Top student strove to do better than best

From ages 3 to 8, Whiteland Community High School senior Purva Patel lived away from her parents.

Patel’s parents, Vipul and Asha Patel, had moved from India to the United States to start a new life and wanted to set a foundation before bringing Purva to the U.S.

While they were gone, Patel was watched over by four aunts. At the time, all four were in college, so the house was filled with textbooks and notes, she said. As a child, Patel wanted to learn everything she could — she would hop from aunt to aunt to study with them and absorb it all.

That early love of education stuck with her, and now Patel is at the top of her class at Whiteland.

“Since all of them were studying in college at the time, that really influenced me,” Patel said.

One of her aunts became a pharmacist, and now Patel wants to study medicine in college. She doesn’t know what medical field she’ll end up in, but she wants to combine her love of biology with her desire to help people.

“I don’t know what I want to do yet in the medical field, but I know that’s the only thing for me,” Patel said. “I’ve never even considered anything else.”

Patel has known she wanted to study medicine for as long as she can remember, so she knew she had to do well in school.

After Patel came to the U.S. as a 9-year-old, her parents continued to push her. Her parents tried to build a love of studying on top of the foundation that was set by her aunts.

“Even if I got an A, my dad would ask, ‘Why didn’t you get 100 (percent)?'” Patel said. “I know some people might take that negatively, but I took that positively, knowing that obviously he was proud of me, but he wanted to push me to do better than best.”

When she entered high school, she knew she wanted to challenge herself by taking Advanced Placement and dual-credit courses and prepare for the harder college courses she now will face, she said.

“It definitely helped push me more because I knew how competitive that field was, so I knew I had to work super hard,” Patel said.

After her sophomore year, Whiteland got rid of their class rank system. At the end of that school year, Patel was second in her class. Becoming valedictorian was not something she hoped for, although she did want all A’s to prepare for medical school. But once she was announced as valedictorian this semester, her friends and family told her she deserved the title.

“It was genuinely surprising but really a sweet moment,” Patel said. “I think my mom cried when I told her.”

On top of taking 10 AP and dual-credit courses while in high school, Patel kept busy with student government, student council, science academic team, math academic team and volunteering for the annual Riley dance marathon, which raises money for Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health.

Because she is so busy with activities, she knew she could not procrastinate when it came to homework.

“Whenever a teacher gave me an assignment, (I would) get started on it immediately. I wouldn’t put it off because I never knew what my schedule was going to end up looking like,” Patel said.

She could start the week with nothing scheduled after school, but then meetings would pop up throughout the week, she said. But her busy class schedule and social calendar all helped her reach academic success, and now she is excited to accept her diploma and speak to her fellow seniors at graduation day.

And the four aunts who encouraged Patel’s love of learning will be in Whiteland when she walks across the stage.

The Patel File

Name: Purva Patel

Age: 18

Family: Parents, Vipul and Asha Patel; younger brother, Krish

School: Whiteland Community High School

GPA: 4.45

Rank: Valedictorian

College: DePauw University

Major: Biology or biochemistry for pre-med studies

Extracurricular activities: National Honor Society, student council, Riley dance marathon (executive), class representative for student government, math academic team, science academic team (captain) and played tennis her sophomore year

Fun fact: She received a scholarship for full-tuition from the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program