Gig Harbor Now is posting profiles of each of the 25 Students of Distinction being honored by the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation. The students will be honored during a banquet from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 18, 2022, at Ocean5, 5268 Point Fosdick Dr.
Student: Sydney Pifer
School: Peninsula High School
Category: Science & Technology Achievement
Sydney Pifer has taken 16 college-level courses and been a scholar athlete in two sports.
As a junior, she was nominated to be a student representative for the State Board of Education, and placed fourth in Biomedical Innovation at the HOSA Spring Leadership conference.
A Covid routine
She has maintained a 3.9 GPA, even during the pandemic. When the COVID lockdown began, her sister came home from college and they sat together at the dining room table eight-hours every day doing schoolwork online.
“But I found that with all my assignments simply listed online, it became easy to miss due dates,” Sydney said. “So I started a routine: every Monday morning before I began any assignments, I would create a to-do list for the whole week, ensuring that I wouldn’t miss an assignment.”
This fall, Sydney is headed to Gonzaga University to study mechanical engineering. Her goal is to be a Formula One engineer. Her original plan was to go into biological engineering, “but I was afraid it might be boring,” she said.
“My family got into Formula One a couple of years ago. I’ve been going to car races all my life and I love Formula One. It’s not as popular here in the U.S. as it is in other countries, but I think it’s very cool.”
Although it’s not unheard of for women to be involved in Formula One, it’s hard to make a career of it, she added. She aims to make her mark as an engineer for the organization.
Leading the way
Of all the things she’s accomplished in high school, completing all four Project Lead the Way (PLTW) science classes in just three years gave her the most pride.
“Normally it takes four years,” she said. “It was hard, but it was a success and in my junior year I finished the fourth class of the series, in a class that was all seniors.”
She also loved playing soccer and golf (she was a scholar athlete nearly every year) but her favorite thing in high school was a trip with her family to Vienna and Prague in her senior year.
“Both cities are really cool, but I loved Prague,” she said. “Vienna seemed newer to me, because so many of the old buildings were destroyed during the war and then had to be re-built.
“Prague didn’t suffer as much destruction, so everything is very old. It was so exciting to walk around in that city and see all the old, historic buildings. It’s just insane how many details there are on the buildings. Like in the old square there’s a clock with astronomical signs and lots of details. And every hour the 12 apostles come out and move around in a circle.” She also liked Prague castle – a single, continuous long building in the center of town – and St. Vitis Cathedral.
She was also impressed by the public transportation systems, and by the restrooms in Prague.
“They call them water closets. At many of them there’s a homeless person cleaning it throughout the day. They sit by the door and receive tips from users depending on how clean the bathroom is. It’s such an inspiring solution to homelessness,” she said.
Sydney’s teachers have high praise for her. Brad Collins taught five of her Biomedical Science classes. “Academically, Sydney is supremely gifted,” he said. “She was consistently the top student and demonstrated a deep understanding of very complex biological concepts. She’s incredibly talented and creative and produced innovative solutions that were above and beyond others in the class and which far exceeded my own expectations.
“She has a wonderful personality and is warm and caring and easy to talk to and she was patient and empathetic with her fellow students and genuinely cared that they were learning science.”
School: Peninsula High School
Category: Science and Technology Achievement
Parents: Steven and Rebecca Pifer
Achievements/activities: 16 AP classes; nominated for State Board of Education Student Representative; Student of the quarter; Scholar athlete in soccer and golf; HOSA president; National Honor Society; Fourth place Biomedical Innovation – HOSA spring leadership.
Favorite teacher: Mr. Collins – “He was the best of all my teachers at anticipating all of his students’ needs. He always had a strong trust in his teaching style, and always had confidence in the students that earned it.”
Favorite thing about PHS: “Nothing can beat the school spirit at Fishbowl. The energy can’t be matched. I never cared to go to football games but I always went to Fishbowl.”
Advice to younger students: “Things will happen as they do, so let them. Don’t allow yourself to become lazy, but at the same time, understand that life is life and will do what it does.”