Four area students to represent 3 local schools at TAMU–C Infinity Institute

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

May 27, 2007 - Of the 54 top notch candidates from the 120 rural school districts which applied for Texas A&M University-Commerce’s Project STEEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Education and Math) Infinity Institute, four of the final 26 students selected to participate in Infinity Institute are from local schools. 

Thien Bui, a 14-year-old at Como-Pickton High School; Amanda McKinney and Cory Young, Yantis High School; and Trey Henderson, Sulphur Bluff High School were selected to attend Infinity Institute. 

So who are the local standouts among this elite group of high-aptitude youth and what motivated them to even try out for Infinity Institute?

At age 14, Bui is one of the youngest students selected to participate in Infinity Institute, and definitely one of the younger students in his class at C-PHS, according to Jan Elmore, Bui’s biology teacher this past year. But, he definitely has aptitude, she noted.

Bui, whose parents are originally from Vietnam, was born and raised in Michigan until two years ago, when his family, which included his parents and two younger siblings, moved to East Texas. In Michigan, he skipped 8th grade, which meant he not only had to adjust to a new school and area, but also had to do so as one of the youngest people in his class, according to his mother, Dao Bui.

His classmates at CPHS didn’t seem to mind, however. In fact, they cheer him in his academic successes at school, but indicated he isn’t much of a talking, which means he definitely is not one to brag on his accomplishments and toot his own horn.

Bui’s mother says Thien is “pretty good at math.” Elmore also noted that he’s an exceptionally bright student in science as well, and anticipates he will excel during his weeks at Infinity Institute.

As for young Thien Bui, he indicated to his mother he will likely pursue a career in either English or math, although he said math’s “no challenge for him,” perhaps one of the reasons, he’s looking forward to the challenge of college level math offered at Infinity Institute. “I want to experience a college environment for the first time in my life. I want to be challenged,” Bui wrote in his application essay for Infinity Institute.

Bui’s mother said that her goal for Thien and both of his siblings, is “to get them to be better.” She also noted that while her children appear to have high aptitude in math and sciences, they’re not areas of exceptional ability for either her or their father.

Tom Young, Yantis counselor, said both Amanda McKinney and Cory Ward  are also “excellent students, highly motivated, with high ambitions. They were very excited when they were notified. These are kids that are involved in a lot of other things that they’re having to work around, and will go to this camp instead of other camps. They are pretty interested in studying with professors and working with them on research.”

Ward and McKinney both noted that participating in the Infinity Institute would be a good experience to note when filling out college applications and on resumés in the future. 

Neither McKinney’s parents nor Ward’s were noted to be especially gifted in STEEM disciplines nor worked in related fields. However, both Yantis participants noted plans to pursue careers in related fields. Ward intends to get a bachelor’s degree in engineering and go on to earn his doctorate in math, while McKinney says she plans to become a pharmacist.

�They are both definitely two of our best; they�re just really good students,� Young said. �Their parents encourage them education-wise, and push them to excel education-wise.�

Both students credited Yantis science teacher Mike Alphin for their participation and interest in STEEM. Alphin, they said “really encouraged” them in science.

Sulphur Bluff’s Trey Henderson was the fourth local student accepted to attend Infinity Institute. He’s expected to do well, and school officials indicated they are hopeful of the impact attending will have not only on Henderson. They hope his enthusiasm will also spread over to other Sulphur Bluff students as well.

�To work on science experiments more advanced that high school textbooks would be awesome,� Henderson, who also is active in athletics and UIL, wrote in his application essay to Infinity Institute.

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