Naomi Giancola learned early on how to be aggressive on the pitch. Her dad started teaching her soccer when she was just four years old.
"I would play with the older kids," said Giancola, a senior at Midwood High School. "I was like the only four-year-old there and they were like six, seven, and eight-year-olds. They would always knock me down and I hated that, so I pushed them back."
Those early experiences soon had her loving the game. She joined a travel team, playing against other squads all over the city and in New Jersey.
And once she enrolled at Midwood High School, it was no question that she'd represent the Hornets on that pitch, too. Giancola's years of practice earned her "Rookie of the Year" and MVP honors. She was also named team captain as a senior.
"When you look at her, it's somewhat unassuming because she is small. But she's so fast and it's like she's one with the ball. It's amazing to watch her play. She makes things happen," said Kendra Lane, the soccer coach at Midwood.
From the field to the classroom, Giancola works just as hard. While some teens take it easy in their senior year, Giancola instead signed up for five Advanced Placement (AP) courses and still was able to maintain a near-perfect GPA.
"She has a tremendous amount of determination that I don't see in too many students," said Nermin Cecunjanin, a social studies teacher. "She just has this drive that … she doesn't need anyone to tell her what to do."
That kind of drive is also what inspired her to take action after the deadly 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Giancola took the lead in getting hundreds of her classmates to participate in the "National School Walkout."
"Just seeing everyone come out on the day of the walkout," said Giancola. "and be silent and listen to what we had to say, honestly I can't even describe it. It was such a feeling of fulfillment that we were actually doing something."
Giancola is off to Smith College in the fall, where she's already earned a spot on the women's soccer team. She plans to study education to one day become a teacher and make a difference in the lives of young people.
So for making taking that early start to a strong finish, Naomi Giancola is NY1's Scholar Athlete of the Week.
The Spectrum News NY1 Scholar Athlete Program recognizes exceptional public high school student athletes with academic scholarship awards of $1,000 each for use towards college expenses. Nominees must be high school seniors enrolled at public high schools within the five boroughs of New York City in order to be considered.
If you are a public school coach, teacher, administrator or school counselor who would like to nominate a student athlete who excels both in the classroom and on the court, click here to fill out a nomination form.