SUNDAY SPOTLIGHT: Sarina Buchannan

Senior Sarina Buchannan (left) poses with her friends Danielle Mentink (center) and Hannah Denton (right).
Senior Sarina Buchannan (left) poses with her friends Danielle Mentink (center) and Hannah Denton (right). (Photo: L. Jelks)

By Denna Changizi, Staff–

Many students at Davis High are locals who have been living in the Davis community since birth. Attending the high school isn’t so much a privilege as a daily duty. But for senior Sarina Buchannan, going to school in Davis is a reminder of everything her mother has earned for her.

“My childhood was interesting […] my mom was a teen mom, I have an older brother who’s 21 and my mom had him when she was 15, so we grew up in poverty in Sacramento,” Buchannan said.

She elaborated on the struggles she faced growing up in multiple lower-class neighborhoods from Davis to Sacramento.

“The worst one that I lived in was near this place called North Highlands [in Sacramento]. It was really poverty stricken,” Buchannan said.

Buchannan said the neighborhood was dirty and full of poor families dressed in dirty old clothes, and homeless people who lurked around the neighborhood pushing old shopping carts. Buchannan’s family car even got stolen, twice.

When Buchannan was in second grade, she was playing outside and noticed a group of three teenagers sneaking around her mom’s car. When her mom opened the vehicle she immediately began to panic.

“Her backpack with all her textbooks [were missing from] the backseat of the car,” Buchannan explains. Buchannan’s mother needed the books for college, so the two began to drive around the neighborhood, searching for the teens.

After spotting them, her mom angrily got out of the car and cornered the boys, demanding her books. When the boys tried to deny the crime, her mom told them she would file a police report, and they returned the stolen items.

“She was just pissed because she wanted her books and she wouldn’t have been able to afford new books,” Buchannan said. “When my mom finished college everything definitely changed. For the first time, we bought a house with my mom’s ex-boyfriend; it was still in Sacramento but I was going to school in Davis. So living in a house was a new experience,” she said.

The family was even able to take a vacation to Mexico, which was a milestone for Buchannan.

“My first time out of the state and country and on a plane. It was interesting to experience that,” she said.

The Buchannan family was constantly moving, forcing Sarina and her older brother to frequently switch from school to school in both Sacramento and Davis. She recalled being surprised at how much higher school standards are in Davis.

“It was a lot different than the schools I had been to in Sacramento. It was a super big change,” she said. “When I was in Sac, they would tell me I was in the top of my class and they would tell me I was really smart and I got straight As and everything. 

“And then as soon as I moved to Davis they were like, ‘You need extra help with reading, you have to leave class everyday.’ It made me feel kind of dumb,” Buchannan added, remembering that a third grade class in Sacramento was teaching material she had learned in kindergarten.

But the rocky road didn’t end there. “People [in Davis] thought I was really rude or that I didn’t have any manners […] people didn’t really like me. It took me a couple years to realize that you have to use words like ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’” Buchannan said.

The schools that Buchannan attended in Sacramento put students in a different environment where she had to have thicker skin.

“You had to be tough and rude. But you can’t do that in Davis unless you want to get walked over,” she said.

Unfortunately, money was still an issue for the family. Though their conditions were improving, Buchannan had to stop going to her gymnastics classes, because the family simply couldn’t afford it. She tried out for high school cheerleading, thinking that it might be similar, but didn’t make the freshman squad.

“I started talking to the goalie on the [field hockey] team, [senior] Danielle Mentink, my best friend. She was like, ‘You should come try out for the team,’” Buchannan said.

But after trying out and making the team, she was benched for her entire freshman year.

Buchannan persevered, however, and when she came back sophomore year, her fortunes improved. This year, she’s the senior captain, and is aiming for the DHS scoring record of 75 goals. She also hopes to receive a college scholarship through the sport.

Over time, the situation continued to improve for the Buchannans. Her brother was accepted to UC Davis, her mother remarried and the family moved into a nicer house in West Sacramento.

Still, difficulties persisted. Buchannan’s car broke down this past summer, making the commute to Davis High even harder, especially because field hockey practice started at 6:15 a.m.

She had to manage her time wisely to fit in both field hockey and work–after all, Buchannan needed about $1,000 to afford a new engine for her car, and is still trying to get enough money. Many kids enjoy spending their summer time working at the pool or at a restaurant, but Buchannan’s work environment wasn’t anywhere near as fun.

“[My boss] constantly puts me down and is just rude,” Buchannan said. She feels uncomfortable sharing more information, and doesn’t want to lose her job, despite the terrible conditions.

Buchannan has fought a tough battle so far, but she doesn’t plan on stopping. She and her coach Sandie Marotti-Huckins are working hard to find Buchannan a perfect college.

Currently, she hopes to play field hockey at Indiana University and wants to become a criminal psychologist.

Together, Buchannan and Marotti-Huckins have been emailing transcripts and making highlights videos, waiting for the right offer from a school. The process is difficult and Buchannan is slightly behind, mostly because she has to do most of the process herself. But she is catching the interests of many coaches who have had the chance to see her play in person.

“I had to email all 79 field hockey coaches that there are [at Division 1 schools],” Buchannan said, smiling with optimism.

Buchannan is patiently waiting for November to arrive when Festival, a field hockey tournament, will take place in Palm Springs. The event is the perfect opportunity for prospective collegiate athletes, since college coaches from all over the country will be present to recruit players.

Buchannan is certain that she’ll find the perfect school there.

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