Extraordinarily beautiful and academically-gifted, she meets Troy at a family bar during their winter break and are forced to sing in the New Year's Eve party at the Ski Mountain Resort. They instantly feel a connection with one another, and, as fate would have it, they end up attending the same school, East High School. There, they become close friends, and eventually begin dating. When the two meet up at the auditions for the winter concert, they try out for the callbacks and do a duet of a song called Breaking Free.
Since Troy, being the basketball star of East High and not known to have a passion or talent for singing, and Gabriella, the shy, nerdy new girl with a liking for chemistry, start singing, there is a large amount of social unrest at the school, as more people begin revealing their passions that conflict with the stereotypes they have been placed into.
However, despite numerous attempts to break the duo apart, they end up singing the duet and encouraging others to break from the norm in favor of following their dreams. Following the performance, the two become a very successful couple, though not without their occasional conflicts. Eventually, Sharpay Evans is jealous of Gabriella because of how popular Gabriella is becoming in the school, which Sharpay sees as a threat to her own popularity--she is also jealous of Troy and Gabriella's relationship, the former of whom Sharpay has a crush on.
In the second film, Gabriella has maintained her romance with Troy, and the couple, along with their friends, get jobs at the Lava Springs Country Club for the summer. Seeking revenge, Sharpay lures Troy away from Gabriella and his friends, showering him with various luxuries, including promising college opportunities. After Troy repeatedly breaks his promises and backs out of his commitments, Gabriella breaks up with him, only for the couple to reunite.
A Stanford-bound Gabriella is uneasy about the fast pace her life has taken. Before graduation, Gabriella briefly considers taking classes at the local university for a year and going to Stanford when she is ready, much to the dismay of Taylor and Mrs. Montez. Troy urges Gabriella to accept an early orientation.
Gabriella goes to Stanford but must drop out of the school musical (allowing Sharpay to fill the lead role) and miss prom. Wanting his last dance at East High to be with Gabriella, Troy drives to Stanford and the two share an intimate prom of their own. He convinces Gabriella to return to East High for opening night of the musical and for graduation. Gabriella will attend Stanford and study law. She put her house up for sale before she graduated high school.