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Commitment drives Sierras salutatorian
Anna Cardenas, Sierra Highs salutatorian, will attend UC Berkeley in the fall. She plans on majoring in computer science with a minor in English, and wants to write and design her own programs. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

In less than three hours Sierra High School’s seniors will board a bus and drive the six hours down to Valencia to partake in grad night at Six Flags Magic Mountain. 

But while her classmates make sure that they have their party outfits squared away, salutatorian Anna Cardenas is wearing a pair of warm-up pants and a Sierra High track jersey. 

And she’s not wearing it because it’s comfortable. 

Cardenas performed well enough during her senior year on the track to earn herself a trip to the Masters meet which just happened to fall on the same day that the class is making the trip down to Southern California. The choice of what to do wasn’t easy – she obviously had time committed to the track season, but she also had four years committed to high school.

That level of dedication – the willingness to miss a trip like the one she gave up – is a perfect analogy for what allowed Cardenas to earn the academic honors that she has during her time at Sierra. 

Her record is impeccable. Not a single letter other than “A” appears anywhere on it. And if it weren’t for valedictorian Leonor Borges taking one more Advanced Placement class than she did (Cardenas finished with a 4.3 GPA while Borges edged her out with a 4.33) she’d have a No. 1 next to her name on transcript printouts instead of a No. 2. 

“It was one of those things where it really helped to push each other,” Cardenas said. “I would see that she was getting all A’s and I knew that I had to go out and do the same. 

“Towards the end of the school year it got more difficult and there was some pressure there to make sure that I continued to do well. But the habits that you’ve built become second nature to you.”

Sports also played a major role in her development. 

Cardenas said that her extracurricular activities – specifically sports – helped her keep the competitive edge that carried over into the classroom and transformed into a sort of focus and motivation. 

Considering that two of the sports that she loves, track and tennis, place a big emphasis on individual performances it’s not hard to see why she’s able to channel those tools into her academic life. 

“I definitely think that I carry that sport mentality with me – there have been times when I thought ‘I can’t do this’ and somehow I was able to get through it,” she said. “Having those sorts of experiences and knowing that I get through anything will help carry me through college. It’s not just physical – it’s mental. 

“And that’s going to make a big difference.”

Cardenas said that she hopes to one day form her own startup tech company and be in charge of not only the technological aspect of the business, but the content writing as well – blending her background in computer science and English. 

She says that reading and writing are two of her favorite things to do when it comes to schoolwork – making English her favorite class – and that she always had to work harder in her history because it required extensive memorization. 

“Even with subjects like math, you have tools and you learn how to apply them. History is all memorization of facts,” she said. “I was never very good at that. I did okay. But it wasn’t easy.”

Anna is the daughter of Rafael Cardenas and Mary Richmond.