Carissa Villaflor gushed over one particular gift last Christmas. It was big. It was shiny.
It was a dry-erase board.
She immediately wanted her dad to put the massive white board on the wall in her bedroom. She put a big calendar on it to keep track of class projects, volleyball matches, student council activities, tennis practices, baby-sitting appointments and everything else she was doing during her senior year at Heritage Hall High School.
“It's what I always wanted,” she said. “That was my favorite present by far.”
A teenage girl getting excited about a dry-erase board?
It's not ordinary.
Then again, neither is Villaflor. She is among the best multisport athletes around, the winner of five team state titles and three individual ones. She is a top-notch student, one B shy of a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
Because of her excellence, Villaflor is the recipient of the Bob Colon Scholarship, presented by The Oklahoman and the Jim Thorpe Association to the top female high school scholar-athlete in the Oklahoma City area.
“She's such a driven individual,” Heritage Hall principal and longtime family friend Keith Cassell said. “She just works so hard.”
It's part of being a Villaflor.
Dick and Cathy Villaflor made a decision early on — they would spare no expense when it came to academics and athletics for their children, Natalie, Caleb and Carissa.
The Villaflors were teachers, not wealthy by any means. Cathy went to work for the U.S. Postal Service, taking the night shift so she could either substitute teach during the day or chaperon one of the kid's field trips. Dick took a teaching and coaching job at Heritage Hall, where he built one of the state's tennis powerhouses while his children received college-preparatory-level educations.
Carissa followed the lead of her parents, staying positive like her mom but being competitive like her dad.
You can see those influences in everything she does. Sports. Classes. Even Easter egg hunts.
Yes, Easter eggs hunts.
For as long as Villaflor can remember, she and her siblings would hunt eggs on Easter morning. Even though she was the youngest and the smallest — she still stands only 5-foot-4 — she went after the eggs with a vengeance.
“It's fight to the death to get the Easter eggs,” she said, a twinkle in her eye. “Shoving each other out of the way.”
“It's serious,” she said. “We're competitive.”
So competitive that after the plastic eggs were gathered, counted and emptied, they would re-hide the eggs and re-hunt them, just to see who could get the most.
That kind of tenacity served Villaflor well in high school. She was a varsity player on both the volleyball and tennis teams since her freshman year.