Taking on challenges adds up to success for Rich South senior
BY CHERYL DANGEL BARTOLINI Correspondent May 17, 2013 4:16PM
Cydney Richardson, who is into science and math and wants to go into biomedical engineering, poses at Rich South High School in Richton Park, IL, on Tuesday, March 19, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 21, 2013 6:01AM
Falling asleep in class isn’t the way to get into a great college.
Fortunately for Rich South High School senior Cydney Richardson, that was not the norm, although she did have her moments.
“When I was in seventh grade, math class bored me because I was never challenged,” Richardson said.
Not content with the status quo, her mother, Carrlynn Richardson, got Cydney involved with Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development. She enrolled in an online honors geometry class that provided the needed challenge. Years later, Cydney — the daughter of Carrlynn and Demietrius Richardson, of Matteson — already has credit hours from Harvard University.
But it started with the online Northwestern class.
“I did it first when I was 12 years old. I earned high school credit for it so that when I got to Rich South, I didn’t have to take algebra I or honors geometry,” said Richardson, 17.
At 13, she took Northwestern’s honors pre-calculus class, but not online: It was at the university.
“Those two experiences humbled me. I realized I wasn’t the smartest person in the world,” Richardson said. “Being wise and being smart are two different things. I am wise enough to know to ask for help when I don’t know something.”
The classes were what drove Richardson to greater achievements in math. No longer bored, she became the first student in Rich Township High School District 227 to complete advanced placement calculus as a sophomore and AP statistics as a junior.
The experiences also cemented Richardson’s love of math.
“I love it because it is very universal. There’s no racial discrimination and I love a challenge,” she said.
That explains what happened next. She was admitted to Harvard University’s Secondary School Program last summer. She took calculus I and modern technique, as well as choreography, which earned her eight Harvard University credit hours.
“I knew I wanted to apply to Harvard University as an undergrad, so I wanted to get involved with a class,” she said. “I was one of a couple thousand who got accepted.”
The application process was a lot of hard work, she said, adding that she had to write essays, secure teacher recommendations and answer questions.
“It was very enriching once I got there. People I met there were outstanding, and I’ll keep them with me the rest of my life,” she said.
Richardson also is a varsity cheerleader, student council financial secretary and a math tutor at her church, New Faith Baptist Church in Matteson, in her community and at school. She is the voice of Rich South, leading the Pledge of Allegiance in the morning and reading the school announcements. She is also on the varsity track and field team.
Since 2006, she’s been involved with Jack & Jill of America, Inc., which teaches kids 2 to 18 years old leadership skills ranging from financial literacy and basic etiquette to enrichments skills. This year, Richardson is the group’s teen chaplain, leading the students in prayer before meetings.
She has been a cheerleader since age 4 and has made several appearances on ESPN.
Mentoring her along the way is Latoya Foster-Thomas, assistant dean and special-education resource teacher at Rich South.
“If I need any help in school or in social life, I go to her. She’s always been the type who won’t judge or look at me weird if I ask her something that I should know. I love her very dearly,” Richardson said.
Also providing inspiration is Jaimee Hurston, a mentor at the Glen Ellyn Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta. Richardson has been involved with the group since November.
Next school year, she plans to attend Northwestern University and major in biomedical engineering.
After that, “I would like to attend John Hopkins Medical School,” said Richardson, who hopes to become a pediatric oncologist. “I want to go into research and help with diagnosis and treatment.”
She said God motivates her every day “with the many gifts he’s given me. Also, my family is the No. 1 thing in my life. They are always there to support me. The children I hope to help in the future also motivate me. Every child has a right to live and knowing that I may be able to help them keeps me going.”