As Frelicia Tucker strode to the podium to accept The Augusta Chronicle’s Best and Brightest Award on Thursday night, she couldn’t help but exude an air of experienced confidence.
The walk had been well-honed for the 18-year-old, with her showing up at awards ceremonies from Aiken to New York. And although the award won’t be the first to stand on Tucker’s shelf, it still felt special to the Aiken High School senior.
“When they were first introducing the finalists I thought to myself, ‘wow, how did I get here,’” Tucker said after the banquet. “It’s clearly a great bunch of seniors here, and to be noticed as the best and brightest is truly humbling.”
Though ranked No. 1 in her class, Tucker’s excellence isn’t confined to the classroom . Her accomplishments include winning last year’s Wendy’s High School Heisman, serving as the president of South Carolina’s Youth NAACP and, on Wednesday, being named a 2017 U.S. Presidential Scholar. Through her work with the South Carolina NAACP, Tucker delivered a speech last year on education equality to an audience of thousands, including then-presidential candidates Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
Also an accomplished athlete, Tucker holds four school records in track-and-field as well as seven all-region titles between track and tennis.
“It really just takes discipline, hard work and passion for what you’re doing,” she said about balancing her academic and athletic careers. “If you don’t have a passion for what you’re doing, you won’t be motivated to study hard, to run hard or just to get up when you really don’t want to.”
Tucker’s award was given at the 15th annual Best and Brightest banquet. Her latest accolade was accompanied by a check for $1,000, with four runners-up each receiving $200. The 20 finalists included accomplished musicians, athletes and linguists with hundreds of community service hours between them.
“Her thought process is way beyond her years,” competition judge Ellis Johnson said. “There is no question about it. She is one of the most accomplished young women I’ve ever seen.”
Tucker plans to study chemical engineering at Rice University in the fall, where she has a full scholarship. If her plans work out, she’ll also be lacing up the track spikes to run for the Owls while in Texas.
“My mom wants me to be president of the United States,” Tucker said. “She just wants to live in the White House, that’s her.”