About any 17-year-old can tell you he is going to study chemical engineering and then probably enter medical school or the biomedical engineering field.
Few can say it in the matter-of-fact tone of Matthew Hancock, and make you believe it.
That applies even when the Heath High School senior says being a doctor would be a backup plan to graduate work in engineering as if it’s like picking between a turkey or ham sandwich.
“I really want to go to graduate school in biomedical engineering,” Hancock said. “If I don’t do that I’ll probably be a doctor. Those are my two options.”
Hancock’s academic record — a 3.9 grade-point average ranking third in a class of 149 as of last week — helps his case.
And the four-year soccer and cross country athlete is more convincing after studying health care at Bellarmine University in Louisville this summer as part of the Governor’s Scholar Program.
He also attended the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine in Atlanta two summers ago, which includes clinical and research visits and is meant to be pre-medical education for high school students. The forums take place in 10 cities across the U.S. where nearby university medical programs and hospitals provide instruction and activities.
Another feather in Hancock’s cap: Teen of the Week honors.
Hancock, son of Skip and Dena Hancock, is the Murray State University Teen of the Week. Each Monday, the Sun features a different MSU Teen of the Week selected from nominees submitted by high school guidance counselors throughout western Kentucky and southern Illinois. In May, a Teen of the Year will be chosen from the weekly winners, earning a $5,000 scholarship to Murray State. Teen of the Week is part of the Sun’s Newspapers in Education program.
It’s not just Hancock’s abilities in math and science that his teachers notice. It’s how he applies what he learns and incorporates it into life inside and outside the classroom, according to Sheri Davis, Hancock’s anatomy and physiology teacher.
“I am constantly amazed at his ability to take difficult concepts and break them down into ideas that he can understand and explain to others,” Davis said.
“Matthew interacts effectively with his peers and promotes participative approaches to problem-solving in the classroom.”
The inclusive attitude extends to his athletics, where Hancock is a state qualifier in cross country and received All-State Academic honors in soccer.
This fall, Hancock became the co-president of Heath High’s National Honors Society and started his second year in the environmental club.
Davis said Hancock’s service and time spent in the community push him beyond being impressive only for his academic record.
Hancock’s service includes:
Traveling to the Texas Gulf to help clean up Hurricane Katrina damage.
Picking up trash for recycling with the Greater Paducah Sustainability program at Barbecue on the River.
Running vacation Bible school sessions at his church, Concord United Methodist in Paducah.
Hancock’s top choice for college is the University of Kentucky.
Keeping up his kind of schedule takes self-motivation and dedication, Hancock said.
“I don’t have much free time except on the weekends,” Hancock said.
Contact Adam Shull, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8653.