Fort Worth

Fort Worth student embodies hard work

Christine Vonder Haar, a senior at Paschal High School, won the 2014 Davey O’Brien High School Scholarship worth $30,000.
Christine Vonder Haar, a senior at Paschal High School, won the 2014 Davey O’Brien High School Scholarship worth $30,000. Star-Telegram

Christine Vonder Haar has practiced a humbling philosophy for most of her 17 years.

She’s not the brightest student at Paschal High School.

“There are some crazy intelligent people here,” she says.

Nor is she the most talented varsity girls basketball player.

But she’s been able to rise academically to No. 2 in a class of 576. And, for two years in a row, she has been captain of Paschal’s girls basketball team.

Her successes, she says, are a result of her motto: “Hard work trumps talent — natural-born talent or God-given talent — nine times out of 10.”

She tells her peers, “If you don’t think you can do it, or you don’t think you have what other people have, you think you have no control over it, hard work will make up for that 90 percent of the time.”

She adds, “You know, that’s a really powerful thing.”

This winter, Vonder Haar’s academic and athletic achievements won her the 2014 Davey O’Brien High School Scholarship. The $30,000 scholarship is provided every year to “an exceptional student-athlete in North Texas” and is underwritten by Higginbotham and Southwest Bank.

Nominated for the scholarship by an academic overseer at Paschal, she was one of five finalists for the top award.

“We are delighted to be able to honor them,” said David O’Brien Jr., chairman of the High School Scholarship Selection Committee.

Vonder Haar wants to study computer science, but she hasn’t decided where to go to college. She is awaiting letters — set to arrive this month — from prospective colleges. Her former basketball coach, David Mishler, says she is shooting for top-caliber schools like Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Christine has more resolve than any young woman I’ve ever met in my eight years of coaching and teaching,” Mishler said. “She doesn’t allow herself to settle for OK or just pretty good.”

Vonder Haar is the youngest of three and has two older brothers who attend the University of Texas at Austin. Her mother is Star-Telegram business columnist and blogger Teresa McUsic. Her father is a research analyst at a private company, and the family has lived in the same Fort Worth home since she was born, Vonder Haar said.

Mishler said that Vonder Haar is likely to get more attention from top colleges because she is unlike the uber-competitive students who can’t see beyond their own achievements, he said.

“A lot of times, you see these cutthroat kids, these high-intellect kids, and they’re so self-oriented,” Mishler said.

Vonder Haar has a different style, he said.

“She not only wants to succeed. She also wants to pull people up with her,” Mishler said. “That is a valuable asset to these universities that want somebody who can fulfill their own needs [for success] but also somebody who will make their talent pool that much stronger.”

Vonder Haar also is an attention-grabber at school because she has spearheaded several efforts to help younger students at Paschal and underprivileged youth in other parts of the world.

Last year, she and a friend assembled a “Soles 4 Souls” shoe drive that collected more than 300 new and gently worn shoes that were distributed throughout underdeveloped countries.

Last summer, she sponsored a two-week computer science camp for middle school students to learn Java programming. About 10 students participated, she said.

“When I was young, my parents always taught me to give back,” Vonder Haar said. “It’s always been a part of my life and something I would like to continue throughout high school and beyond.”

Yamil Berard, 817-390-7705

Twitter: @yberard