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Kentridge senior Tracy Tran ranks at the top of the world in calculus

Tracy Tran, a National Merit Scholar semifinalist and Kentridge High School senior, is one of only eight candidates in the world to earn every possible point on the advanced placement calculus level AB exam.  - Ross Coyle/Kent Reporter
Tracy Tran, a National Merit Scholar semifinalist and Kentridge High School senior, is one of only eight candidates in the world to earn every possible point on the advanced placement calculus level AB exam.
— image credit: Ross Coyle/Kent Reporter

If knowledge is power, Tracy Tran can move mountains.

The Kentridge senior recently took a unique honor among high school students. She received a perfect score on her advanced placement calculus test, an accomplishment shared by only eight people in the world.

"Everything relates back to math, whether we realize it or not. I just think it's amazing, the kinds of things we can do with calculus," she said. "Anything in the physical world can be modeled by some mathematical equation, whether that be plants in a forest or the efficiency of a car."

Tran says that while she is proud of the accomplishment, she doesn't feel responsible for it. Anyone could have received the award, she said, "I was just in the right place at the right time."

Despite her efforts to remain humble, Tran's achievement has spread her name throughout the school.

"Everyone pretty much knows me as 'that one smart girl,'" she said.

But she proudly carries the "nerd" title. While the 18-year-old enjoys hiking around Mount Rainier and cooking, her true passion is reading. She sees her knowledge as the byproduct of her voracious appetite for books.

"I never would have gotten as far as I had without books," she said.

Reading has been her most passionate hobby since she was a child. She spent so much time turning pages that her parents had to make sure her lights were out and that she wouldn't sneak a book and a flashlight under the covers, which she still does occasionally.

Between fourth grade and middle school, Tran estimates she read 200 to 300 books a year, although that has slowed to around 20 now that she's about to graduate. Currently, her favorite book is John Green's "The Fault in Our Stars."

Tran says that the school fosters an educational community and that it has been invaluable for keeping her focused on her school work, and is particularly thankful for her teachers, notably her math instructor Mark Champoux. She also credits the encouragement of fellow calculus students at Kentridge as a major factor in her success, especially the students in the school calculus community.

"It's a community of learning and support," she says.

In addition to calculus, Tran leads the school's Key Club chapter. She helped organize the construction of a playground at Turnkey Park at 104th and James Street in June. The venture, she said, was extremely difficult. She not only had to coordinate 50 students but also negotiated how to work out logistics without school transportation.

But everything came together in the last minute, with students bringing their permission and insurance slips the day of the park renovation and student drivers providing transportation.

"The most amazing thing about that for me, personally, was seeing my school community come together," she said. "For that one day, we weren't upperclassmen or lower classmen. So, like the athletes or the nerds or whatever, we were just working side by side to do something bigger than ourselves."

She doesn't yet know what career she'll go into, but she does feel certain that it will be for the public good. She hopes to find something that combines her enjoyment of art and design as well as her logical traits to create something that will benefit humanity as a whole.

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