AIKEN - Brandon Kearse has always done well in school, especially math. Today, his calculating skills are taking him all the way to Washington.
With parents Ray and Margaret Kearse proudly watching, Brandon will be one of 200 middle school pupils competing in MATHCOUNTS. Four of them, including Brandon, are from South Carolina.
The program, sponsored by the National Society of Professional Engineers, promotes math skills among seventh- and eighth-graders by holding competitions across the nation. Brandon, 14, has already finished at the top in local, regional and state competitions.
Jeff Pike, MATHCOUNTS coordinator for the NSPE Aiken Chapter, said everyone is excited about Brandon's all-expense-paid trip.
"We have many talented mathletes compete at the state level, but this is the first time we had someone place in the top four," he said. "We are ecstatic that we finally have an area student representing South Carolina."
Brandon and his team members, Thomas Payne, Xan Henderson and Patrick Jahn, placed fourth at the state competition, under the direction of coach Barbara Hokanson. Brandon's individual score landed him the trip to Washington.
Brandon has spent all year training with teammates at Schofield Middle School, where he is in eighth grade. He also trains with math coaches at least twice weekly and works on his own almost every night.
Taffy Hall, Brandon's other coach, has worked with the program for 14 years but said this is a first for her, too.
"No one knows what to expect because no one has been there before," she said.
Mrs. Hokanson said Brandon knows what he wants to accomplish and goes above and beyond expectations to achieve his goals.
"It's just amazing what he is willing to do," she said. "He is a rare student because he has it and he applies it. Every one of his teachers know how special he is."
But math is not his only concern.
"He is an exceptionally well-rounded boy," she said.
Brandon enjoys pushing himself to do well in just about everything. He has never made anything lower than an A in any subject. He placed in the top 10 of a state geography bee. He loves school. And he gets along well with everybody - both adults and classmates, Mrs. Hokanson said.
Mr. Kearse said his son has been enthusiastic about learning since he was a toddler.
"He has never been one for the TV or toys."
Instead, a younger Brandon spent his time drawing, building layouts and constructing with masking tape and Lego blocks. Brandon's creations meant so much to him, he would get new Legos to build with rather than knock down finished creations.
Down the road, Brandon plans to put his math skills to use at Georgia Technical Institute, where he wants to study architecture.
Reach Lisa Lohr at (803) 279-6895 or firstname.lastname@example.org.