Rio Mesa teen to choose between Palo Alto and Cambridge

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Rio Mesa High School senior Raegan Nizdil has a difficult decision to make, one that just about any teen would be happy to ponder.

The 17-year-old Camarillo resident must decide where she’ll attend school in the fall: Harvard or Stanford.

“If you would have told me last year that I would be accepted to both of these schools, I would have laughed,” Raegan said of the East Coast versus West Coast decision. “But everyone is really happy for me.”

Raegan, who participated in track, volleyball and volunteer clubs while maintaining a 4.3 GPA, learned in December she’d been accepted to two of the country’s top universities.

The teen says she wasn’t chosen for her track performance— neither university awards athletic scholarships—but for her ability to juggle school, track meets, volleyball practice and other commitments.

“I’m not valedictorian of my school, but I do keep up a very high GPA for balancing my crazy schedule, and that was a major factor. I learned how to balance my time,” Raegan said.

The athlete and her sister, Riley, a college student in Santa Barbara, learned about time management and priorities from their parents, Kelly Churchman and Brad Nizdil.

Churchman, a high school science teacher, and Nizdil, a businessman, taught their daughters that school came first and sports were a privilege.

“My friends tend to joke that I disappear during track season,” Raegan said. “During lunch I would be in a classroom doing homework so I would have time after school to practice.”

Raegan didn’t lighten her course load as a senior. She’s taking Advanced Placement calculus and International Baccalaureate classes in English and history, courses that count as college credits.

Rio Mesa’s athletic director and track coach Brian FitzGerald said Raegan, who holds the school’s high jump record and is a three-time state track competitor, is the type of student who does her homework on the bus while traveling to a state meet.

“She made sacrifices to do well in school,” FitzGerald said. “She’s always been really mature-thinking, and you don’t see that all the time with high school students.”

Jeff Holloway, Raegan’s volleyball coach, said she has a close group of friends and is humble about her accomplishments.

“She’s brilliant but incredibly friendly, very social and downto earth,” Holloway said. “She’s excited about her future, but you don’t hear her bragging about it.”

Raegan said her close relationships with family and friends will weigh into her college decision. Another factor many are telling the California girl to consider— the weather.

“I’m not afraid of the cold,” said Raegan, who has enjoyed family trips to Mammoth. “It could be a good change.”

Raegan visited Harvard and other East Coast schools last year and said she enjoys the older buildings and ambiance. She is undecided on her major, though she’s leaning toward economics.

Raegan will visit Stanford’s campus next weekend.

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