– By EMMA BOUTHILLETTE

Staff Writer

SACO – Gabi Sanchez has been everything you would expect of a cheerleader throughout her four years at Thornton Academy.

“She’s very chatty. She’s got all this energy,” said her junior year English teacher, Kate Timberlake. “She’s very happy and mature in a lot of ways, even though her affect is very bubbly.”

Sanchez, 17, who moved to Maine from New Mexico when she was a toddler, spent the past six years living with a friend’s family. Her mother, who was ill at the time Sanchez moved in with her friend, died during Sanchez’s freshman year.

“It was hard, but I dealt with it,” Sanchez said.

She kept herself busy through school work and cheerleading. What helped the most, she said, was the bond she formed with fellow cheerleaders.

“She looks at a challenge and sees opportunity,” Timberlake said. “She really believes if something is tough, you don’t give in. You figure out how you can learn from it and move forward.”

Timberlake’s class was one of her favorite courses, Sanchez said. English allowed her to express her feelings through writing, which she found helpful in coping with her mom’s death.

But, despite that, she named biology and chemistry as her two favorite subjects.

During her anatomy class in junior year, Sanchez said she participated in dissecting pig and cow eyes.

“It was kind of gross, but kind of cool at the same time. It is what directed me even more toward the field of biology,” she said.

This fall, she’ll head to the University of Maine at Orono to study biology. At this point, she’s unsure of what to do with a degree in biology four years from now.

Timberlake said it will be interesting to see what career path Sanchez will follow.

“She’s got a big heart and a lot of energy,” Timberlake said. “She’s going to make a difference wherever she ends up.”