Like many 11 year olds, Ria Cheruvu wakes up every morning, gets dressed and heads to school – but her school is held online at home in a room dedicated to her studies.
Following graduation this spring from online school Arizona Connections Academy (ACA), she is headed to Arizona State University (ASU) in the fall to continue her education and major in computer science.
Her parents, Sunitha and Sunil Cheruvu, realized early on that their daughter was an accelerated student.
At 4 years old, New Vistas Academy, a private school about 10 minutes away from the Cheruvu’s home in Gilbert, Arizona, wanted her to jump from kindergarten to third grade.
Sunitha and Sunil were not comfortable with their daughter skipping so many grades at such a young age, so they enrolled her in ACA for first grade in the fall of 2008. The following spring, they wanted to see how she’d do in a public school setting, so with just two months left of school she tested into fourth grade and finished out the year at Highland Park Elementary School.
“Ria would come home and tell me how bored she was in class and even the teachers were starting to notice,” Sunitha tells PEOPLE.
The faculty at the school thought she needed a greater challenge, so they gave her a placement test to determine what grade she belonged in the following year.
“If a student is more advanced in a grade, it comes down to the local educators’ decision based on the Arizona Revised Statute 15-521,” Charles Tack, Deputy Public Information Officer at the Arizona Department of Education, tells PEOPLE.
The school was requiring Ria to head into sixth grade based on her test score, but at this point, she was only 6 years old and so her parents decided to enroll her back into ACA, where she has remained and attended all grades through tenth grade. Once she started taking competency exams, she gained enough credits to graduate at 11 years old.
“Online school really enhances my experience and now that I’ve attended a few schools, I can confidently say this is the best fit for me,” Ria tells PEOPLE.
Not only does Ria have the smarts, but she’s also a pianist, singer, golfer, tennis player and remains social by hanging out with neighborhood kids and attending field trips and National Honor Society events. Through her online education, she’s been able to go to Arizona state parks, various museums and even a ski resort with other students.
“I love the field trips because they’re not only educational, but so fun,” Ria says.
“Being able to share knowledge and learn things together with new people is really exciting for me,” Ria says.
She has made a strong impression on her teachers.
“She’s a brilliant student,” Daniel Bergher, her honors biology teacher, tells PEOPLE. “By far the best student in the class.”
The 53-year-old teacher from Sedona, Arizona, enjoys his conversations with Ria and says that her answers are far beyond her years.
“A girl that young in a sea of college students will be challenging, but intellectually she won’t have a problem,” Bergher says.
Ria also has at-home support from her mom, who works with her as a learning coach and was formerly a computer engineer. She can also turn to her dad, who is a software engineer and frequently educates her on what’s going on at work.
It was her parents who decided that Ria should attend ASU to keep her close to home. Sunitha plans on driving her to and from class and waiting for her outside the lecture hall every day.
“She’s just a baby!” Sunitha tells PEOPLE.
But Ria can’t wait to get to college already. She is interested in going into neurocryptology as a career.
“I just want to keep pursuing my career and it’s such a blessing that I have my parents and everyone else helping me,” Ria says. “There’s just so much in the future.”
“College opens up your mind and your heart to new opportunities and new fields of learning and I can’t wait to explore and try to touch each and every field,” Ria says.
Although her mom helps coach her in her studies, she admits that Ria continues to teach her every day.
“People always say, ‘what did you teach Ria to make her so smart,’ but actually it’s Ria who teaches me how to live life and take moments to love or talk and enjoy every day,” Sunitha says.