Conquering challenges put Priya at head of the class

With diploma in hand, valedictorian Priya Patel is congratulated by Mark Steele, Indian River School District superintendent, at Indian River High School’s commencement.

DAGSBORO — Thus far, Priya Patel’s journey in life has been one of overcoming challenges – and an exercise in healthy living.

“I’m really into nutrition,” said the 18-year-old native of India. “I like being healthy.”

“Healthy body, healthy mind” is more than a quotable catch-phrase for Priya.

Tuesday, May 29, at Indian River High School’s commencement, she addressed graduating classmates, family and friends as the Class of 2018’s valedictorian as the graduating senior with the highest grade-point average.

Not too shabby for an 18-year-old who with her family at age seven arrived in America from western India. Upon arrival she encountered hurdles.

“It was the language and just the culture barrier. Everything is different. If you compare the two societies, the way people act, dress, talk, eat, it’s all such a shift,” said Priya. “When you are little you just want one someone to connect with and that can be hard if you can’t really talk to them.”

Over time, her determination and dedication paid off.

From Indian River High School and Bethany Beach where her family resides, Priya will be heading to Newark and the University of Delaware on scholarships. She received upward of $6,000 in scholarships at the May 23 senior awards night.

While her long-range plans are not etched in stone, she has chosen a general major.

“Nutritional sciences, although I am still really undecided on what career I want to follow,” Priya said. “Hopefully, I’ll figure it out when I get there.”

Priya’s father owns a small store in Fenwick Island. Her older brother, Darsh Patel, attends the University of Delaware.

She has held down a job as a sales associate at Sea Shell City in Fenwick Island.

Priya is a product of the Indian River School District. She attended Lord Baltimore Elementary in Ocean View, followed by Selbyville Middle School and Indian River High School.

“I’m really into sports and clubs. For sports, I tried volleyball and cross country. They were both really a lot of fun,” she said. “And for all four years, I have done tennis.”

Priya Patel

At graduation she was a member of the LEO Club, Foreign Language Activity group and Environmental Club. She served as historian in IRHS chapter of the National Honor Society. She attended Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership Conference, earned All-Conference academic honors, was a Secretary of Education Scholar and was on the High Honor roll all four years.

In this week’s People to Know spotlight, Priya Patel: Indian River High School’s valedictorian for the Class of 2018.

Why Nutritional Services?

“It’s definitely a medical field. But it focuses more on, say if you were to become a physical therapist or a dietician, it’s nutrition and basically what is good for your body, kind of like Exercise Science.”

From average to head of the class?

“It was actually in middle school and elementary, my grades were pretty really average. I would have C’s and B’s. A’s were kind of rare because I was still learning English. But I think as I got to high school you have more freedom and I just figured it out with the work schedule.”

“Like I said I really feel like being healthy and eating, exercise like that helped me throughout the whole thing. I am vegetarian – not a vegan – just a vegetarian.”

Memorable moment or time at IRHS?

“It would probably be the first time I found out we had class rank. It was really funny, actually. I was going on a trip to India and I would have to take a month off of school in 10th grade. So, I went down to tell Mr. Murray (Bennett Murray), who was our principal at the time. And he told me that I could do this, but he told me to be careful concerning my rank. And I was like, ‘Rank? What are you are talking about?’ He was like, ‘You are actually second in class rank right now.’ That increased my motivation and afterwards I was like it was just about me doing better.”

Where would like to see yourself 10 years from now?

“I do want a job, definitely in 10 to 15 years! So, by then I will hopefully have figured everything out, because I still don’t know where I want to do, specifically. But I want to do something in nutrition or maybe Exercise Science.”

How do make time for all you do?

“Definitely, budgeting my time. I am kind of like not really a bookworm because I can’t stand being in the home forever. It just drives me crazy. I like to get out. Usually, on an average day if I had tennis I would do that. And if I didn’t then I would just do a normal workout, and then maybe like wait for a few minutes.

Leisure Priya time?

“I do love to watch TV. That is one of the bad things about me. So, a lot of TV, and on the weekends, hang out with friends or go to the beach.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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