Recent Canyon High graduate Shay Ellaboudy claims she’s addicted to the learning curve. “It’s just the rush of learning something new and I’m getting better at it,” Ellaboudy said. “Especially the first learning curve of getting better and finding something you like and just always practicing it and never stopping until you’re like, really good.” Her addiction has led her to myriad activities at Canyon High, whether it be student task force, the student newspaper, theater or basketball, which has perhaps been the most challenging for her. After a year of online schooling in eighth grade due to a less-than-pleasant middle school experience, Ellaboudy began public school again.
The summer before freshman year, she attended volleyball camp, but never tried out for the team because she felt she wouldn’t make the cut. “I didn’t even try out and I just felt so bad about myself because I like, wimped out of tryouts,” Ellaboudy said. “And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I maybe could’ve made it, why didn’t I do that?’” A friend convinced her to give basketball a try. So on the eve of basketball tryouts, Ellaboudy went to a park and learned the game. “I somehow ended up on the team,” she said. “I still don’t know why they put me on the team. I was like, out of shape, I didn’t know how to play, but they put me on and I’m really glad they did. Ever since then, it’s really transformed me.” And so Ellaboudy jumped on the learning curve, both mentally and physically. In her year of online schooling, physical education wasn’t mandatory. Ellaboudy was also asthmatic, which further discouraged her from exercise of any kind. “Once I got into the basketball program, that didn’t fly,” she said. On the first day of conditioning, Ellaboudy struggled early on. She asked for a break, citing her asthma. The coach said no. “I think that was the first person that ever told me no,” she said. “And so I was like, OK, and then I just kept going and it was hard, but I got through it and then I got better and better and better.” “I think that’s the biggest thing that basketball has taught me has been perseverance … I don’t think I could’ve done any of my AP classes without learning that perseverance.” Ellaboudy played on the freshman team her first year, then on the JV squad for her sophomore and junior year. Senior year, she made the cut for varsity. “She worked and worked and worked and she was just kind of one of those kids that I knew I was going to take because she’s extremely coachable,” said coach Jessica Haayer. “She is always going to work hard, she’s always going to be there. You can rely on her.” Ellaboudy maintained her dependability despite balancing her other activities, including student task force, a human rights club that emphasizes positive interactions between cultures. “Being in Santa Clarita, it’s kind of like a safe little bubble,” Ellaboudy said. “So (I like) anything that like, gets me out there interacting with different cultures.” She developed friendships with Holocaust survivors and Syrian refugees, a girl who escaped Afghanistan and a child marriage, a boy who fled violence in El Salvador in search of a safer life. All of the stories she heard were shared with the student newspaper, the Pony Express. “Hearing all of those things has been really crazy for me and given me a lot of perspective,” she said. “A lot of world perspective. And kind of reminds you like, there’s a lot that you don’t see in your normal life. People that need help, that kind of thing.” Ellaboudy is headed to the College of Creative Studies at UC Santa Barbara, an innovative college program that encourages independent research. She’ll study biology with a focus on neuroscience. Past college, she is considering pursuing mental health research at a university. “She’s probably going to be our president someday,” said Haayer. “I learned so much from (her), I can’t put my finger on it, but I try every time I look at her. I’m just so thankful for (her) because I think she made our team a better team. For chemistry reasons, work ethic, everything.”