The 17-year-old Paducah Tilghman High School senior is the Paducah Bank Teen of the Year. This week, a selection committee named Chua as its choice out of 32 area high school seniors, who were profiled by The Sun for their many achievements, talents and passions.
He will receive a $5,000 scholarship.
It’s a competitive scholarship program, as nearly 100 high school seniors were nominated for Teen of the Week consideration. Ten area public and private schools participated this year, in addition to homeschooled students. Another senior, Anastasia Shaverina of Marshall County High School, was named the Inspiration Award winner and will receive a $1,000 scholarship.
Paducah Bank Teen of the Year and Inspiration Award
The program’s awards banquet had been scheduled for May 11 at the Carson Center’s River Room, but the event was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s a bit weird, if I’m going to be honest, because there’s definitely a bunch of great teens out there,” said Chua, of his award recognition. “I just really appreciate that I was selected as Teen of the Year.”
Chua is a National Merit Finalist, achieved a 35 composite ACT score and earned stellar grades at Paducah Tilghman. He’s ranked at the top of his class, although final grades haven’t been posted yet.
He took part in the varsity academic team, National Honor Society and Beta Club, among other activities. He achieved Eagle Scout in Boy Scouts, attended the Governor’s Scholars Program and became an AP Scholar with Distinction. He also plays violin and piano.
Chua said he’ll miss Paducah Tilghman and it’s sad how abruptly the traditional school year ended. After graduation, he plans to attend the University of Michigan and study computer science.
“Our future is basically going to be all computers, especially in this time where everyone is essentially relying on computers,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in what works behind the scenes and behind the screen and why/how things work and how they do that.”
He plans to specialize in either artificial intelligence, cyber security or game design.
“It’s fascinating how a computer can ‘think’ and ‘learn’ like us,” Chua said. “With the world becoming more reliant on computers, security is essential to keeping it running. One type of encryption is based on prime numbers and their factors. It’s crazy to think that the only thing between me and a hacker is a very large prime number.”
Like many teens, Chua said video games have always been part of his life.
He wants to learn how to make one.
“What these all have in common is code,” he said. “At the end of the day, a computer is just reading 1s and 0s that ‘magically’ transform into text, which then manifests as video, music, communication, entertainment and so much more. My goal is to understand that magic and eventually not call it magic any more.”
Computer science is it for Chua, but he’s still open to the possibility it could change. Chua explained he could walk into class and later realize it was the wrong choice, but no matter what discipline he chooses, he believes he’ll be in good hands at Michigan.
He’s the son of Rona and Winston Chua of Paducah.
Joe Framptom, Paducah Bank chairman and CEO, said the bank is proud to join with The Sun to sponsor the scholarship program, and he is impressed by Chua’s academic achievements.
“The individual accomplishments of each student clearly identify him or her as outstanding, making the selection of a single winner a daunting challenge,” Framptom said. “This year’s winner, Ryan Chua, of Paducah Tilghman High School, is exceptional due to his varied interests and talents.”
In particular, Framptom noted Chua’s focus on technology, computers and coding.
“I was amazed that he was able to find a balance, among his many other activities, including music ... and Boy Scouts, where he completed his Eagle rank,” he added. “His future is bright, and we are so pleased to recognize him with a $5,000 scholarship.”