When Matthew Siess was chosen as Mokelumne River High School's valedictorian for the Class of 2010, he felt like his hard work had paid off.
"It's a really great feeling. I feel really accomplished," he said earlier this week.
The Lodi resident earned a 3.6 grade-point average while juggling tough classes and playing on the school's inaugural basketball team. He said it was one of the few extracurricular activites he had time for since his focus the last four years was studying.
Siess was chosen as the private school's top student by using a formula that includes difficulty of schedule, according to Superintendent Shannon Woodard.
In Siess' case, he completed Spanish 3 his sophomore year. In addition, she said, he is graduating with almost 20 extra credits.
"Because we are so small, many times we try to encourage upper classmen to participate in electives they do not need," Woodard added in an e-mail. "Matt did this with a few electives, in addition to taking advanced placement U.S. history and what we term 'core electives.'"
The student's favorite classes included literature and English, while he most disliked chemistry because of all the numbers.
"I want to be a writer some day. I really like books," Siess said, adding that he's a fan of Harry Potter and similar fantasy novels. "I like using my imagination to create things."
His post-graduate plans include attending San Joaquin Delta College in the fall, then likely transferring to Pacific University. He said he will probably go into graphic design since he likes drawing and working on the computer. "It seems like a natural choice for me," he said.
Siess, who was born in Stockton and moved with his family to Lodi when he was five, calls himself a simple guy. Before starting as a freshman at Mokelumne River, he attended St. Peter's for middle school and went to elementary school at Vinewood.
His parents are Robert and Janie Siess, and he has an older brother who is in college and thinking about being a teacher, Siess said.
When asked who he would thank above all others for helping him become successful, the school's top student said "definitely" his mother.
"She gave me a kick in the pants when I needed it and made sure I didn't goof around," he said.