Shaler sports help scholarship winner from Venezuela expand horizons

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Sunday, April 23, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Alexandra Valentina Navas started learning how to speak English from Google Translate. Over a year-long process, Valentina Navas had many teachers, including Axl Rose.

The Shaler senior moved to Etna from Venezuela in the sixth grade and quickly started learning how to adapt. Valentina Navas learned a new language by doing her homework, reading and watching movies and YouTube videos in English.

Another love, singing karaoke, helped Valentina Navas quickly learn the language.

“I would do it with friends and family,” Valentina Navas said. “I put on English songs I liked — Guns N’ Roses and slow 80s rock music. I learned by practicing and repetition, even though I didn’t know what the words meant. I was getting more comfortable with how to say words.”

Valentina Navas, who plans to attend Grove City with the hopes to pursue a dental career, was one of four athletes selected by the Shaler Area Athletic Hall of Fame for the Bill and Sue Suit Athletic Hall of Fame Scholarship.

Valentina Navas played tennis and also was on the bowling team.

Luke Cignetti, who participated in football and track, Tristan Holland, who played baseball and football, and Claire Stevens, who was in cross country and track, also were selected.

According to a release, the award is given due to Bill Suit’s belief that student-athletes could be leaders in the classroom, in the community and on the field or court.

Valentina Navas and her family moved to the Pittsburgh area in 2016, where they lived with her uncle who had married and lived in the United States for 20 years, before finding their own home in Etna.

“When the situation in Venezuela became hard economically and politically, my parents decided to leave and move here to try and have a better life,” Valentina Navas said.

During her time at Shaler, Valentina Navas has made a habit of taking risks and trying new things.

Before moving to the district, Valentina Navas hadn’t played sports much and focused on playing the violin. Shaler’s varsity tennis coach Brian Duermeyer had Valentina Navas as a student in middle school and convinced her to try the sport in high school.

Valentina Navas started bowling as a junior when she had a friend who wanted to go out for the team. She finished her senior season with a 120.62 average and had a high game of 165.

“I was intrigued by how much goes into throwing the ball,” Valentina Navas said. “It’s not a physical sport. You don’t leave and are exhausted. It’s more of a mental sport. You need to know the steps and knowing how the arms, wrist and elbow need to go and how balancing them all of them makes a big difference.”

Valentina Navas has also stayed busy with music. In addition to playing with the school marching band, she plays with the Shaler Chamber Orchestra, a local church, and she would eventually like to play some different events like weddings.

Valentina Navas likes trying new things, even if takes some time to master the subject.

“I’m always looking for new things to do,” Valentina Navas said. “Marching band was something I didn’t know I could do. I have done media production and like editing videos. I’ve participated in the Christian Club and Titan Service Club. I don’t like going home, staying at home and doing nothing.”

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