But the Riverwood International Charter School Class of 2014 valedictorian is of the thoughtful sort — which explains why in the days leading up to the big day of pomp and circumstance, he was still deconstructing what the honor really means.
“It gives you a sense of accomplishment after all of the hard work,” said Roels. “And, it’s kind of its own reward … that you can carry on and use as a kind of motivational tool in the future.”
As one would imagine, the 18-year-old International Baccalaureate diploma candidate’s efforts have hardly gone unnoticed around campus.
Kali Alford, Roels’ mock trial advisor since his sophomore year, raved about the “stellar” student.
“He’s always working on something and he’s always succeeding at it,” said Alford. “It’s really interesting to see him take on a task — just to see how he surveys the different angles of how to approach it. And, once he finally goes at it, it’s a sight to see. … He’s just good — at everything, almost.”
Such attributes bode well for the star pupil, who’s poised to take his academic act on the road. Williams College in Massachusetts beckons next.
Roels plans to major in international relations and/or public health there. His background and worldly experiences informs those career interests.
Prior to enrolling at Riverwood, Roels and his family of five lived abroad in locales like Botswana, South Africa and Switzerland.
“I grew up in different places and that kind of got me interested in the different ways people think,” said Roels. “And, as far as public health, I guess that comes from my father [Thierry] — he works in the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and he does some really cool stuff with preventing outbreaks and really genuinely making a difference in people’s lives.”
If the valedictorian’s effect on his peers — including an ability to lighten the mood — is any indication, such a lofty goal is within the teenager’s reach.
Count Riverwood French teacher Michelle Bohlen as another of Roels’ admirers.
“He inspires his classmates,” Bohlen said. “He has a very natural sense of humor. … They kind of play off each other and he keeps an ongoing joke in class.
“Plus, he’s polite, kind and attentive to his work.”
And, what of his future?
“I think he’s going to be successful in whatever he chooses to do,” Bohlen said. “I’m excited to see where Ryan’s life takes him.”