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Key to success: Keeping busy

Becoming the valedictorian at Lakeland High School wasn’t something David Van Petten said he ever thought about — but he knew it was coming.

At the middle of his junior year, he was ranked third and his friend was ranked first in their class.

“Becoming valedictorian didn’t even enter my mind until junior year,” Van Petten said. “We did the math, and I figured out if I got all A’s in the rest of my classes I’d be valedictorian.”

Considering he only had two B’s between 8th and 9th grade and received straight A’s through high school, “I knew I just needed to go with the flow and continue to get good grades,” Van Petten said.

Van Petten will graduate at the top of Lakeland’s Class of 2010, and also plays on their varsity soccer team, which he’s played for since mid-way through his ninth grade year.

He has also participated in the school’s chess club and Skeptic Society, which focused on debunking Suffolk ghost stories.

Away from school, Van Petten is the treasurer for his youth group, which just sent funds to Haiti, and has two jobs — tutoring in math and Spanish and as a service associate at Food Lion.

But finding time between school, sports and work hasn’t been a problem.

“If I have time on my hands, I try to fill it,” Van Petten said.

In what would be free time, Van Petten enjoys going the gym with friends, playing piano, swimming, kayaking, reading or just hanging out with his friends.

Whatever he’s doing, he avoids doing nothing at all.

“Right now is a crucial time in life,” Van Petten said. “You’re supposed to be setting yourself in the right direction. If you’re sitting around idle, you’re not looking for different opportunities and when the time comes you might be going down a direction you didn’t want to be.”

Van Petten’s direction will take him the University of Virginia this fall where he will double major in Spanish and astrophysics.

“I’m excited to go,” Van Petten said. “I was offered a prestigious scholarship at Longwood, but I made a list of pros and cons and decided on UVA. It’s always interested me as a school, and they offer exactly what I want to do.”