Excellence runs in this family

Published 9:23 pm Saturday, July 30, 2011

Editor’s Note: This is the last in a five-story series on the valedictorians of Suffolk’s schools. Check our website, www.suffolknewsherald.com, for past articles.

Being at the top of the class is a tradition in Eric Riley’s family.


Riley was the valedictorian of the Nansemond River High School class of 2011, just three years after his sister, Elizabeth, was named to the same honor.

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He said becoming valedictorian wasn’t his motivation for academic achievement, but it was a welcomed consequence.

“I felt surprised and also proud because even though I hadn’t planned for it, it’s still good to know all of my hard work paid off,” Riley said.

Riley loaded his schedules throughout high school with Advanced Placement classes such as biology, chemistry and literature, propelling him toward a 4.56 grade-point average.

He said he wanted to take as many AP classes as he could, because he felt they would better prepare him for college.

“My heaviest load was probably my junior year because I took two AP sciences in the same year,” he said.

However, he said, even his heftiest schedule wasn’t a struggle because he chose classes he enjoyed.

“I think it comes from how much I love taking the classes,” he said.

Riley’s love for one particular course he took during high school influenced his decision on what to study in college.

During his senior year, he took a gaming development course at Tidewater Community College to explore the field of computer programming. He loved it so much, he decided to study computer science in college.

“I’ve always really loved programming and all the computer stuff, but I never thought about it as a major until this year,” Riley said.

He said he hopes the fundamentals of computer programming and the concepts behind game design he learned will give him a head start when he makes his way to Longwood University next month.

“That class gave such a great basis to start off from,” he said. “I think without that class, it would be a lot harder to go to college.”

In addition to his classes, Riley participated in the academic challenge team, science bowl, an environmental science club and BETA club.

He said science is definitely his favorite subject, but he also has a passion for writing.

In fact, he said, he hopes to improve his writing while he is in college.

Before he even applied for college, Riley said he was sure he wanted to go to Longwood.

“It has a great campus,” he said. “And it’s a nice and small college, so there’s a lot of interactions between the students and the professors.”

Riley was familiar with the university prior to his senior year because his sister also attended Longwood.

He said his goal for college is to continue to get the best grades he can.

“It would be a great achievement to carry through being at the top of the class from high school to college,” he said.

Riley said he is excited to head off to college and get a taste of independent living.

“I’m looking forward to really trying new things,” he said. “It will be a great opportunity to experience a lot of new things.”