Marshall County High School senior Jackson Chumbler has an aptitude for math and science.
Now a two-year student at The Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science at Western Kentucky University, Chumbler has already experienced in his high school career what some can only hope to achieve during their four or more years studying at a university.
The Gatton Academy is a residential program for bright, highly motivated Kentucky high school students who have demonstrated interest in pursuing advanced careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Housed on the campus of WKU, students take college classes, engage in faculty-led research and have the ability to study abroad.
Chumbler said his interest in math and science was sparked in kindergarten, when his mom, who was going to school to get her teaching degree, taught him how to do long division.
"That was when it clicked for me and I knew that was something I was good at," he said.
In the eighth grade, Chumbler made it to state in Academic Team for math and science.
"When I was a freshman at Marshall County, I made the decision that I really wanted to push myself in high school," he said. "I'd been learning about Gatton since before high school, so I could be the best candidate, because it's really competitive."
Each year, The Gatton Academy admits about 95 Kentucky sophomores, half of selection male and half of selection female, based on standardized test scores, grade-point average, responses to essay questions, personal interviews, extracurricular activities and teacher recommendations.
"You have to be unique," Chumbler said.
As a freshman, Chumbler lobbied for a physics course to be created at Marshall County High School, and then began to arrive an hour early to school each day to receive credit in AP Physics. His sophomore year, he did the same, completing AP Physics C: Mechanics.
"I had to convince them that I was able to cope with it, because usually when you take physics, you have to have Algebra 2 and I'd only taken Algebra 1 in middle school," Chumbler said. "Me and another student came to school at 7 instead of 8. We were the only two students in the building, learning AP Physics. I was happy to be able to do that."
In his two years spent at Marshall County High School, Chumbler took eight AP courses. Arriving at Gatton, he had 27 credit hours. Having taken several more college courses during his time within the program, he will graduate high school with over 90 credit hours.
Chumbler, the son of Adam Bryant and Kristen Chumbler Bryant, is the Paducah Bank Teen of the Week. Each week in the online edition and Tuesday in the print edition, The Sun features a teen selected from nominees submitted by guidance counselors throughout the region.
Near the end of the school year, one of the students profiled will be named Teen of the Year and will receive a $5,000 scholarship. An additional student will be chosen for an Inspiration Award and a $1,000 scholarship.
During his time at Gatton, Chumbler has done research abroad in Costa Rica, where he monitored and cared for sea turtle eggs and hatchlings as well as located and measured various plots of rain forest.
He visited Beijing, Hangzhou, and Shanghai in order to represent WKU and the United States, giving speeches to Chinese high school students, working to inspire positive relations between China and the U.S. and attended a conference at the United States Embassy.
Accepted to a selective study abroad experience in England, Chumbler also studied English literature including the works of Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Emily Bronte and various English poets.
"Study abroad is something I didn't even think I would be able to do until coming here (Gatton)," Chumbler said. "It didn't even cross my mind."
Although he has not yet committed to a college, Chumbler said there are a few schools he is considering, including the University of Kentucky, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt and Alabama at Huntsville, where he plans to study computer science.
"I may throw in a few Ivys, but those are the schools I've really researched a lot," he said. "I really want to go into artificial intelligence, so I would be looking into getting a doctorate."