After years of school and state-level academic success, Centerville High School graduate Kevin Yin this spring was named one of 161 U.S. Presidential Scholars — one of only two from Ohio.
The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects students annually based on academic success, artistic and technical excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership and commitment to high ideals.
Yin said despite a long list of accomplishments and a very competitive nature, “I had literally zero expectation of getting Presidential Scholar.” He said for someone who’s always competing, it’s somewhat strange that his parents, friends and teachers don’t really pressure him.
“Competition is something that motivates me,” Yin said. “I’m involved in way too many competitions. I try to go to the national level in every single one, which is fun. I love competing with people, and I like winning.”
Yin is extremely well-rounded. He has won state awards in math and captained Centerville’s Science Bowl team to a berth in the national competition, but he was also one of 227 winners of the Achievement Award in Writing from the National Council of Teachers of English. He’s a National Merit finalist and got a perfect 36 on the ACT exam.
“With regard to academics, I feel like I have a pretty strong intrinsic drive,” Yin said. “I just enjoy learning. It’s fun for me to read about biochemistry or read a new book.”
But Yin’s not just about himself. As a high school student, he coached Magsig Middle School’s MathCounts program — a national math competition.
“Back when I was at Magsig, I participated in it, and my coach was a student,” Yin said. “I ended up ranking second in the state and moving on to nationals, so I thought I might as well pass along the favor.”
Yin said he was inspired to coach in part by Bonnie Buddendeck, a chemistry teacher who retired from Centerville schools a year ago.
“She’s possibly the most motivated, selfless, genuine teacher I’ve ever seen,” Yin said. “She just has such enthusiasm for both chemistry and for her students. I feel like it rubbed off on me, and that probably transferred to me in my coaching of MathCounts and my tutoring of other people.”
Yin’s teachers think highly of him as well. Andrew Yuker, Centerville’s National Honor Society advisor, who taught Kevin’s AP Literature and Composition class, said Yin will have “tremendous success” in college and be an asset “to any university’s prestigious reputation.”
“Kevin possesses a unique and high enthusiasm for learning and academics with such maturity and confidence that I am continually impressed with his abilities, intelligence, and devoted attitude toward education and life,” Yuker said.
This fall, Yin will attend Rice University in Houston, which is ranked as the 16th best national university by U.S. News and World Report. He said he’ll probably major in bioengineering, but he’s not totally sure what he wants to do after earning his undergraduate degree.
Pressed on where he’d most likely be 10 years from today, he said doing a medical residency program in cardiology … after which he paused to consider the bacon he’d eaten on his sandwich at lunch.
Yin said leaving Centerville High School is bittersweet because of the friends he’s made and how much fun he had throughout high school. But he said he’s also “super excited” to go to Rice along with friends he’s made from other states through academic competition.
“College will be very different from high school, which is so structured,” Yin said. “I have seven classes a day and the exact same schedule every day. In college, I’ll have more personal freedom, so I can figure out what I want to do and how I want to manager my time. I’m excited for that.”
Before that comes a trip to Washington D.C. on June 23 to receive his Presidential Scholar Medallion. His family is turning it into a mini-vacation to explore the nation’s capital.
Yin encouraged younger students to do some exploring of their own.
“Find a passion and run with it,” he said. “Don’t just go after everything that you think will be fun in the short run or look good for college applications. Find what you enjoy doing and just do it as much as you can.”
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