National Geographic Bee Champion Returns to School a Hero

ScienceScientific ResearchVanessa Brown

At 13, Eric Yang has already proven to be a geography wiz. He claimed victory for Texas in the National Geographic Bee in Washington. But now, Yang has a new title to live up to... school hero.

The 7th grader is the envy of his classmates at Griffin Middle School after returning home a champion.

"Everyone here they help support me and encourage me to do my best," Yang said.

His mom will be the first to tell you that he's not your typical student. Yang was pronouncing the word "Saturday" at 7 months old. He started reading at one and a half. She says she never forced him, he developed a hunger for knowledge on his own.

"Many people were surprised that Eric was educated in a public school as opposed to a private school or a home school, so that says a lot for the education he's receiving here," said Amber Fulton, Lewisville ISD School Board Member.

Yang's 6th grade geography teacher, Ellen Wandtke, says his passion for learning is infectious.

"Oh it's thrilling for Griffin and The Colony. It's just really exciting to have him in our building and mostly because Eric shares everything he knows," Wandtke said.

She hopes students in her class now will follow his lead.

"Everybody keeps saying oh he lives right behind me, he's on my basketball team you know...and he's just a regular kid so it makes them feel like they can do it too," Wandtke said.

Everyone at this school is excited about Yang's accomplishment. In fact, now he even has some secret and not-so-secret admirers.

"I was surprised, but I guess I'm famous now so I have to get used to it," he said.

Yang's win came with a $25,000 scholarship. He's not sure where he'll go to college, but he is sure of one thing.

"I just want any career that can help other people have better lives," he said.

He's a kid from an ordinary background that just so happens to be extraordinary.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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