By: Jaime Shabalina
Naya Vialva, an ambitious young soccer star from Mount Olive, has just started her first semester at La Salle University. She is only 17 years old, and is likely the first student that La Salle ever accepted that graduated high school early. This also makes her one of the less than 3% of high school students nationally that finish ahead of schedule.
Her motivation was to pursue her talents in soccer. She wanted to play at a higher level and this meant college athletics. But graduating early took considerable time and preparation. She started a year ago. In addition to filling out paperwork and taking entrance exams, she enrolled in college classes at night on top of her high school workload and substantial training requirements. At the time, Vialva was on two different teams, playing for both Mount Olive and Princeton SA, the latter requiring four hours of driving to make practice and games.
Vialva didn’t shy from the challenge. Motivated by the desire to join LaSalle’s spring soccer season she has no regrets. “It was a lot of hard work but I am definitely glad I did it.” Vialva further explains, “soccer drives me to work harder. I want to play almost every minute of the day and I couldn’t do that while in high school.”
Getting to La Salle was only the first step. Vialva began school on January 16th and already has a lot on her plate. During her first week, she was still finishing up her final course work for high school, in addition to taking on the demands of her new college courses.
Even though she has finished her high school work, her daily schedule remains intense. She wakes early and has two hours of training in the morning, followed by classes, a second two hours of training, and then most weekdays, more classes after that. She often ends her day studying in the La Salle’s Athletes’ Study Hall or her dorm.
She brushes off the idea that this can be overwhelming, explaining, “In high school, I had nine classes and day and here I only have five, so, it’s a bit easier.” One of the keys to juggling all of her commitments has been ensuring that the chaos of a hectic schedule doesn’t create anxiety or isolation. She explains, “You have to relax. If you are with the chaos and you are as chaotic, you will get stressed and feel alone…. If just go with the flow everything will come into place.”
Vialva takes most things in stride. When asked if it was hard being new to college and younger than other students, she explains that it is a role she is used to and she enjoys it. Her success at soccer has often put her in the position of being the youngest team member, and she adapts well. She also receives support from her parents and teammates, and even at first, a little overprotection from concerned teachers and staff. But now, she is happy to be treated just like other freshman.
Certainly, Vialva is not like many other freshmen. Her hard work and commitment foretells a bright future in soccer and in academics where she is already thinking ahead to a master’s degree.