Naperville Central High School's award-winning newspaper.

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Naperville Central High School's award-winning newspaper.

Central Times

Naperville Central High School's award-winning newspaper.

Central Times

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Freshman jumps ahead to AP Biology, competes nationally

Freshman+Ryan+Kong+sits+wearing+his+red+Stanford+hoodie+in+AP+Biology+on+March+15.+Kong+says+biology+is+the+one+thing+he+can+study+for+hours+on+end.
Elaine Zhou
Freshman Ryan Kong sits wearing his red Stanford hoodie in AP Biology on March 15. Kong says biology is the one thing he can study for hours on end.

Nine times out of 10, freshman Ryan Kong can be spotted in the hallways wearing a red hoodie from his dream school, Stanford University. It’s his first year of high school, but he already knows exactly what he wants to do in the future. As the only freshman in AP Biology this year, Kong takes steps towards his future goals every day.

“In seventh grade, I was already doing math at a competitive level,” Kong said. “My mom gave me a choice of [either taking] chemistry or biology,” Kong said.

After taking Honors Biology, taking AP was the natural step afterward, especially since Kong planned to compete in biology.

“I’m not a huge fan of chemistry, and I liked biology a lot and I still do now,” Kong said.

Kong’s parents influenced him greatly, providing resources and the drive for him to succeed in his courses. Kong received tutoring from a professional who worked in a biology lab through a local tutoring group called Han Academy for 2.5 years.

“My parents aren’t forcing me to do biology,” Kong said. “It is as much their choice now as it is my choice to keep going with the subject.”

Kong mainly competes in the United States of America Biology Olympiad (USABO). The USABO consists of three rounds, the first two being online exams and the third being a 12 day national final. He also competes in the American Mathematics Contest (AMC) and American Invitational Mathematics Examination (AIME) math exams.

Kong has taken the USABO open exam, the AMC 10a, AMC 10b and AIME II, all math and science qualifier exams to compete in olympiads.

Kong takes these exams as qualifiers to test into higher levels of math and science programs, increasing his chances of securing a spot at Stanford University in 2027.

“I [visited] the school [in fifth grade] and I [was] like ‘this school is really pretty and it’s a very nice school,’” Kong said. “I got a hoodie when I first visited the school, and then a couple years later, someone else gave me another Stanford hoodie and I kind of embraced it.”

Outside of his studies, Kong is a competitive golfer. When he visited Stanford, he saw a golf tournament which only strengthened his desire to attend the school. Kong plays varsity golf at Central, putting in a couple hours of practice everyday.

Kong is considering a future career in either genetic engineering or genetic research.

For Kong, studying biology also has meaning beyond personal interest or academic achievement.

“There’s a lot of personal reasons behind me wanting to do biology as well because biology has a lot of human aspects,” Kong said. “My mom had some medical problems when I was little, maybe starting in [my] second grade. I was really impacted by that.”

Although studying for science comes easy to him now, it didn’t come without its struggles at first.

“I took [high school honors] chemistry in fourth grade which was very rough. I don’t think I did very [well] in that class at all,” Kong said. “I finished it at the end, it wasn’t very in-depth knowledge at all. It was at that point [I decided] I don’t really like chemistry and biology appealed to me [instead.]”

Amy Hastings, Kong’s AP Biology teacher, only has good things to say about Kong’s goals

“I think it’s amazing [and] it’s admirable that he has such a passion for math and science,” Hastings said. “He’s become a part of the family and the classroom community. He’s just a great kid.”

With the support of his parents, teachers and personal motivation, Kong wouldn’t consider any other pathway.

“Ultimately you only have so much time and I found that because I only have so much time, I can only put all that time into biology or all that time into math. I can’t put it into like five or six different things,” Kong said. “I already know that biology is what I’m gonna do no matter what; it’s the one thing that I can study for hours on end.”

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About the Contributor
Elaine Zhou
Elaine Zhou, Features Editor
Elaine Zhou is a junior, and this is her second year with Central Times. Elaine is a lover of all types of writing- especially ones telling the stories of people around her. Along with being a student journalist, she is the vice president of Chinese Club, a staff of Literary Magazine, a member of Yearbook and a violinist. She is currently addicted to retail therapy, stationary and is gaslighting herself to like biology for the rest of her life. 
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