Exemplary Eagle: High School Junior Lea M.

Andrea Wunderlich '13, Staff Writer


In this section of the Graded Gazette, we celebrate extraordinary students and their outstanding accomplishments in academics, athletics, the arts, service work, and other extracurricular activities. 

When Graded junior Lea M. talks about running, she radiates excitement. “In Brazil, running is often considered a punishment, but to me, just about every aspect of running is perfect,” she gushes. “When I run, I forget about the stress that comes from living in a big city and being in high school; I feel free, strong, and capable of anything.” 

Her interest in sports began at a young age when she started running track and field in a São Paulo after-school athletics program. Recognizing her potential, Lea's coach connected her with an Olympic trainer who encouraged her to run at an Olympic center. She was just nine at the time. 

At 13, Lea began racing at another Olympic facility, but, finding it difficult to balance sports and education, she dropped out of the training program.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lea had the time to take up running again. She connected with a coach who helped her prepare for competitive races, and in 2020 she qualified for the 1,500 meter and 3K events at the Loterias Caixa Brazilian under 18 Championship. She came in fifth and second place, respectively. 

This year, Lea represented Brazil in the 3K race at the South American Youth Games in Rosario, Argentina. According to Lea, “The whole experience was amazing, but the uniforms [the entire Brazilian delegation wore the nation's official 2021 Olympic uniform] were definitely the most exciting part.” 

Running has shaped Lea’s life. It has allowed her to explore places she would not have otherwise visited, such as Sergipe and Espírito Santo. It has also introduced her to an incredibly supportive global community of runners. 

“People are so encouraging,” she says, “and I am so grateful for all the friendships I have made through the sport. Even the people I race against are very nice; some have become my good friends.” 



Even though she loves running, Lea confesses that it is not always fun or easy: “Sometimes, at 5:00 am, it is very tempting to stay in bed rather than go out for a run,” she says. Furthermore, since running is a high-impact sport, athletes frequently suffer injuries. "It's very challenging to accept that the thing you are most passionate about is causing you harm," says Lea.

Nevertheless, she has remained committed to her sport. Lea spent this past vacation in Colorado at a running camp and is already training for upcoming events. This month, she will race in the Campeonato Brasileiro Loteriais Caixa Sub-18 (Caixa Lotteries Brazilian Under 18 Championship), and she hopes to qualify for the South American Youth Games in October. 

Lea's incredible determination and discipline, evidenced by her success in running, also permeate her academic life. Siri Berman, her grade 10 social studies teacher, says Lea, who transferred to Graded from a French school in ninth grade, "hit the ground running" and was "willing to invest any amount of time necessary to master the material in another language."

Lea’s former Brazilian social studies teacher, Edu Levati, asserts that the best words to describe her are: “perseverant, hard-working, balanced, and extremely kind.” 

These traits, as well as her athletic prowess and academic success, have earned Lea the title of this month’s Exemplary Eagle.