Student is Young scholar, old soul

Sunday, January 7, 2018
Brian Young attended the Governor's School at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where he studied math and science with the top students in the state.
Submitted photo

Brian Young doesn't know his IQ. Suffice it to say it is probably one of the very few things he doesn't know. Whatever his IQ is, there's no doubt it's at an extremely high level. Young scored in the 99th percentile on the PSAT earning "Commended Student" honors. He is in the mix to be valedictorian for the 2018 Senior Class at Shelbyville Central High School. He is a member of Leadership Bedford, attended the Governor's School in the sciences at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and is also a member of the National Honor Society and the Science Olympiad Competition Team. He plays on the high school tennis team and finds time to work as a checkout clerk at Piggly Wiggly. During the holiday break Brian sat down with Mark McGee for this week's Sunday Conversation.

T-G: When did you first realize you were smart?

Young: "Since I was young I have always enjoyed learning new things. I guess I was born gifted. I count myself lucky to be gifted. Probably around middle school I realized I was smart because I was taking honors courses and still doing well.

Brian Young loves tennis and is a member of the Shelbyville Central High School team.
T-G Photo by Chris Siers

"In elementary, middle and junior high school I never studied because I retained information so well. But about my sophomore or junior year classes started getting harder. I had established my reputation of making really good grades and being an 'A' student. I decided myself I had to study more to keep my grades from falling."

T-G: Your grandmother, Carol Spray, calls you an "old soul." What do you think she means by that?

Young: "I don't act childish. I can sit around with older people and converse all day. I don't have to hang out with friends and party all the time like a lot of people do."

T-G: How do your peers deal with your academic ability?

Young: "A lot of the time they want me to help them. It is a good thing. They tell me they wish they were as smart as me or that they had a desire to study like I do. No one has lashed out at me. I am not bullied or anything because I am smart."

T-G: What pushed you to want to be a good student?

Young: "I have big dreams for my future. I know I must be a good student, first, to get there. Also, I won't say it comes naturally, but I was raised to be a good student."

T-G: What are some of the big dreams you have?

Young: "I don't know which college I want to go to yet. My top two schools right now are Vanderbilt and Harvard. I toured Vanderbilt last July. I haven't toured Harvard. I don't know if I am accepted to either one yet.

"I really like the biological sciences and mathematics -- pure mathematics and research. Molecular and cellular biology are also interesting.

"I am thinking about double majoring for my bachelor's degree and then getting my Ph.D. and stay on at a college being a lecturer and then becoming a professor. I would also want to do research while teaching."

T-G: What teacher stands out for you the most in terms of sparking your interest in a subject?

Young: "This year, especially, I have had a lot of really good teachers across all of my subjects. I have AP English, AP Calculus, AP Biology, Honors Spanish III and Theater Arts. I had economics and government, but they were just for the first semester.

"The AP classes are a lot harder. They require me to study a lot more. It is still very interesting to me. Having to study doesn't put me off."

T-G: How many hours do you spend studying each night?

Young: "Probably 30 minutes to an hour. If I have a test or projects coming up I will study longer than that."

T-G: Why are you attracted to science and math?

Young: "Math applies to just about everything in the world. You can use mathematical modeling and equations to solve a lot of problems. Beyond that the numbers and the patterns have always been a lure to me.

"Math comes naturally to me. I think I see It differently than others do. A lot of people hate math. It is like art to me.

"Biology is more interesting to me though. I am also interested in chemistry. I am interested in all of the subjects I take."

T-G: What do you want your peers and teachers to think about you as a student?

Young: "There are a lot of smart students in my class. I want my teachers to see I am interested in what they are teaching. Showing teachers you are interested pushes them to want to help you more. I am not afraid to ask for help if I need it. If you don't have a good groundwork set for a subject and build on top of that you are not going to really understand.

"I like to make jokes and mess around with my peers and teachers in class. But for the most part I want to learn everything the teachers are teaching so I try to be serious in class too."

T-G: Do you ever have moments in the morning when you wake up and say, "I don't want to go to school today?"

Young: "Sometimes I just want to lay down and not go to school. I am excited to learn, but a lot of times I am just burned out. You can't just not go to school. There are days when I am not really into the lessons and I don't want to take notes. I have to go back and restudy that information to really get it."

T-G: Your brother, Darius, plays college football. Did you try to compete with him in sports?

Young: "When I was younger I played all the sports my brother played -- football, basketball and baseball. I didn't like any of them. I decided I didn't want to follow my brother into a sport I didn't like.

"At first, I thought I would try golf in the seventh grade. But the tennis coach at the time, Chris King, told me he was looking for more players, so I tried tennis. I really liked it and stuck with it.

"I thought it was important to play sports. There is no contact in tennis. I really don't like being hit. In tennis you also play doubles, but it is more individual. A lot of the time you are playing your own game. Overall your team must have the most wins to win a match, but when I am playing singles I am in control of my match the whole time. There is a lot of analyzing as to where you are going to hit the ball or how hard you are going to hit it. There is a lot of thinking going on. It has always been more fun to me. I don't have a particular reason why.

"As brothers we were always fighting. We love each other but there is a sibling rivalry. He was the athlete. I was the smart kid. I was never better than him in football, baseball or basketball. And he would ask me for help in school, so it just balanced out."

T-G: In reference to you being an "old soul" you worked on a missionary team for two years. What was that experience like for you?

Young: "I was 11 and 12 so I was pretty young. It was a great experience for me to have when I was young. I went with a group from my church, Mt. Lebanon United Methodist to an orphanage, the Naomi House in Joseph City, Arizona. I was the youngest to go both times.

"I think that experience helped shape me because I was able to see how children without parents, without any family and with very few personal possessions lived. I realized how lucky I was."

T-G: In addition to all your academic skills, your grandmother tells me you are an accomplished cook. Why does cooking interest you?

Young: "I really like to bake cakes and pies. I have a sweet tooth.

"My grandmother taught me how to cook. Since I started walking I would be in the kitchen with my grandmother stirring things. I have always enjoyed it. A lot of young people don't know how to cook, but I think it is important."

T-G: Both you and your brother have excelled in your chosen areas. Everyone needs someone to drive them. Who put pressure on you?

Young: "When we were younger there was a lot of pressure to be at the top. If Darius was going to be a football player, he had to work to be the best. There was a lot of pressure for me to be the smartest. We both had a lot of pressure on us from our parents when we were young.

"Now, in high school, I am putting all of the pressure on myself. I am trying to prove I can be at the top, be the smartest and be the best."

T-G: What is the best advice you have been given?

Young: "I don't have a specific quote. My whole family told me how gifted I was and not to waste what I have. If you try your hardest you will be successful and that is what I have tried to do."Brian Young loves tennis and is a member of the Shelbyville Central High School team.

Brian Young attended the Governor's School at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville where he studied math and science with the top students in the state.

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