Justifiably proud

Published 9:02 pm Saturday, June 1, 2013

They represent the best and brightest of Suffolk’s Class of 2013.

The five students who earned recognition as their respective schools’ valedictorians this year all come from different walks of life and have a variety of different goals, but they are all part of an elite fraternity of Suffolk students who can legitimately claim to have been the best of the best.

Lakeland High School’s Matthew Bradshaw will attend the University of Virginia in the fall, where he plans to major in chemical engineering, an appropriate plan for a student with an avowed connection to math and a particular soft spot for calculus. He hopes to use those interests to pursue a career with a chemical company one day.

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Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s Christine Comer will attend Belmont University in Nashville in the fall, where she plans to study music and performance. Her musical talents have been nurtured in NSA’s marching band, for which she served as the drum major and in learning to play a variety of instruments, and she hopes her time in Nashville will help her connect with the music industry.

Wayne Conner of Suffolk Christian Academy is a bit of a generalist. He will attend Old Dominion University in the fall, where he plans to take general education courses until he can find the path that seems to be the best fit. “There’s no reason to shut a door that you don’t have to,” he told a reporter recently.

Sara Gallagher of Nansemond River High School found her own path just recently, as a result of an advanced-placement government class. Having had her interest piqued in that class and while watching the presidential debates last fall, she is headed to Washington, D.C., in the fall, where she will attend The Catholic University of America and major in political science.

And Laura Smith of King’s Fork High School, whose parents are both psychologists, has been inspired by them to pursue a career in naturopathic medicine. To that end, she has enrolled in the pre-med program at the University of Virginia this fall. But first, there’s a trip to Oderzo, Italy, Suffolk’s sister city, in her immediate future, and Smith hopes it’s just the beginning of a lifetime of travel related to her medical field.

All five of these Suffolk students have traveled different paths to get to the academic pinnacle of their classes. But all have had to work hard and sacrifice to arrive where they are. They have set fine examples for those who will follow in their footsteps, and they will be worthy representatives of Suffolk as they head off to college. Their schools are justifiably proud of them.