A Conversation With The Class of 2022 Valedictorian And Salutatorian

Class of 2022 valedictorian Ben Novotny and salutatorian Riley Furrick

It takes a little time for Ben Novotny and Riley Furrick to list all of the clubs, organizations and activities they’ve been involved with at Steel Valley. The two seniors are fixtures in extracurricular activities, so perhaps it’s fitting that they will help usher the Class of 2022 into the future. Novotny has been named class valedictorian, while Furrick has been named the class salutatorian.

They are two members of the annual Steel Valley Top 10, a celebration of the students with the top grade point averages in the senior class. Joining them in the Top 10 for the Class of 2022 are Molly Krupa, Justin Chau, Kelsey Salopek, Madisyn Faux, Dacia Hruska, Emma Koval, Brooke Weber and Abigail Tester.

Keep an eye out in the near future for more honoring the rest of the Top 10. In the meantime, Novotny and Furrick shared some insight on their college plans, life goals and some Steel Valley memories. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Class of 2022 valedictorian Ben Novotny and salutatorian Riley Furrick

What are your plans after graduation?

RILEY: I'll be attending Drexel University in the fall. I'm going for chemical engineering. I'm pretty excited.

BEN: I plan on attending the University of Miami and the Frost School of Music to pursue a double major in flute performance and history, and possibly international relations.

What made you choose your college and your major?

RILEY: So, when I visited Drexel, I really liked the campus and everything,  and they have a really good co-op program that I'm very excited about. And as for chemical engineering, I just really like chemistry. My sister does chemical engineering and she says it's a lot of fun.

BEN: What really drew me to UM and Frost in general was just their reputation as one of the top private research universities in the country. They're very focused on the medical field and their arts program is very strong as well. I want to keep my options open, especially since most of the jobs of the future aren't even created yet. I feel like our generation is going to have to prepare to create our own careers.

What clubs, organizations and activities have you been involved in at Steel Valley?   

RILEY: I'm on the volleyball team. I do the musical, so I’m in drama club. I’m in art club, French club, history club. I’m the secretary of SADD, I’m the treasurer of Student Council, and then I’m also senior class president.

BEN: I also do the musical with Riley. Besides that, I’m the president of SADD. I’m the senior representative to the school board, so I attend all of the school board meetings. I’m also the club leader/president of Global Hands. Besides that, I’m involved in history club, French club…basically everything.

What prompted you to be so involved?

RILEY: I just really wanted to make like the most of my high school experience and I feel like a way to do that is to get involved with as much as possible. And it was really easy to make friends.

BEN: I think, like Riley said, it does come down to making the most of it and getting to know as many people as you can. I feel like, especially because of COVID and the pandemic, that kind of pushed us to be more active in our community. I like trying to make the community a better place and kind of at least sharing some positivity in the world. I think Riley also is a great example of that.

Is there a class or a teacher that really made an impact on you?

RILEY: I really liked my chemistry class. Ms. Logan teaches it. I thought it was inspiring to see another woman teaching chemistry and being really good at it. So, I really liked that class. And then I also like my calculus class. Mr. Vickers teaches that and he's just so smart and he just knows everything about calculus. I really liked that.

BEN: The first one I'd say Ms. Tkach -  she teaches AP CHS Physics and there's only three of us in the class. We get to we get to know her pretty well. That class is honestly the hardest class I've ever taken in my life. I’d never taken any physics before that. She's been just amazing and helping me catch up and learn all the material. She’s always there for you both as a teacher but as a person as well. Besides that, I think I'd have to second Riley's opinion for Mr. Vickers. He's just absolutely fantastic. And him and I kind of see eye to eye on a lot of things and we kind of work the same way when we're going through things, so that's really awesome. Other than that, I think I have to say Mr. Altman. Riley and I both have him for AP English and our discussions in that class really have caused us to grow both as students and as people, and really understand not only our world, but how we can impact our world and what is coming.

Outside of the classroom, is there an experience like a field trip, guest speaker, project, or organization you had a chance to work on or be a part of that left an impact on you?

RILEY: I've been a part of the Rankin Junior Tamburitzens since I was five, so I've been doing it for about 13 years. It's just a way for me to stay in touch with my culture and the Eastern European region. I got to go to Croatia and perform there. It was super fun, so for me it was just the chance to see another side of the world.

BEN: Outside of school, I do a lot of music-based ensembles and stuff. I've been playing in the Pittsburgh Symphony for two seasons now. That's just been fantastic because I've been able to meet students from all around the Pittsburgh area and they're all the top musicians in the area. This April I had the opportunity to attend the PMEA All-State orchestra conference. So that's comprised of the top musicians across the state of Pennsylvania and I served as a principal piccolo in that ensemble. I was the top piccolo player in the state, and that was definitely a lot of fun.

What piece of advice would you have for next year’s graduating class now that you’ve gone through your senior year?

RILEY: Even though it's a very stressful year, don't forget to just have fun. Just take a moment and just take it all in, because this is the last time you'll ever be with all these people in the same place in this building. And it's very bittersweet, but don't forget to like appreciate all of it.

BEN: I definitely second what you said there, because I feel like a lot of this year just felt so long. We spent so much time working on everything, stressing out and it's like, ‘Oh, yeah, we had a lot of fun!’ Besides that, I think I'd say don't be afraid to forge your own path because honestly, if it hasn't been done before, that doesn't mean you can't do it. I applied to the University of Miami and I didn’t think I would get in, and here I am going to Miami in the fall. So don't be afraid of where life is going to take you.

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