2009 Terrific Teen: TJ Tkacik

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It takes a lot of hard work to be No. 1 and TJ Tkacik knows about work. He holds the top class ranking out of 289 students at Nation Ford High School. With a GPA of 4.904, this academically-gifted senior says his goal since elementary school has been to avoid procrastination. “You have to work for the best,” he says. “I have my own standards and I set them high and work to meet them. You go over that draft on that essay more than once, and you get other people to look at it. Basically, you don’t slack off.” Jennifer Sorscher, a school counselor at Nation Ford, elaborates: “He has ranked at the very top of his class for the past three years, and his superior academic capability is evidenced in his continuous pursuit of knowledge through honors and Advanced Placement courses. TJ is an exceptional student who does his best in whatever he undertakes.”

TJ has a passion for science and participated in Clemson University’s rigorous College of Life Sciences summer program. He also gained valuable experience through the S.C. Governor’s School of Science and Mathematics, where he worked as a paid research intern. Additionally, he participates in Duke University’s Talent Identification Program, the Key Club, BETA Club and more. He is applying to multiple colleges and plans to major in biology and then continue his studies in medical, veterinary or pharmaceutical school.

Even with all his academic pursuits, he finds time to regularly volunteer, often with children. He tutors at the local elementary school, provides gifts for the hospital pediatric ward and volunteers at the Children’s Detention Home. He cites the latter as one of his favorites. “With other forms of service, you may help people indirectly, which is great,” he says. “Here, you’re with the kids and can see how happy they are. Last year we threw them an Easter egg hunt and it was the first one many of them had ever had. It made them feel good, and seeing that made me feel good.”