Rachel Soble is much more than a promising freshman attending the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota. She is a shining example of what happens when a scholar meets a school district prepared to nurture her talent.
The 2011 graduate of Brookfield Central High School also is more than one of only 117 graduates across the nation named in October as an Advanced Placement Scholar.
A unique scholar
"Rachel is fairly unique," said Elyce Moschella, coordinator of Central's Gifted and Talented Program. "She had a perfect ACT score, and she was virtually perfect on every AP exam she took here.
"The grades speak for themselves, but she was also one of the most warmhearted kids I have worked with," Moschella said of Soble, noting a string of activities from volunteering to help disadvantaged families to working on the school newspaper and behind the scenes on musical productions and participating in the Latin Club.
Oh yes, and she took college-level calculus and algebra through a district partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha.
"The Gifted and AP Program tries to work with students who can handle a higher level of studies," Moschella said. "I also try to connect them with outside resources and opportunities like the ones Rachel followed."
A different path
Soble's scholarly path is unique in one more way.
While attending seventh grade at a school just outside of New Orleans, Soble's family suddenly was displaced because of Hurricane Katrina. She finished the first half of seventh grade in Houston and eventually moved to Brookfield when her mother took a position as a pediatric pathologist at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. Soble now lives with her mother, Sara Szabo, and her stepfather, Bill Mandella, who teaches at UW-Milwaukee.
"We were very much interested in moving to a school district that would be good for Rachel," Szabo said. "We were extremely pleased with what Elmbrook had to offer even before high school. With all the changes that Rachel went through from Katrina, we were fortunate that she enrolled in the Elmbrook School District."
A nod to guidance
Szabo added that the Gifted and Talented Program at Brookfield Central has played an instrumental role in guiding her daughter.
"Rachel has always been a high achiever," she said. "We were concerned about her because she is so self-motivated and she is so excited about learning new things. The AP courses and the teachers were very helpful. We hope that the district can always offer that type of help to students."
Both parents had expressed some concern about Rachel's extreme focus on studies, but she also mixed in some different activities - like the weekly tap-dance lessons she took with her best friend at the Wilson Center.
Soble credits Moschella for her academic achievements.
"I found out I became an AP Scholar in late August, just before going to college," she said. "I was so surprised and excited. Elyce meant a lot to me as a resource, and personally. She is an amazing woman and she made sure I took the courses I needed to be where I am today. I really owe it all to her."
Future plans, advice
While Soble is pursuing a possible career in science, she said she is not interested in becoming a physician.
"I want to go into evolutionary biology and the University of Minnesota here also has a great math program, so I knew I would get a great education."
Rachel admitted that moving from Louisiana and Houston to ever-colder climates in Wisconsin and Minnesota is challenging.
"It is different and I feel a little cut off from everyone right now," she said, "but the campus is gorgeous and there are so many different courses to take. I loved the humanities courses at Brookfield Central and there are some cool ones here, but I don't know if I will be able to fit them in."
Her advice to other high achieving students?
"Take the classes you actually want to take, challenge yourself and don't think you can't do it -because you can."
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