Our last but definitely not least, Senior Spotlight is Nathan Vertes. He has somewhere near 700 community services hours and he still contacts me when he is not working to ask if he can come volunteer. The more I learn about Nate, the more I am convinced that he truly understands what it means to live each day as your best self.
When did you get involved with golf?
I attended a First Tee camp in Michigan when I was 6 years old but I didn’t do much with it until middle school when I started taking lessons with Coach Glen. Later, I decided to play competitively and I tried out for the Seminole Ridge High School team. My freshman year was Covid year so it was a weird year. We didn’t even have District qualifications. My sophomore year, we came out of Covid and we qualified for Districts and continued to do so for my junior and senior year.
What do you think about Coach Glen?
I love Coach Glen. He’s a really great teacher and he pushes me to do things I would not have done otherwise. He’s firm and direct with his coaching. I like that so much more than the “you’re doing great,” kind of feedback. It takes time to really understand his coaching style, he’s not mean, he just wants you to be your best self. He is a lot like my hockey coach.
Your senior year hasn’t been what you expected, has it?
I did not expect to be injured so much. I have had a sprained wrist, sprained shoulder and now a fractured wrist. Definitely learning to persevere through the different challenges that come with an injury. It was tough to be sidelined for the golf team especially since I have been playing since freshman year and have been “team captain” for the last two. I barely had enough matches played in golf to qualify for Districts but I made it. While at districts, I shot my best round ever.
What’s it like being “team captain?”
As a team captain, I get to lead my teammates and help them push themselves while also encouraging them to be the best they can be. I have had my fair share of injuries but I continued to cheer them on even when I could not be part of the action. For me it is never about the title. It’s remembering that it’s not about you; it is about helping others.
I am fortunate to have had two great coaches who were willing to invest in me so I enjoy giving back to others in the same way.
What other ways do you give back?
My parents have always been involved in community outreach helping abused and neglected kids. That experience made me realize how lucky I am to have the love of family and access to basic necessities. In 2018, I started fundraising by collecting aluminum cans from neighborhood recycling bins to redeem them for money at local recycling centers and writing fundraising letters to help Project Zawadi which builds schools and educational programs for Tanzanian children. It is definitely a lot of work, but the impact is far greater than my effort.
Additionally, I personally raised $6,780 over 3 years to benefit Shands Children’s Hospital and Children’s Miracle Network while also helping raise funds for School Wide Buddy Benches to promote peer cohesiveness for students who are struggling socially.
While fundraising is great, I also enjoy tutoring other students to help them prepare for exams or complete projects, volunteer at Community of Hope Student Ministries and most recently have had the opportunity to help Coach Glen in his junior classes. That experience in particular has helped me to really connect the dots of what I learned while attending the First Tee Event in Montana.
How are the dots connecting for your future?
I have always been motivated to do well in my academics. I paid attention in class so I was well-liked by my teachers which made them more willing to help me when I needed it. Through that effort, I have only received 1 B and that was in middle school when I started taking high school level classes. As of now, I have 5.1 Weighted GPA with a 1520 SAT score.
Since academics came easy for me, that freed me up to help. That has been a blessing and curse since I struggle to say NO to people and opportunities. I want to do everything which has led to me overextending myself and then I am only able to offer limited help. Now I use a calendar and think through my decisions before saying Yes.
I believe these experiences are preparing me for my future goal of starting my own pharmaceutical company. My Mom has a history of heart issues and Crohn's so I am motivated to find cures behind the scenes. I would love to do just that in my home state of Michigan by attending Notre Dame or Michigan but I have some work to do to secure the scholarships.