Sommer DeRudder has always shown slightly different interests than her peers.
While other kids wore clothes adorned with the faces of the latest pop stars, she sported a throwback Ramones shirt in the fifth grade.
That continued throughout high school as she continued pursuing two vastly different pastimes — barbecue and stamp collecting.
Sommer took up both thanks to her father, Boomer DeRudder. Now she’s made the hobbies her own, snagging a 2017 fellowship from the American Philatelic Society to travel the country making presentations on stamps and earning her certification as a barbecue judge from the Kansas City Barbecue Society, the organization that sanctions barbecue competitions nationwide.
The Peninsula High senior, who graduates with other seniors Thursday, plans to continue both hobbies this fall after she starts at Stanford, where she will major in economics with a minor in either German or history. She’s already considering starting a campus club for fellow stamp or barbecue aficionados, she said.
Sommer’s father began collecting German stamps about 15 years ago as a way to stay connected to the country where he spent many summers as a teen, he said. Sommer often helped him with his collection, and then, as a seventh-grader began taking an individual interest in stamp collecting, or philately. Now the two of them have a joint collection of hundreds of stamps.
“We work together, but I kind of started taking over,” she said.
For Sommer, who has a particular interest in German stamps from the late 19th to mid-20th centuries, collecting stamps is one way of preserving history, she said.
DeRudder added that, as his daughter took history classes, she’d find examples of what she was learning in the stamps they were collecting.
“I think, for her, it’s a nice break,” DeRudder said. “It’s like owning something that ... happened or that someone held 100 years ago.”
Eventually, she plans to become the first American female German stamp expert, she said.
Both interests, and in particular philately, will be a way to stay connected with her dad after she heads to Northern California in the fall.
“I feel like it’s something that we can connect with each other,” she said. “Even when I’m in college, I can collect more stamps and he can collect more stamps and we can kind of share our findings.”
It was a similar chain of events that led her to become a barbecue judge, she said. For years DeRudder pursued a passion for barbecue, firing up the family’s 500-pound backyard smoker and taking his cuisine on the road for competitions, he said.
Sommer began by helping him around the kitchen, and eventually she decided to take the one-day course to become a certified barbecue judge.
It was a hobby that caught the eye of the Stanford admissions officer, who included a note to Sommer asking her to bring her expertise to campus, DeRudder said.
Even with her family barbecuing background, Sommer said she felt like an outsider at the one-day barbecue certification program, where the vast majority of her fellow attendees were older men.
It wasn’t a new feeling; philately also tends to be a male-dominated hobby, she said.
At times, that’s meant proving herself to much older collectors who tend to dismiss her for her age or gender, she said.
“I kind of just try to be strong and just show them what I know and kind of show them, yes I collect this and I know all this information and I know all this about the past and kind of just hope that they see that I’m well educated,” she said.
And that experience has been a valuable one, she said. Staking her claim among other collectors or barbecue authorities has taught her how to handle some difficult situations, she said.
“I feel like you just kind of have to stick up for yourself,” she said. “You can’t just let people boss you around or tell you that you don’t know what you’re talking about.”