RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Felician University women's soccer standout Julia Sheridan (Hasbrouck Heights, N.J./Community) was chosen as the valedictorian of the Felician University Class of 2016.
Sheridan, a goalkeeper, is the second consecutive student-athlete to be named valedictorian at Felician. Women's cross-country runner Kassie Topp (Upper Saddle River, N.J./Northern Highlands) was so honored in 2015. Prior to Topp, a student-athlete had not been Felician's valedictorian since 2004 (Kristin Hardin, women's soccer).
But, as Sheridan shared with her 569 fellow graduates at Felician's 52nd commencement exercises on Saturday in Lodi, her path to the honor was anything but ordinary. Diagnosed as a child with phonological dyslexia, Sheridan did not learn to read until age 12.
"I wasn't supposed to go to college, where I might graduate in the top of my class," Sheridan told her classmates from the podium, according to northjersey.com. "I wasn't successful academically until I attended a high school which was dedicated strictly to the education of students with learning disabilities."
Sheridan was a three-sport star for Hasbrouck Heights High School. In addition to being named all-state in soccer, she was an all-league performer in basketball and softball. But throughout that time she was actually attending Community High of Teaneck.
"The teachers I had at The Community School are probably the best thing that could have happened to me," Sheridan said. "They not only cared about providing me the education I deserved, but also cared about me as a person. They believed in me when I didn't believe in myself."
Sheridan created many believers at Felician. On the soccer field, she set the all-time Felician record for goals-against average and is second in career shutouts. A three-year starter, she led the Golden Falcons to consecutive trips to the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference semifinals. Earlier this month, she was chosen as Felician's Senior Female Student-Athlete of the Year.
In the classroom, she compiled a 3.90 cumulative grade-point average as an accounting major. Sheridan earned membership in both the Chi Alpha Sigma college athlete honor society and the Sigma Beta Delta business honor society. She was also a New Jersey CPA scholar. She was Felician's 2016 NJAIAW Woman of the Year.
"At one point I was ashamed of my learning disability," she said. "There is nothing worse while you are growing up than being teased, laughed at, and feeling less than human. Today, I am proud to say that I am a student with a learning disability. I realized I needed to stop looking for societal approval, and ultimately change the perception of being different. I could not be more grateful for where I've come from."
Felician University, the Franciscan University of New Jersey, is a liberal arts, coeducational Catholic university founded in 1942 and sponsored by the Felician Sisters. True to its mission, Felician University welcomes a diverse student population and embraces its educational needs. With campuses in Lodi and Rutherford, New Jersey, Felician University currently enrolls more than 2,100 students and offers more than 55 undergraduate and graduate programs, in the classroom and online, in the arts and sciences, business and management sciences, health sciences and teacher education. Felician University also sponsors 14 varsity intercollegiate sports that compete at the NCAA Division II level.