NRHS valedictorian faithfully succeeds

Published 9:53 pm Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Nansemond River High School valedictorian Brandon Eley, 18, found strength in his faith to succeed both in and out of school.

He will graduate with 4.51 GPA and is a National Honor Society participant, senior vice president for National Beta Club and was named one of the 2017-2018 National Beta Leadership Ambassadors. He is also part of Project Lead the Way, a four-year engineering program that will culminate with a senior project this year.

He’s also one of 300 students across the country awarded the 2018 Gates Scholarship for academic excellence.

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It hasn’t been an easy road for Eley. At the Suffolk Donor Recognition Luncheon held by the Access College Foundation on March 27, he described switching high schools at the same time his parents separated.

The first-generation college student thanked God as well as his Access advisor, Shawn Foster. He’s active at First Baptist Church Mahan Street and Nansemond River Baptist Church, where he travels for mission trips across the country.

Eley often refers to a passage from the Bible, Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

“If I put (Jesus) first, then everything stays on track,” Eley said. “If I try to replace Him as the head of my life with something else, then that’s when things start to fall apart.”

He said he’ll miss his friends at NRHS, especially his lifelong friend Ayanna Harris, but he’ll especially miss marching band. He’s been drum major since freshman year and also plays the alto saxophone. The band has taught him the value of teamwork and discipline. He learned time management and respect alongside his bandmates.

“It taught me to respect and carry myself in a way that wouldn’t negatively reflect the band or its reputation, and how to respect others and treat them how I would want to be treated,” he said.

He recalled marching in the homecoming game with the crowd roaring in the stadium. He talked about how proud he was looking at the band when he was crowned homecoming king.

“I could tell that when I left they were going to be in good hands,” he said.

Eley will attend the University of Virginia to study architecture. He said he wants to help underprivileged communities by building facilities for educational opportunities.

In order to be successful, he said, you have to do the right thing when nobody is looking.

“Have the integrity to do what you’re supposed to do without being asked, and don’t do the right thing for someone to pat you on the back, but because you know it’s right,” he said.