SAN DIEGO -- Alfred Vargas hits the books, and the heavy bag, with equal force. As class valedictorian at Sweetwater High School, the senior gave the commencement speech Friday -- an honor he received after applying some lessons he learned in the boxing ring.
It doesn't take long to notice 18-year-old Vargas in the ring. The two-time national champion strikes with power and precision.
"I think there's a lot of misperception on boxing because people think it's a very savage-like sport. But boxing is a very disciplined sport and makes you be respectful toward your opponent," Vargas said.
Vargas said that respect exists even when that opponent shares your last name. "My sister and I have been raised by my single mom and we've just been getting closer each year," Vargas said. "We compete in science fair projects together, so we already have a close bond."
"Sometimes when I land some punches on him, he'll challenge me -- so then he'll land some punches on me and it's back to back," said Vargas' sister, Audrey. "We challenge each other, we push each other."
Vargas makes the commute from National City to Point Loma six days a week. He currently competes in the youth division at the 114 weight class. His sights are set on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, though he admits he's still refining his skills.
"I'm an adaptable style boxer, especially under the tutelage of Joaquin, my trainer. He always tells me to adapt to everything and fix my mistakes," Vargas said. He says the boxing ring teaches him disciple, hard work and dedication, three lessons he takes to heart inside the classroom, where his commitment to school earned him a full-ride academic scholarship to UC Berkeley.
"Throughout high school, I've been doing a lot of science fair projects to desalinating water and generating electricity sustainably, so I want to focus on one of those two aspects," Vargas said.
The Sweetwater senior boasts a 4.52 GPA, which earned him the honor of being class valedictorian. "He deserves it," Audrey said. "We've seen all these years that he's been in high school, in middle school and even elementary school how much work and how much determination he's put into academics and athletics. I'm very proud of him, I know my family is very proud of him and I know greater things are to come."