NewsHillsborough County


School project leads Lithia high-schooler to discover her principal's triumphant past

Newsome High principal Katie Rocha is inspiration
Newsome High principal Katie Rocha
Posted at 5:43 AM, May 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-11 07:36:33-04

LITHIA, Fla. — Newsome High School junior Genesis Gonzalez was on a mission: to find an inspiring "Human of Hillsborough."

Someone with an uplifting life, a role model going above and beyond, an everyday hero.

The Lithia student was tasked by her English teacher: go out and report, ask questions, find an inspirational person and discover what makes them tick.

(Full disclosure: I helped out with this project, sending a video to Newsome students with a few pointers about interviewing inspirational people.)

Gonzalez always thought her principal, Katie Rocha, was cool. But she didn't know anything about her.

All she knew, really, was that Rocha had an interesting accent. But who gets to know the principal, right?

So Gonzalez asked Rocha about her accent, and that's how she found her "human."

"She grew up in Poland, born and raised," said Gonzalez, who wrote a full detailed paper on Rocha. "She didn't even speak English when she moved here."

Gonzalez realized that Rocha's story was similar to so many immigrant stories around her, moving to America with the goal of making a difference.

"She came from something small and made it big over here," said Gonzalez.

For Rocha, an all-star principal in the Hillsborough County Public Schools system, she was moved by Gonzalez making that simple request: to talk, to connect, to communicate heart to heart.

Needless to say, she doesn't get a lot of that.

"For a student to reach out to me, to want to know my story, my life, it's so inspiring," said Rocha. "Her story melted my heart."