MARICOPA — Freya Abraham didn’t know she’d be making history during her four-year career at Maricopa High School, but the high flier has exceeded even the highest of expectations set for her as she prepares to take her leave.
With her 25 scholarships and awards, Abraham has earned the most local, state and national honors in the school’s 61-year history, becoming their most distinguished scholar to date. The 17-year-old earned many of these accolades based on the extracurricular activities she was involved in, and others through her academic achievements.
One of Abraham’s main focuses in high school was DECA, a nonprofit organization that works with high school and college students to help them become effective leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and business management industries.
“My first memory that would stand out would be the international win sophomore year with DECA. It was very unexpected actually,” Abraham said. “I didn’t actually have that much time to work on my own event, so I was super stressed going in. And so it really felt like, ‘Wow, my hard work has (paid off),’” Abraham said. “It’s a lot of luck that goes into who’s judging you and what they think of you, but that was a real moment.”
Abraham also founded a STEM Club at her school, and after two years of work with the club, she was elected the chief science officer of MHS. She also held positions in the Junior State of America organization including secretary, state fundraising agent and expansion director. In addition, she participated in Link Crew, theater and National Honor Society.
As a result of her hard work and dedication to the aforementioned clubs, Abraham was a four-time state champion of DECA in marketing events, a 2020 ESSA conference presenter in relation to her work with STEM and the recipient of three best speaker awards from JSA, among many others.
Abraham is also currently a semifinalist in the United States Presidential Scholars Program, which recognizes outstanding seniors around the nation. If she earns one of the 121 top spots, she will be awarded a paid trip to Washington D.C. to attend a ceremony at the White House and sightsee around the capital city.
Though it may sound like Abraham didn’t bat an eye while scooping these prizes, Abraham says it was her dedication that pulled her through tough times.
“You have to know what you want, and why you want it. Then you have to be brave enough to go for it,” Abraham said seriously. “You can’t wait for other people to give you permission to go for it.”
Wise words from any graduate, but especially true for Abraham, who said it was a struggle to be from a small town competing with people with different opportunities available to them.
“I think in Maricopa we’re in a unique position, because if you want to go for that next level, and you want to push the limits, you’re gonna do that on your own as a student,” Abraham said. “There’s lots of teachers (and) there’s amazing counselors who are here to encourage you in that dream, but you’re going to have to be the first one to do it.”
Abraham, who has lived in Maricopa since she was 4, is the first graduate of MHS to achieve her level of honors. With scholarships pouring in, Abraham could be selective about her school of choice.
While ASU offered her the ASU Gammage Scholarship and other monetary awards totaling $92,000 and NAU awarded her the Lumberjack full-tuition Scholarship, Abraham chose to become the newest University of Arizona Baird Scholar. She received nearly $150,000 in scholarship money from UA to cover housing, fees and tuition.
These funds, when coupled with her other cash scholarships, will more than pays for her undergraduate degree. Funding is important because Abraham will need to complete ten more years of schooling for her next goal: to become a pediatric neurologist.
She’ll start her next phase by majoring in neuroscience with a minor in public health at UA in the fall.
Though many might point to pressure at home being the push for her greatness, Abraham says her two engineering parents are “pretty chill” about things.
“I’m kind of the only extrovert in the family of introverts,” Abraham said. “It’s really funny because a lot of people feel that my parents are the people who are pushing me or pressuring me in different ways — but they’re pretty chill. All they want for me to do is sleep,” she joked.
Abraham is not the first in her family to reach valedictorian status, her older brother Alfred Abraham also achieved the title at MHS in 2017. Abraham lamented her inability to embarrass her big brother one last time before leaving for college at her graduation ceremony, which will be a drive-thru ceremony.
“I can’t really give him a shout out from the same stage, so I’ll just have to wait to find another opportunity to embarrass him,” Abraham said laughing.
Bernadette Russoniello, career coordinator and senior specialist for MHS, said Abraham left a lasting impression on her.
“I have worked with high schoolers and taught for nearly twenty years, and Freya is a phenomenon,” Russoniello wrote. “Her passion for learning, her search for knowledge and truth, and her drive to not only better herself but to work for the achievement and progress of others truly distinguishes her as a scholar and leader.”