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North Allegheny senior McCoy named 2013 Presidential Scholar

| Wednesday, May 22, 2013, 6:36 p.m.
Richard “Tommy” McCoy, 18, a North Allegheny Senior High School senior from Marshall Township, was named one of 141 U.S. Presidential Scholars for 2013.
Richard “Tommy” McCoy, 18, a North Allegheny Senior High School senior from Marshall Township, was named one of 141 U.S. Presidential Scholars for 2013.

Richard “Tommy” McCoy, 18, of Marshall Township admits he never has been the best runner on his school team. But during a one-mile run in middle school, he finished in less than four minutes.

“That kind of speed is Olympic level!” he said.

He was ecstatic until he realized he had finished running one lap short.

McCoy, the son of Mary Marazita and Richard McCoy of Marshall, and a senior at North Allegheny Senior High School is not accustomed to making such blunders — not on the track, not in everyday life.

It is his exceptional successes, in fact, that have earned him the honor of being named one of 141 U.S. Presidential Scholars for 2013.

McCoy's SAT scores qualified him to be considered for the honor. He received a score of 800 in math, 800 in reading and 780 in writing; a perfect score is 800 in each.

The U.S. Department of Education examines candidate's SAT and ACT college-entrance-exam scores to determine the top 20 male and top 20 female candidates from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico and from U.S. families living abroad. Finalists then submit transcripts and secondary school reports to demonstrate their academic achievement and extracurricular activities, along with a personal essay and evidence of community service, leadership and commitment to high ideals. From this, one male and one female from each state and jurisdiction are awarded the honor, along with 15 at-large students and up to 20 students recognized for their talents in the arts.

McCoy has a 4.5 grade-point average at North Allegheny and is enrolled in the school district's school district's Gifted Opportunities for Advanced Learning, or GOAL, program for gifted students. He participates in the Latin Club and has competed for the school's cross-country team.

He was a regional champion in this year's U.S. Department of Energy National Science Bowl, an academic question-and-answer competition that covers all areas of science.

In addition, he was a winner in this year's Chain-Reaction Contraption Contest, an engineering competition sponsored by Westinghouse Electric Co. and the Carnegie Science Center in which students create a contraption to perform an assigned task in a series of steps using levers, pulleys, marble runs and so on.

When he recently tried his hand at acting by entering a national competition, sponsored by Author's Ink, he won that, too. His five-minute monologue of a Charles Dickens' selection won him the opportunity to perform on stage before the Dickens Fellowship members in London.

In the fall, McCoy will attend Yale University in New Haven, Conn., but he hasn't yet declared a major. “I like too many different subjects to pick just one,” he said with a smile.

“Tommy is a special student in so many ways,” said Marshall Middle School GOAL teacher Dan Williams, whom McCoy identified as his most influential teacher. “He possesses a brilliant intellect but, more importantly, a tremendous attitude about life. Tommy treats everyone with kindness and respect. This award is spectacular and well deserved, but I consider him a success just in the way he conducts himself every day. I can't think of a student more deserving.”

In mid-June, McCoy, his family and Williams will join the other 140 honorees in Washington, D.C., to receive the Presidential Medallion — a handcrafted 24-carat-gold-plated bronze medallion, personally engraved with the recipient's name — from President Barack Obama during a ceremony at the White House.

“The scholars represent excellence in education and the promise of greatness,” said David Thomas of the U.S. Department of Education press office in Washington, D.C.

McCoy won't have much time to relish in the recognition, however, because soon after receiving his medallion from the president, he is due in Manchester, England, where he will participate in the Computational Linguistics Olympiad, an international competition in which language and logic skills are used to solve linguistic puzzles.

“There's always more to shoot for,” said McCoy, determined never to stop short again.

Laurie Rees is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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