Valedictorian crafted his way to Nansemond River – The Suffolk News-Herald

Evelyn Taliaferro had no intention of studying engineering when she left the Isle of Wight Academy after eighth year, but she knew she was ready for a change.

She applied to attend the Project Lead the Way programs at Lakeland and Nansemond River High Schools, as well as the International Baccalaureate Program at King’s Fork High School.

Taliaferro, 18, who lives downtown with her parents, Tom and Megan Taliaferro, and her sister, Claire, ultimately chose Nansemond River and its Project Lead the Way engineering program and hasn’t looked back , as she was named valedictorian for The Nansemond River Class of 2022.

“I didn’t even know what engineering was,” Taliaferro said, though she did note how much she loved building things with Legos when she was younger. “I applied on a whim as I am out of area and wanted to go to Nansemond River. And I ended up falling in love with it and realized that I wanted to make a career out of it.

The graduation hadn’t flowed for her even the day before the ceremony, calling it “a bit surreal”.

“It’s so crazy to be at the end and to look back and see all the dedication and hard work that I put in over these past four years of high school, all of which come to an end,” said Taliaferro, “which is exciting, but a bit sad at the same time.

She said working during the pandemic was a huge challenge.

“I never realized how much my teachers and in person were learning and physically sitting at a desk and actively engaged in my lessons, how much that really helped me learn,” Taliaferro said. “I noticed that I had to try a lot more, especially last year, for virtual learning, learning on my own, being independent and learning time management skills, certainly, because you don’t Don’t have those teachers making sure you do your homework on time, making sure you’re engaged in class. It’s really up to you, and it was my responsibility, but… I’m so thankful that this year has been relatively normal.

She also learned not to take routine high school activities for granted.

“I think before COVID happened, I was just assuming, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll get prom, I’ll graduate, I’ll graduate, I’ll get all those things old people can do and hopefully a normal college experience. But now, since COVID, and even though things are getting better, things are still a bit uncertain. It made me even more grateful for every moment and every experience I had with my classmates.

Taliaferro said she grew to love engineering and after her freshman year she knew engineering was something she wanted to pursue as a career, but didn’t elaborate on what aspect of engineering she wanted to focus on. It wasn’t until her freshman year, when she took two engineering courses – civil engineering and architecture, and digital electronics – that she learned that she wasn’t interested in civil engineering, but that she had a strong interest in electrical and computer engineering.

During the summer between her junior and senior years, she went to the governor’s boarding school for math, science and technology and took a course in electron control, in which she built her own circuits from zero and builds its own battery. This confirmed that she wanted to study electrical engineering.

She will do so at Princeton University, wishing to find a smaller school similar to the one her parents attended – the College of William and Mary. She had resigned herself to attending a bigger, more tech-focused school until Princeton’s unexpected acceptance.

Taliaferro, while navigating his academic workload, also played college football for four years and was part of the National Honor Society, Beta Club and a new club for his senior year, the Travel and Culture Club. .

She also won a Gold Award in Girl Scouts for a community service project in which she designed a website (EngineerKids!) and a program to help young girls learn about different fields of engineering. To win the prize, she had to work a minimum of 80 hours on the project, which had to solve a global problem in her community. She focused on the gender gap in STEM-related careers – science, technology, engineering and math.

“It was just an amazing experience that I was able to really, truly make a difference in my own community and guide this whole project through to completion,” said Taliaferro, whose program is now used at her former school, Isle of Wight Academy, as part of its STEM programme.

She reflected on this as she pondered the message she wanted to leave behind.

“You don’t have to wait for the future,” Taliaferro said. “You don’t have to wait until you graduate from college, enter the workforce and become a real adult to enter the real world and make a difference in your community and change the world for the best. You can do it now. You can do it anytime, anywhere. You don’t have to wait for the distant, intangible future to improve it.

Last name: Evelyne Taliaferro

Age: 18

Family: Tom Taliaferro, Sr.; Megan Taliaferro, mother; Claire Taliaferro, sister

School: Princeton University

Major: Electrical engineering

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