Bella Bowler Navigates a Pandemic Presidency


Elaina Greenawalt, Contributor

On a typical morning, Bella Bowler opens the doors of San Rafael High School’s main locker hall, at the same time that she opens the door to her endless “to-do list.” She doesn’t get caught up thinking about her responsibilities, because she first likes to set the environment of the hallway. She throws a smile onto her face, and darts her eyes around the hallway, greeting and waving to anybody who crosses her path. Early morning frowns turn to smiles as she swiftly walks through the hallway, and people get a delighted feeling just to be around her bubbly presence. 

“Bella’s laugh is contagious,” Riley Cottrell, junior at SRHS says. “She’s always smiling and overall a great person to be around.” People who have gone to school with Bowler for years are used to what she describes as “boosting up other people,” but behind this practice is years of a growing passion she has for helping others. Since elementary school, Bowler has loved being there for other people, and making sure everyone around her is happy. It’s not just a hobby, she says, “If you’re a good example other people are gonna want to be one too.” She is the ringleader of positive energy for the school. 

I personally remember a time in 7th grade that I was walking down the hallways of Davidson Middle School, and saw Bella coming my way. We weren’t necessarily close friends at the time, so when I saw her coming towards me, I expected to have a brief hello then move on with our days, but no. I watched as she reached inside a small polk-a-dot bag she held on her arm and handed me a “kindness note” that was specifically written for me. I asked why she was doing this, as it wasn’t a holiday or any special occasion, but she just smiled and said, “I felt like the school needed a little more kindness today,” and then proceeded to hand out little notes to other, pleasantly surprised classmates, changing their day.

This isn’t the only passion that began to grow in elementary school. She started feeling an inclination towards leading her peers, not just making them happy. Bowler laughs as she recalls her first time running for the student body in third grade. She says, “I had a whole Thrift Shop parody for my speech, and I was so mad I didn’t win.” Bowler never ended up getting to be a part of the main student council at her elementary school, but she didn’t let that stop her. She was elected treasurer her 8th grade year and says, “That’s when I started to learn what it took to be a leader, and how to be a positive leader.” At SRHS she joined Associated Student Body (ASB) because she knew you don’t have to win an election to be a part of it, but also because she was inspired by her brother, who was a senior when she joined the class. 

Ms. Verheeke, who teaches the ASB class says, “My impression [of Bella] was that she looked up to her older brother Bailey a lot, and that she was excited and ready to get to work for the class of 2021. She was motivated to fundraise and create fun events for her classmates from day one.”

Bowler was elected president of her class for the first time freshman year and explains that she has learned so much over her journey as a student at SRHS. She says, “In freshman year I always tried to make everyone happy, and I eventually learned that you can’t. I try my best to do that still to this day, but now I’m more understanding of the fact that I’m not gonna please everyone.” That is only one of the many lessons she has acquired over her years of serving the school. From planning fundraisers, dances, rallies, and especially prom, she has learned how to budget, how to plan events, how to communicate with adults, and how to send a professional email. 

ASB taught her a lot of skills, but she has also brought some new things to ASB as well. Her teachers and peers agree that she has been an important influence on the program. Alex Paloglou, a senior, says, “She initiates every leadership and ASB meeting, and makes everyone feel like they have a voice.” 

On every school holiday or spirit day, it’s hard to miss Bowler’s outfits. Whether it’s tie-dye day, Hawaiian theme, or any holiday, she is decked out head to toe. Ms. Verheeke says, “I think Bella’s positivity has been an influence in ASB and in her class. Bella’s willingness to be silly and always dress up for anything inspires others to do the same.” 

As for advice she would give the incoming freshmen, her response opened up a whole other side to her story. She recommends time management. It may seem like a typical piece of advice, but coming from Bowler it means much more. It is something she has had to struggle with almost all of her life, especially during high school. Balancing school, homework, sports, volunteering, friends, and family, is already enough for any high schooler, but Bowler dealt with all of that while serving as class president, every year.

Bowler has played volleyball, basketball, and softball at SRHS, and rarely misses a practice or game. But, making the boy’s baseball team is one of her proudest moments. She says, “I could’ve tried out for softball, but I just didn’t want to since I had been playing baseball all my life.” Bowler admits there were some obstacles she faced with being the only girl on the baseball team, but it didn’t stop her from enjoying her time playing. She says, “I was a girl playing on a boy’s sports team, so I dealt with a lot of stereotypes.” But she says that these stereotypes only drove her determination harder. “Even after I broke my arm, it didn’t stop me from practicing or helping to cheer the team on,” Bowler says. 

Both freshman and sophomore year she won the JYD Bulldog award which recognized her grit, hard work, determination, and support for the team. It was that love and compassion for the sport and team itself that made her stand out as a player. Bowler says, “They treated me like one of the guys, even though there was still a little disconnect between us at times, I wouldn’t change the experience in any way.”

“When I wasn’t dealing with sports or ASB, I was the mascot,” Bowler says, “I loved to please the crowd.” It was something where she could just let go and have fun. Bowler recalls dancing through the crowds, hugging little kids, and just “messing with people,” to make sure they had a good time. By junior year she stopped being the mascot as often, but when they needed someone to fill in at the last minute at a football game, Bowler got back into the costume. She says after that, everyone could tell when it was her because the mascot’s energy was so different. The bulldog mascot is another one of the many things where Bowler has left her mark at SRHS. 

Between everything else on her plate, she oversaw fundraising responsibilities too. After a long day at school, then practice, she would still have to attend football or basketball games to help run bake sales.

“I had to constantly delegate,” says Bowler, who couldn’t make every event. I learned how to perfect that over four years.” Bowler recalls running from a practice, still in her sweaty uniform, and taking over the bake sale from someone who had been filling in for her so she could fulfill her ASB duties for that night. After that, it still wasn’t enough because she had to then go home for a night of homework, studying, or any other school responsibilities. She says “There were a lot of late nights, stress, and juggling, but it was definitely worth it in the end.” 

Many of her teachers admire her drive, and Ms. Verheeke says, “Just like any other high school student, she is juggling a lot. Even though she might be dealing with something hard, she does a good job of taking care of herself and then figuring out how to help others.” That is one of Bowler’s important traits, she never gets caught up in her responsibilities to the point where she doesn’t leave time for her friends and family, and herself. 

Bowler acknowledges that every day she’s “facing a different challenge,” but she approaches those challenges with positivity and excitement. I remember a finals week, back in freshman year, when each day Bowler would post on her Snapchat congratulating everyone for finishing their finals from that day, and encouraging them to keep fighting throughout the week. Seeing those kinds of messages on my social media helped me stay positive, which is one of her top goals. Bowler says, “By being a positive force, I feel like it helps other people, and I just love that.”

Bowler’s biggest obstacle during her high school experience has been the coronavirus pandemic. Not even that has halted her efforts. She says it was sad at first because, “people were asking if we were still doing certain fundraisers, and it was hard to let people down even when it was out of my control.” She says the biggest fundraising period is between March and June, which was right when the pandemic started, and the lockdown hit . Bowler says, “Coming up with ideas for fundraisers is really hard because of how unique this situation is.” Instead of setting up a pumpkin patch, Christmas tree lot, or movie night, ASB needs to factor in masks, social distancing, hand sanitizer, being outdoors, and many other health requirements.

Bowler’s online presence has had to be much more intense since there is more disconnect between the students without being physically at school. “Being a leader during this time has been so crazy, because I have my own life aside from the social media that I have to post on, and I feel bad because I can’t always keep up with it.” Her positive attitude remains, and she still hasn’t let the hard times get in the way of her contagious happiness. She says, “We’re doing our best in ASB right now to make it easier for people, and to let them know that they’re not alone.”

Bella Bowler has made an impact on the school, especially her class, and her passion for working hard and reaching for her goals is a true inspiration for her peers. Bowler says, “A lot of the time, people don’t really realize how much work ASB does, and it’s not their fault, they just don’t know.” I think this quote rings very true to Bowler’s story itself, because behind her kindness and vibrancy, there is a lot of grit, perseverance, and strength. 

When asked if she wants to share any words of wisdom for her class she said, “If you wanna do something in life, you have to do it for yourself and make it happen, because no one is going to do it for you. Take every moment and really get after it, because you may never get those chances again.”