Young, Gifted & Black Series
By Taki S. Raton
It is indeed a blessed opportunity to end this 2012 calendar year with the writing of a young man who has distinguished himself and has brought great pride to his parents, Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, PA. where he is an “A” student, and to the City of Philadelphia.
He is young, gifted, and Black. Cameron Clarke this past spring became one of 360 teens nationwide to earn the perfect score of 2400 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). More than 1.66 million students took the SAT in 2012.
“I put in a lot of work,” said the 18 year-old as quoted in Philly.com. “I took a prep class with some of my friends, and I did a lot of practice test from a book,” he adds.
Janice Armstrong reveals in her December 18, Pilly.com article that Cameron had to discipline himself to stay on point noting that the difference between getting a 2400 and a couple of point lower is focus.
“You can screw up or mess up on the smallest things,” he said in the Armstrong interview when she visited his home in Mount Airy, a neighborhood of Northwest Philadelphia. He recalled that on that particular test taking day, “I was focused and I got kind of lucky, I guess, that I didn’t make any mistakes.”
He did admit in the interview that initially he had incorrectly answered some of the questions. “So, on the last five minutes of the test, I had to go back and erase 36 bubbles,” sounding relieved that he caught the errors.
According to Ruth Manuel- Logan in her December 20, NEWSONE For Black America posting, the Germantown Academy senior actually took the SAT earlier a first time and scored, in her words, “a stillmind- boggling 2190” which is a “chart-topping” 98.5 percent of all of the SAT’s test takers. She comments that even though this young scholar’s first score was a “passkey” that could get him in to any Ivy League college or university in the country, he was not satisfied and “wanted to go for that gold ring.”
He has been a student at Germantown Academy since preschool. His mother, Mary Jones, a Spanish teacher at Father Judge High School, and his dad, Peter Clarke, owner of the Reef Restaurant and Lounge eatery in South Philadelphia’s upscale Penn’s Landing, were aware very early that their son may have been gifted and did all that they could to nurture that special trait.
Cameron’s father stated in F. Finley McRae’s December 20, BlackAmericaWeb.com article, that “Cameron really didn’t want anyone to know about his score, so he didn’t tell anyone at Germantown Academy about it when he got the results in June.” The elder Clarke asked Cameron, how he felt about the publicity that he is receiving? “Good and bad,” his son replied, “because I really didn’t want everyone to know.”
Germantown Academy’s Upper School headmaster Richard Schellhas in the McRae interview described young Clarke as “an extraordinary young man who represents all the best things of his generation. He is smart, funny and a true Renaissance man in the breath of his talent.”
West Philadelphia Congressman Chaka Fattah told BlackAmericaWeb.com that “Cameron Clarke is the rock star of academia. A perfect score is an amazing achievement for any young person and that’s certainly the case for this African American young man from Mount Airy.” He adds that the “dictionary is the only place where ‘success’ comes before ‘work’ and Cameron is an example to young people in all Philadelphia schools, public and private, of what hard work can achieve.”
State Senator Anthony Williams commended the senior and his parents noting that his achievement demonstrates “that a committed student and parents organized in a practical purpose of effort – not just the possibility – but the effort, can result in extraordinary moments like this that we all may stand up and salute.”
The Senator adds that while we celebrate Cameron’s individual achievement, “it takes place against the backdrop of those who deserve similar opportunities, but who did not receive either a full or partial scholarship, or whose families are constrained by where they live and very limited financial resources.”
In an exclusive statement to the McRae account, The National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE) said, “we applaud Cameron Clarke and, additionally, his parents and the Germantown Academy are to be applauded as well.” NABSE adds that, as an organization seeking to improve the academic achievement of underserved students, particularly those of African descent, “it is particularly energizing to learn that an African American student is one of only 360 students in the country to receive a perfect score.”
At the age of 4, the kindergarten age, Cameron scored a 151 on an IQ test which, cites Manuel-Logan, is 3 standard deviations above the average “and well in the genius range.” The NEWSONE columnist asserts that some consider genius to begin near an IQ of 140, and that it is “highly uncommon” to have an IQ in this range. According to her estimates, less than 1 percent of the population would be able to achieve this score, with roughly 1 in 450 people having achieved this IQ ranking.
Not only is Cameron academically gifted, but instrumentally talented as well. He performed this past summer at the prestigious Aspen Music Festival in Colorado as a principal cellist for the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra. He additionally writes for the school paper, is active in the academy’s math club, tutors fellow classmates, is a senator in his school’s student government, has run cross country, and was a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist. He will be graduating this coming June and plans to attend Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey.
It would be the December 18, 2012 Armstrong posting which first surfaced news of Cameron’s SAT score thereby inspiring other columnist such as Manuel –Logan, McRae, ThyBlackMan.com, and others including this writer to chronicle Cameron’s stellar accomplishments. McRae says that if not for Armstrong’s posting, “very little, if any, news about his extraordinary achievement would probably have reached many of the city’s residents, much less a national audience.” Armstrong was expressively excited about this writing as revealed in her treatment, lending a well deserved “shout out” in her noting of this young, unassuming scholar:
“So, excuse me while I get up from my desk and do my cabbage patch dance. After all, we reward outstanding high school athletes with pages of newsprint, giant trophies and all kinds of accolades. Even before they join the pros or enroll in college, male student athletes get treated like heroes. It’s high time that academic superstars, who use their intellects as deftly as their classmates use their bodies, get the star treatment, too.”
Former high school principal Alfonzo Porter in NEWSONE says that, “I have seen far too much wasted. Our young genius Black children, particularly boys, too often wind up in the cemetery and jail. Hearing about perfect SAT scores is unfortunately the exception.”
Owen Knox, Ph.D. who 40 years ago was a founder of Los Angeles Council of Black Administrators (COBA) spoke candidly in McRae’s interview assessing the untapped scholastic ability among African American students and what he remarks as, “the abysmal failure of most public schools systems to unlock them.” Knox adds that, “when you don’t expect Blacks to achieve honors such as this one, then something is wrong with the system; which is, in itself, an indictment of educators if they believe that achievements like this young man’s are some strange or unusual behavior for Black students.”
Dr. Boyce Watkins in ThyBlackMan.com reveals that he has seen a few Camerons in his day citing that, “many of the Camerons around me didn’t even know how brilliant they were. Even a misguided soul like Lil Wayne wouldn’t surprise me if he busted out a 160 IQ, since the man is flat out brilliant.”
Watkins says, “that there is nothing that Cameron achieved that makes him all that different from other kids we see in our everyday lives. What sets him apart, is not that he is brilliant and hard working and he used his brilliance and work ethic in a space that is going to give him rewards which last a life time.
“Congratulations Cameron Clarke, I’m very proud of you,” shares Watkins. “I’ll naively admit that I believe there is a little bit of Cameron in all of us, as long as we are not afraid to try.”