Stephanie Gales found a bit of a loophole — perhaps fitting since she wants to be a lawyer.
The Brooklyn Tech senior will attend University College Cork in Ireland next year. There, she will major in international law as an undergrad — something she couldn’t do if she enrolled in college here in the United States.
“I knew I wanted to do law,” Gales said. “I knew that you couldn’t do an undergrad degree in America, you have to major in something else. Then you have to take the LSAT and hope that a law school will accept you — a good one, at that. This way, I already got into law school. I don’t have to worry about the LSAT. I am terrible at test-taking.”
Gales has become a master at finding openings like that one. Her ability to do just that helped earn her the PSAL girls fencing Wingate Award, given to the most outstanding senior student-athlete in a given sport, in a ceremony last week at St. Francis College. She also hopes her skills translate to what she wants to do as a career.
“Maybe that’s a good omen for being a lawyer,” Gales said with a laugh.
Fencing was not Gales’ first sport, but like most things she picks up, she ended up excelling at it. She went 40-0 in the regular season during her career with the Engineers, the team she led to three straight finals appearances. This season, she won the season opener and invitational championships and earned bronze in the individual championships.
“It does mean a lot to me, because there are some really good fencers in our division,” Gales said of winning the Wingate.
She only started fencing when she was in the eighth grade. Gales has been training in martial arts since she was 4 years old and earned her first black belt in jiu-jitsu when she was 12. But her dad persuaded her to take up fencing, because there are no college scholarships available in martial arts.
“I liked fighting, so that was pretty cool,” said Gales, a native of Flatbush, Brooklyn. “I expected to be the worst person on the team. I was surprised.”
Maybe she shouldn’t have been. Gales is a regular renaissance woman, picking up and excelling at a number of different things. It all started in her infant years when she decided she wanted to learn French. Now she speaks the language fluently.
“I remember walking with my mother when I was really young and I overheard some people speaking it,” Gales said. “I asked her, ‘What are they speaking?’ And she told me they’re speaking French. Then I asked her if I could learn it and she took me seriously. I love the language now.”
Gales has also played the piano since she was 4 and began working with a Russian Conservatory trainer when she was in sixth grade. She used to play the guitar and the recorder and also sings in a chamber chorus.
“I have no time to do anything,” Gales said with a laugh.
She does hope to continue with fencing when she gets to college. University College Cork has a club program that she will probably join. Fencing has become a major part of her life since freshman year. She has competed in North America Cups and in the Junior Olympics.
“People have said that fencing is like physical chess,” Gales said. “I definitely have the reflexes from jiu-jitsu to help me with fencing, because you definitely have to be quick in fencing.”
Added Brooklyn Tech coach Bert Yaged: In a sport which highly regards personal achievements, Stephanie stands above all in loyalty to the team. She took it upon herself to work additional hours with her teammates to instill in them her competitive spirit and fencing skills.”
After college, Gales plans on practicing international law, but she isn’t sure if she wants to settle down in Europe or New York. Right now, the plan is both.
Don’t even attempt to tell her she can’t.