award; Food Backpacks 4 Kids volunteer and board member; volunteer for Race for Soldier, Race for a Cure, Micha’s Run, Winterfest, Rock ‘n Roll Marathon; 3 AP/Honors classes

Favorite teacher: John Selfors, marketing, DECA adviser. “His class and his teaching showed me my passion for marketing and he has put immense effort into my success as an individual.”

Best thing about high school: “Peninsula High School is an amazing school because of how accepting and supportive all of the staff and students are. My experience at Peninsula has been nothing but positive. PHS makes school feel like home.”

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