Sierra Berkel is a senior on the Townsend Harris High School basketball team. Berkel is leading the team to its third straight undefeated regular season in the PSAL (12-0), currently averaging 15 points and 8 rebounds per game as of January 22. She has been captain of the basketball team since her sophomore year and is also captain of the school’s girls flag football team. She boasts a 93 percent average, and is a member of ARISTA, the National Honor Society. Berkel also volunteered in former Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.’s office during his 2013 Queens borough president campaign. Berkel will be attending Haverford College next semester, and will be a part of the school’s basketball team.
Why are you motivated to do well academically and in extracurricular activities?
“My father passed when I was very young. My mother raised me and my twin brother all by herself. Knowing what strength is, I got that from my family. Being able to do well academically and excel in sports is all part of what my family has given me.”
What is your favorite class?
“I think my most interesting class was urban studies class. I took it at Queens College. I think that was pretty interesting, because it was about poverty in the city, causes and how to stop it. That really opened up my eyes.”
Why do you like sports?
“I think it’s really important. Definitely doing basketball I found I was more involved in the school. Also, serving as captain it definitely teaches you leadership and I think that definitely help lift my confidence.”
How did working in Peter Vallone Jr.’s office help you?
“I didn’t know much about the Queens Borough president and politics, but it’s really interesting and important. I learned too that you can make a change in your community. That was definitely a great experience, because you learn your voice is being counted.”
How difficult is it to manage all your extracurricular activities?
“My mother was a teacher, so the importance of education was stressed to me. Working hard and doing well in school is important, because I know it’s valued at my house. There are definitely some tired days, but I knew I wanted to be involved in everything.”
Any words for your coach?
I just wanted to emphasize how much of an impact my coach, Ms. Lauren Caiaccia, has had on me during my whole high school experience. She is a great coach, mentor and friend. She has definitely pushed me and helped me improve my game, as well as try things that I’m not as comfortable with to get better. So individually and holistically as a team, she is a great factor in the success.