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‘Tons of Hard Work’ Earns Valedictorian Standing
The undergraduate career of Edward Innarelli ’14 is marked with a number of instances where he took advantage of opportunities that came his way.
A biology major with a minor in bioethics, Edward says his distinction as Elms’ first male valedictorian (the college went coed in 1998) is the “culmination of tons of hard work,” such as putting in 25 to 30 hours a week as a patient care technician at Mercy Medical Center while taking classes.
“I knew I needed outstanding grades, and an outstanding résumé, and I worked my hardest to get it,” said Edward. He graduates with a GPA of 3.99 – due to an -A in organic chemistry.
“My sophomore slump,” he joked.
At Honors Convocation on May 2, Edward received the Mary E. Scanlon Prize for the highest academic achievement in science. In presenting Edward with the award, Biology Professor Janet Williams said he was a “careful and diligent worker” with “more than 1100 hours of patient care service.”
Edward was also inducted into the national scholastic honor society Delta Epsilon Sigma and the national Catholic college society Kappa Gamma Pi.
The Ludlow native first thought he’d pursue a pharmacy career, but spending his sophomore and junior years as a pharmacy technician showed him that career didn’t have enough interaction with patients. A certified nursing assistant (CNA) course taken in the spring of his junior year led to a summer job as a CNA, and for the last eight months Edward has worked at Mercy.
His future plans include becoming a physician’s assistant (he’s applying to Bay Path, Northeastern, Boston University, Yale and Massachusetts General Hospital, to name a few).
“I shadowed a PA first and noticed what their role is, and it made me want to pursue it as a career,” Innarelli said.
He knows that the field is highly competitive, something that was reinforced at a Career Seminar organized by Assistant Professor of Biology Nina Theis, Ph.D., earlier this month that welcomed alumni back to give advice. Matthew Kele ’13, who is enrolled in the PA program at Bay Path and is beginning his clinical rotation, told those at the seminar, including Edward, that there were more than 1,200 applicants for the 24 slots available in his program.
“Matt said interviews are very important, and so is having very good interpersonal skills,” Edward said. “And make sure you research the programs you apply to.”
Edward’s résumé-building included spending two hours per week since his freshman year – 300 total hours – volunteering at a YWCA domestic violence shelter; tutoring more than 40 students in all the sciences during his senior year; and serving as a research assistant for Biology Professor Janet Williams, Ph.D.
He spent three semesters conducting DNA extractions for Professor Williams’ metagenomic research project.
While the lab work won’t be relevant to his career goals, he says it will give him an advantage in the required research component of the PA curriculum.
“Our research lab is better than some professional facilities,” he said of the biology space in the new Center for Natural and Health Sciences. “We’re very fortunate to have that building.”
Edward is also grateful to Professor Williams for giving him the opportunity.
“She pushed and helped me through all four years here. She helped me develop as a scientist, as a potential PA, and as a person,” Edward said.
He attributed his discipline and time-management skills to the fact that he entered preparatory school at 14 – Williston Northampton School in Easthampton. A solid B student, he also played hockey and golf and sang in an acapella group his senior year. But he realized he needed to up his game academically in college, and did so in a big way, earning valedictorian honors at Elms.
“I took advantage while I had the opportunity, and I don’t think a lot of people do that,” he said.
Edward will continue working at Mercy Medical this summer as he finishes applying for PA school for fall of 2015 admission. He’s also considering taking a well-deserved two-week trip to Europe.