While many of his classmates were soaking up the sun and hanging out with friends this past summer, Jeffrey Chunlong Xing, 17, a senior at River Hill High School, was working long hours in a laboratory at the Johns Hopkins University.
All of that work has paid off for the Clarksville teenager, who recently was named a finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search - a prestigious honor often referred to as "the junior Nobel Prize." Xing is one of 40 with the opportunity to earn the top prize: a $100,000 scholarship.
"I think it is an incredible recognition not only for the student but for our school," said River Hill Principal William Ryan. "We are proud of Jeff and the science department who fosters the love of science with our students."
Xing was one of 300 semifinalists selected from 1,558 entrants nationwide. His behavioral science project studied a positive effect of a gene mutation - though the layman might be challenged to glean that from the formal title, "A novel single nucleotide polymorphism, T105G, in Intron 9 of the PIK3CA gene protects against follicular thyroid cancer."
"These kids put in hours and hours of time in this competition," said Ryan. "It makes us look good as a school, but for him it is quite an honor. He's someone we are very proud of."
A 10-member committee is making progress in working out obstacles to full suffrage for the student member of the county school board.
Jeff Lasser, the board's student member, said that the committee has met four times in the past two months.
"It's been good," Lasser said. "We're definitely moving forward."
Lasser said he is confident that the committee will be finished in time to make a presentation to the board in April, which could allow the next student board member to have a vote in 2007.
The committee has brainstormed about details of voting procedures needed to elect a student member. Lasser said the committee also is interested in producing an explanatory videotape about the candidates so that students can be more informed about the voting process.
"We're trying new things to make the process more in-depth," he added.
Supporters of student-member voting rights had hoped that legislation would be introduced as early as last month to ensure that the student member could vote when the board expands from five to seven members in December. But a two-hour board meeting in November resulted in a delay and formation of the committee.
Some want an office for Hispanic student affairs; others an increase in pay for bus contractors; still others continued funding for media centers, community liaisons and arts and science programs.
When it comes to satisfying the desires of the community as it works through the $554 million operating budget proposed by Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin, the school board will have its hands full.
Cousin's 2007 fiscal year plan - unveiled last month - would fund 130 new teaching positions; increase teachers' salaries by 3.5 percent; provide $70.1 million for special education, an increase of $4.8 million; spend $1.5 million to add all-day kindergarten to 10 elementary schools; and pay for $10 million in employee benefits.
About 70 people testified Tuesday night during a three-hour session that included about a dozen supporters of a 12 percent increase for bus contractors. In Cousin's proposal, bus contractors would receive a 2 percent increase.
About a half-dozen people asked the board to establish an office for Hispanic student affairs. Testimony was heard in support of preserving current funding for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) liaisons. Several parents spoke through Spanish, Korean and Chinese interpreters in support of the liaisons.
Individual requests included building a television studio at Oakland Mills High School.
The board will hold work sessions during which each section of the budget will be reviewed.
The first session will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Board of Education. A second session will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 14. A third work session will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 16. If necessary, a fourth session will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 21.
"We'll go program by program, page by page," said school board Chairman Joshua Kaufman said. "We'll ask questions based on the things we've heard. If the board wants to make changes, that's what we will do in the next four meetings."
The board will submit a revised budget to the County Council on Feb. 28.