DURAND — For Riley Vandendries, juggling school and extracurricular activities can be difficult.
But it’s a challenge Vandendries has come to embrace as she tackles coursework while participating in three varsity sports and numerous clubs — and plays travel softball on the weekends.
“Some days it’s really hard,” Vandendries said. “There’s been a couple of times this year where I’ve left from basketball games, changed into a pair of jeans and my madrigals fleece with my jersey top underneath it and gone to caroling at (Durand Union Station).”
A senior at Durand High School, Vandendries currently maintains a 3.95 GPA while tackling AP calculus and taking online courses in English and psychology through Lansing Community College (LCC).
The 17-year-old also competes in volleyball, basketball and softball, is executive board president of the student council, performs as a member of the Durand Madrigals, and serves as the Durand FFA chapter reporter, managing the group’s Facebook page and taking photographs at several events.
Through Vandendries’ involvement in FFA, she’s had the opportunity to work with a variety of animals, including chickens and pigs. It’s through that experience, she said, that she discovered what she wants to pursue after high school.
“I’ve been thinking about it for the past couple years, and I knew I was either going to go into human medicine or veterinary medicine,” Vandendries said. “Veterinary medicine became pretty strong to me when I realized I had a real aptitude for working with animals.”
In school, Vandendries has taken on a leadership role, both as executive board president and as the lone senior on Durand’s basketball team.
“Only five of us have varsity experience (going into this year) and it’s been kind of a bumpy road trying to get everyone else up to speed,” Vandendries said. “I’ve had to step up and show the girls what we need to do, and how we need to do it.”
Oftentimes, Vandendries’ hectic schedule carries into the weekend, with classes at LCC on some Saturday mornings and travel softball most Saturday nights.
Despite the long hours, Vandendries said she enjoys competing.
“I enjoy the team bonding,” Vandendries said. “I really like the relationships I’ve made with not only with my teammates, but even with other players on different teams…I make friends through playing sotftball.”
This fall, Vandendries will enroll at Eastern Michigan University for clinical laboratory studies.
“I will be able to go in multiple different directions if I continue with that degree and graduate with it,” Vandendries said. “I can go into forensics. I can go into a medical program. I can go into a veterinary program.”
After completing her undergraduate degree, Vandendries said she’ll likely transfer to Michigan State University to complete her master’s degree and her residency in veterinary medicine.
Right now, Vandendries is just trying to make the most of her senior year.
“There’s been a few bumps in the road personally (this year), but other than that it’s been really smooth sailing,” Vandendries said. “I’m kind of sad to see it come to an end because I’m going to be leaving a lot of great people here, but I’m really excited to get the process started (in college).”