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Great grads: Joe Fata an artist, academician and underrated athlete

Joe Fata is set to attend Stanford, becoming the third San Benito High School graduate in the last four years to get accepted into the prestigious private university. Photo provided by Joe Fata.

Before Joe Fata was born, his mom Ann told her sister, “This kid is not going to be an athlete, he’ll be an artist.”

Well, Fata’s mom only turned out to be partially correct. Yes, Joe turned out to have quite an artistic side, as he grew up playing in a mariachi band and is adept at playing six instruments, including the violin, of which he is classically trained.

But Fata—an incoming Stanford University freshman—also did quite well in the athletic arena, as San Benito High boys volleyball coach David Ventura and Fata’s teammates attest. Ventura and top outside hitter Tyler Pacheco both said the team sorely missed Fata’s ability to play multiple positions and his intangibles after Fata suffered a season-ending injury at the halfway point of the season. 

Even though Fata couldn’t finish the season, his experience with the team was fulfilling. 

“They’re all great guys and it was probably one of the most fun years I’ve ever had,” he said. “Getting injured was obviously tough, but I still enjoyed sitting on the bench and coaching some of the new guys at practice. It was awesome to watch them develop because they ended up being solid volleyball players.”

Fata comes from a family of athletes. His sister played Division I softball at UNLV and his brother played baseball at the NCAA four-year level. But Joe ended up being the highest academic achiever of the bunch, becoming the third San Benito High School student since 2019 to get accepted into Stanford. 

Ian Sills, class of 2019, and Faith Fernandez, class of 2021, are currently enrolled down on The Farm. 

“For the longest time, Stanford was nothing more than a wish school,” Fata said. “I don’t think I considered it very seriously until after Faith Fernandez got accepted. When Ian Sills got accepted, at the time I was like, ‘Well, that’s one in a million.’ When Faith got accepted, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, so that’s two in a million.’ So maybe it’s a possibility, maybe it’s not just a roll of the dice. I decided then I was going to apply.”

For thousands of students worldwide, Stanford is their dream school. But in most cases, because of the university’s low acceptance rate, it’s exactly that—a dream. For Fata, reality was better than a dream. Unlike a lot of applicants, Fata already had an emotional connection to Stanford. 

He grew up going to the annual Stanford-Notre Dame football game because his parents and in particular his dad Vince is a die-hard Notre Dame fan. Having spent many a time walking the Stanford campus before he was a teenager, Fata’s parents told him once, “When you’re older you can come walk these halls. It’s all in the cards if you want it to be.”

Ann and Vince were prescient.

“I’ve been seeing Stanford for such a long time and was pushed to go there by lots of my family members,” Joe said. “It’s been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. Still, for the longest time I thought it was a super reach, that you would need the 5.0 GPA and 1600 SAT type thing. It had been a dream in the back of my head that I had not really allowed myself to consider and get my hopes up for, so when I did get accepted, it was a pretty special moment.”

Special indeed. 

Fata was at home with his family Dec. 15 when he opened up the email that notified him he had been accepted to the prestigious university. But Joe played it cool initially, just in case he didn’t receive the news he was hoping for. 

“I didn’t tell anyone when I opened the acceptance letter because I wanted to play it off nonchalantly if I didn’t get in,” he said. “So when I actually opened the letter, they were literally talking about what they were going to make for dinner that night. Then I started screaming. They were like, ‘What’s wrong?’ I told them I had gotten into Stanford.”

Tears of joy accompanied the shouts of jubilation. 

“I think my expectations were pretty low, but my hopes were still fairly high if that makes sense,” he said. “There was obviously a lot of suspense because Stanford had been my dream school and my biggest reach school, too.” 

When he was 10-12 years old, Fata was convinced he would become a recording artist. At 11, Fata auditioned for Telemundo’s “La Voz Kids.” Shortly thereafter, he started working with a vocal producer to develop a demo to sell to a recording label. 

Although Fata’s likely career path will involve law and government, he plans on joining the Stanford Symphony Orchestra and the university’s mariachi group. He’ll always have an affinity for his artistic side. 

“I’m looking forward to continuing my musical interests at Stanford,” he said. 

Recent SBHS graduate Joe Fata was a high level achiever in the classroom and underrated volleyball player. He is
classically trained in the violin and looks to continue performing with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra.

Emanuel Lee can be reached at elee@weeklys.com