Dasha Corpuz is 1 in 40,000.
The Salem High School culinary arts student was chosen from the 40,000 vocational students across the state for the Massachusetts Vocational Association Award this spring.
Dasha is the first student to be chosen for the award who is not from a vocational or technical high school. Vocational instructors from across the state voted to select her for the award, which comes with a $500 college scholarship.
"I love to cook. It's one of the most important things to learn in life," Dasha said. "Cooking is all about experimenting, and I love that."
Dasha, a senior, is one of the 60 students in the culinary arts program at Salem High. But cooking is just one of the many things Dasha has going for her.
An honors student, she is taking a host of Advanced Placement courses along with her culinary training. She runs cross-country, indoor and outdoor track and is captain of all three teams.
She plans to go to the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy next year.
To top it off, Dasha became an American citizen March 1 in a ceremony at Faneuil Hall.
Dasha grew up with her grandmother in the Philippines while her parents lived in Saudi Arabia. The family reunited to move to the U.S. when Dasha was 12.
She spoke minimal English when she moved to the U.S., but you'd never know it now to speak with her.
Salem High culinary arts teacher Bridget Zanni, who nominated Dasha for the MVA Award, describes her as an energetic, positive and hardworking student.
"She's a breath of fresh air," Zanni said.
Dasha accepted her award last weekend at the MVA's annual conference on Cape Cod. Part of the award included a weekend for Dasha and her parents, Richard and Natividad Corpuz, on the Cape.
In the kitchen
At home, one of Dasha's favorite things to cook is a Filipino dish called adobo, which is chicken marinated in soy sauce and spices and fried with potatoes.
Dasha said her culinary arts classes at Salem High offer a change from the "heavy" subject matter of her AP course load.
"I get to do what I like doing, with people I care about," she said of her friends in the class.
Dasha also loves the challenge of perfecting the presentation of a dish.
"When you cook, you have to make it look good and taste good, and I love that," she said.
Salem High culinary arts students cook meals for the Beverly and Salem councils on aging and run a cafe that serves lunch every day for school staff and the public.
On average, the program sends four or five on to culinary school each year.
Staff writer Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.