Olivia Yang, an eighth-grader at Randolph Middle School, has been awarded a Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship, one of only 28 scholarship recipients from across the country. The scholarship is designed to allow gifted students to attend a high school program that will challenge them and meet their intellectual and personal needs.
Olivia excels at math, as evidenced by her enrollment in Honors Calculus online in eighth grade.
“When I was in third grade, math was pretty boring because I wasn’t being challenged. Then I got into the Horizons program (a Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools program for highly gifted students) and they gave me a placement test,” said Olivia.
“I started Algebra 1 in fourth grade and I really enjoyed the problem-solving concept.”
But she excels at other subjects as well. In addition to calculus, she also takes Honors Latin 1 and English 1 online, and next semester will add Honors Biology to her schedule.
She credits UNC Charlotte professor Harold Reiter and her other Horizons advisors and teachers with encouraging her and guiding her through the scholarship process.
“I am so grateful to Dr. Reiter. He helped me not only with math, but also in thinking about high school and college. Boarding school was always something I was interested in, but it comes with pretty hefty tuition. He told me about the scholarship, and everyone helped me through the application process,” said Olivia.
Now, at 13, she is busy selecting the perfect boarding school to call home for the next four years. She’s visited five or six schools, mostly in the New England area, and will make a final decision next spring. Though she’s young, she’s not too worried about getting homesick, as she’s already had a taste of living away.
“I went to Awesome Math at Cornell University for two weeks this summer and got a general sense of how it will be to live away from home. I missed my parents, but overall it was a great experience. I am ready,” said Olivia.
Olivia’s talents extend far Medal in the 2017 National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for her oil painting depicting a young Syrian refugee. A few years ago she was the first place winner in the Carl Sandberg State Poetry Contest.
She is also a talented musician. She plays the cello as well as the piano, the instrument she played in Carnegie Hall last spring after winning first place in the 2017 American Protégé International Concerto Competition. In addition to playing instruments, she has won several composition awards.
In fact, she’s interested in so many things, that she is looking forward to taking the next four years to try and narrow down her focus for a future career.
“I wanted to be scientist, but every single day what I want to be changes. Hopefully, in high school, I will have all these experiences and be able to figure out what I want to do,” said Olivia.
Even with all her academic and artistic endeavors, she still finds time to relax and counts television as one of her bad habits.
“When I procrastinate, and I procrastinate a lot, I can go through five seasons of ‘Master Chef ‘in the blink of an eye. It’s so addicting!” Olivia says with a laugh.
Her father, Jian Yang, says his daughter is a fun person to be around.
“She enjoys the small things and she lives in the moment. She is always joking,” said Yang.
Horizon English teacher Sarah Wheeler says in both her academic and recreational endeavors, Olivia reaches far beyond what the subjects require.
“A genuine polymath whose talents constitute an embarrassment of riches, Olivia is not only academically precocious but is also an award-winning artist and a musical prodigy. She has a genuine love of grappling with big ideas and making multidisciplinary connections,” said Wheeler.
“The gifted education expert George Betts states that autonomous learners are producers of knowledge rather than consumers of knowledge. This concept describes Olivia perfectly. She is creative and dynamic. She also possesses great emotional maturity."
Olivia’s Horizon math teacher, Andria Sullivan, says her academically gifted student is also extremely compassionate.
“Olivia is extremely gifted academically, but more importantly, she is the kindest and gentlest soul of any student I have ever met. She is always happily willing to help others who are in need,” said Sullivan
Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.