The first sign of trouble was when she couldn't distinguish the letter B from D.
Starting in first grade, Michelle Ferrucci began to have difficulty spelling and reading. She was diagnosed with dyslexia, a condition that impairs a person's ability to read.
Thus began a long battle for Ferrucci, one she still wages as a senior girls' volleyball player at Granada Hills High.
Friends helped her read books, magazines and movie subtitles. Others weren't so helpful.
"When I was younger, a lot of the kids made fun of me," Ferrucci said. "It was hard."
It still is.
Ferrucci uses a tape player to record some of her class lectures and she sees a tutor. She must read a book several times to fully comprehend the story.
Through it all, the highly recruited middle blocker met NCAA qualifying standards by passing 13 core classes and maintaining better than a 2.5 grade-point average. She has narrowed her college choices to Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Texas A&M; and Nevada-Reno.
Said her mother, Betsy: "Volleyball is her salvation."
Ferrucci is one of the best players in the City Section, but doesn't necessarily want to hear about it.
"I don't see it as I'm that great," said the 6-foot-1 Ferrucci. "Sometimes I see where I can stand out a bit with my blocking, but other times I don't see what the fuss is all about."
Ferrucci makes an impression wherever she goes. She is popular and stylistically hip, to say the least.
Ferrucci, whose career goal is to design nightclub interiors, likes to wear trendy, retro ensembles purchased at used-clothing stores.
"You get more things cheaper," she said of second-hand stores, proudly displaying a multi-colored, patchwork pair of jeans.
The cost? Ten bucks.
She drives a retro-mobile, too, a 1974 Volkswagen Super Beetle, with vanity license plates that read, "GR8 BLKR," a gift from her parents to symbolize her volleyball skills.
Ferrucci has been physically active throughout her life, dabbling in horseback riding, driving all-terrain vehicles and skateboarding.
"I'm more of a tomboyish kind," she said.
It adds up to volleyball success for Ferrucci.
"You always want your child to excel in something," Betsy Ferrucci said. "And to see her say, 'I've got a plan, I'm moving forward and I'm going to do this,' is really something.
"[My husband Pete] and I knew when she was little that she was going to be unique. We knew she would do great things."