Heartfelt, humorous: Valedictorian about more than books | TheUnion.com

Heartfelt, humorous: Valedictorian about more than books

Photo for The Union by Jennifer Terman

What: Nevada Union graduation

Where: Nevada Union High School football field

When: 9 a.m. Saturday

For more graduation photos, check out Monday’s edition of The Union.

Nevada Union High School valedictorian Navleen Gill was taught from a young age to value education and what others have to offer, something she has taken to heart in her school and personal life.

“My parents are originally from India and ever since I was little, I’ve helped them try to help underprivileged people who are impoverished,” she said. “I think it’s amazing how you can learn so much from someone who has so little … the hope and strength.”

Gill said her parents’ values had been instilled throughout her life, and she took the initiative to serve as vice president for two years and president this year of the Free the Children club, as well as serving as secretary of the California Scholarship Foundation. She also participated in volleyball, basketball and varsity tennis.

One outstanding moment for Gill was when she was able to play against a nationally ranked tennis player from Granite Bay High School. She lost the game but not without some triumphant points.

“There was one point I won when I really smashed the ball … I might have won one or two other points, and even though I lost with horrible embarrassment, just the fact that I was playing with a national player — I probably looked so silly to that girl — but I was so happy.”

Gill participated in college-level science and math enrichment courses taught by grad students in different programs during the summer, in addition to participating in scientific research at Vanderbilt University last summer, where she met inspirational people.

“That was really great because I met people who were very intelligent, yet humble and funny and nice, and that’s the type of environment I would thrive in,” Gill said.

“It was great to meet people who are intellectually curious, driven and motivated, but genuinely amazing. I think I got that experience at different programs I attended and was able to appreciate my peers.”

Gill said she hopes to meet such people at the University of California, Berkeley, which she will attend in the fall to study biochemistry or biochemical engineering, with plans to become a researcher or physician.

Gill’s peers have been supportive and accepting, she said, of her cultural difference and demanding schedule.

“There’s not very much cultural diversity here, so it’s been interesting to cope with that and see how people accept you for who you are and what they see you as,” Gill said.

“I’ve built a lot of strong friendships, and we understand each other and appreciate our different strengths and personalities.”

Gill’s high grade point average and enrollment in as many advanced placement classes as possible were not without hard work and sacrifice.

“There were a lot of times when I had to say no to (friends), and so many times where I missed a party or didn’t go out because I was studying,” Gill said.

“I wanted to spend time with my friends, but I had to decide to do what couldn’t be done at a later time.”

Gill plans to present a funny and hopefully memorable dissertation.

“I’m excited to deliver the speech,” Gill said. “I love inspiring quotes and cliches, but I really want to say something that will stick and be humorous but send an equally strong message.”

Nevada Union’s graduation ceremony will take place at 9 a.m. today on the Hooper Stadium field.

“One of my teachers told me, ‘No matter how smart or dumb we are, the more we learn, the more we realize what we don’t know in the world,’” Gill said.

“We really are naive and unable to know everything, but that makes us driven to do more.”

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email jterman@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.

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