Sophiabella Nebroski - Then & Now

Sophiabella Nebroski - Then & Now

THEN: Middle school was tie-dye, and Birkenstocks, and the sense of freedom was pure. When we were not outdoors, classes were taught with us sitting on the floor. All good things must come to an end, and high school was looming around the corner. I was not excited.

Months prior, my house had burned in the Thomas Fire, and we were displaced. Now, I had to attend an all-girls, Catholic high school: uniforms, ankle socks, and Sisters. 

A month into freshman year, and I was miserable, itching to get out of my creativity-dampening uniform.

I had written a simple contract with my parents: after six months, I could leave the school. That day had finally arrived! I confidently walked down the stairs, contract and calendar in-hand, and in my head, Queen was singing “Don’t Stop Me Now.” I’m not sure what happened next, but my negotiating skills weren’t as good as I thought. Before I knew it, I was starting my second quarter. I decided to get myself expelled.

I went home, locked the bathroom door, and began to set my own path. I drew green and yellow dots on my “white only” shoes. School rules required “natural hair colors,” so I dyed my hair part blonde. Uniform shirts in only three colors? I bleach-washed them. I walked into school the next day. My head held high because for the first time in months, I felt like me. Instead of discipline, I was met with grace.

While I continued to be displaced and literally moved every year of high school, I discovered stability within the halls of  La Reina. Gradually, I opened-up, and recognized opportunities all around me.

I auditioned for La Reina’s Mock Trial Team and surprisingly became the first freshman on the varsity team. Suddenly I wanted to prove myself . . . to me. I learned to be resilient and get up after each set back.

Following the success of Mock Trial, I decided to do the unthinkable; I tried out for the basketball team. For the first time, I felt how it was to be on a team, always pushing each other to reach our best. I learned that success isn’t achieved alone. I was on a roll. I joined the one club in which the ponytails and plaid were most prevalent — Student Council. Initially, I quieted my opinions and bit my tongue only to realize that to make real change, I had to use my voice. I decided to run for ASB President and won.

At my old school we didn’t do God. In my freshman year at La Reina, I learned in Mrs. Sain’s class who God is, and started to foster a relationship with Him. The way Mrs. Sain taught the class made it fun and interesting. 

In 11th grade religion class with Mr. Ribordy, I gained a deeper understanding of what it meant to be Catholic. My classmates and I learned how to promote kindness and faith in our world. Mr. Ribordy wasn’t only teaching this, he was teaching 56 girls of all faiths, how to persist in the face of difficulty. Students on a zoom screen for 75 minutes a day and all he did was smile and teach. Through him I saw how even in the darkest patches of life, there will always be people who emanate love. I found that it was through the teachers that my faith was fostered, so much so that during my senior year, I was confirmed in the Catholic Church. 

After four years at La Reina, I am more unique than when I arrived. I have figured out who I am on the inside. I am resilient and strong. I am a leader that strives for change.  I am unapologetically me.

NOW: Starting my sophomore year at Salve Regina University as a Global Studies major, I reflect on my journey from La Reina. Throughout my years as a Regent, I immersed myself in a multitude of activities, not just for fun, but to keep my focus while life swirled around me.

La Reina was challenging and at times overwhelming. But now out in the real world, I see how it provided a safe space to navigate these challenges that allowed me to grow within a nurturing environment. It equipped me with the resilience needed to face the rigors of life after graduation, where independence is met with its own set of complexities.

My decision to stay in Newport, Rhode Island over the summer for work was unexpected but felt like an important step in my career and the transition into adulthood. The process of interviewing for various positions was demanding, but my experiences in ASB and speech and debate had allowed me to cultivate my own voice, which instilled confidence and comfort during my interviews.

Since I moved my tassel from the left to the right, La Reina’s influence has remained evident. It has been the foundation on which I’ve built my journey, preparing me for every moment that has followed, and for that, I am very grateful.

La Reina High School - ASB president (12th), JV/varsity basketball, speech and debate team captain, Regent ambassador, Principal inter-council, Varsity Lacrosse, Student council, diversity senator 2 years (10, 11), and class President 1 year (11th) Pepperdine youth leadership seminar. 

Salve Regina University - Class of 2026 Recipient of full, four-year scholarship to pursue global studies major.