Naya Vialva has been answering the same questions since early June.
Yes, she is graduating from Mount Olive High School early to enroll at LaSalle University. And no, the 17-year-old isn’t scared about it.
A process which began in early June finally came to fruition this week, when Vialva attended her first class and soccer practice at LaSalle.
Neither the Mount Olive guidance counselors nor LaSalle head coach Paul Royal had ever dealt with this situation before. Though LaSalle has accepted international students who have already graduated from their home institutions, Vialva is believed to be the university’s first early-admission high school graduate from the United States – in any sport.
“I think it’s cool, because everyone’s like, ‘You’re crazy,'” Vialva said. “But I’m doing it. I’m very excited to do it. It’s all-around awesome how it came full circle. It was a lot of hard work, but totally worth it.”
Her fall season was extremely busy.
Vialva added two Centenary College evening classes – quantitative literacy and contemporary social issues – on top of her full high school schedule, and playing for both Mount Olive and Princeton SA, a four-hour round-trip drive.
Though New Jersey only requires 120 credits for graduation, Mount Olive demanded 135, which necessitated the extra college courses. However, that also puts Vialva ahead – and she plans to take summer classes toward her five-year, combined bachelor’s-master’s program in history.
“That was kind of crazy, because I’d go from school to training to training to class,” said Vialva, who also considered studying abroad in Sweden while living with her maternal grandmother.
“All the forms and paperwork and SAT stuff, I did very early and applied very early. When I got my acceptance letter, it said you’re ready to go. I called the NCAA, and they said everything’s ready to go. I did everything an incoming freshman would do, but I did it sooner, so everything would process in time.”
Vialva has spent a lot of time on the road this week, and she doesn’t even have a driver’s license yet.
Mona Ressaissi, an attorney and Randolph assistant girls basketball coach, moved her daughter onto campus Sunday, but Vialva had to come right back home and take finals in astronomy and biotechnology lab practices on Monday and Tuesday. Then she went right back to LaSalle that night, and started classes on Wednesday. The soccer team is practicing five days a week, according to Royal, on the field at 7 a.m. followed by lifting at 8:30 a.m. “and off for a full day of classes.” The Explorers will start spring games next week. Mount Olive doesn’t even end its semester until Jan. 29.
Royal expects Vialva “to make some major contributions on the field,” particularly after this early transition. Defender Chloe Lewis is graduating, leaving a position open for Vialva to earn.
Though her parents, Ressaissi and Devon Vialva, met on a basketball court at Centenary, Naya slept in her crib with a soccer ball at her feet. She started in costume at a Halloween tournament with the Mount Olive rec team, then played for the New Jersey Blast at nearby Turkey Brook Park before moving to Princeton. Vialva hopes to play professional soccer after she graduates, possibly in Europe.
“I don’t think failure is an option for her,” Royal said. “Those type of kids do well here. … They always figure it out. It’ll be tough, and they question themselves, but they always seem to rise to the top.”