FOX 4 Young Achiever hits the academic jackpot

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- We often hear stories about phenomenally talented young athletes being identified even in middle school, and then getting full-ride scholarships to attend far away prep academies with fabulous sports programs to shape them for college and pro careers. It might surprise you to find out there are some similar things happening for brainy kids -- kids like this week's FOX 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever.

They are some of her very bright honors English students from last school year, but Northgate Middle School communications arts teacher Kyrie Manchion hasn't cut her ties to them. Manchion brings them together for book club over lunch for lively talk about the great and fun literature they are reading. And right in the middle of it all is Drake Edmonson, this week's FOX 4 Young Achiever, a gifted and insightful eighth grader who already has amassed high school credits.

"He's way beyond the average middle school mind, which is fun," said Manchion. "He really values what the end is going to look like. I mean, he really does want to make sure that who he is is represented in his work. I'm here for a purpose. I'm here to learn. I'm here to make a difference."

An outstanding all-around student, Drake's accomplishments run deep at Northgate in the sciences and math, as well as subjects like English and social studies.

"Drake's a really amazing analytical thinker," said Northgate gifted education teacher Marcus Myers. "He makes really great abstract connections. With his mindset, he could go into engineering. He could go into, like, graphic design. Anything that involves kind of logical thinking, deductive reasoning."

And when Drake isn't concentrating on his school work, he devotes himself to charity and civic work. A lot of it. For example, he volunteers regularly in the kitchen at a Salvation Army facility. And he was the only child recruited to help in the successful sales tax campaign for the Kansas City Zoo in 2011.

"I like helping people but it also helps you and it's nice to be community-minded," said Drake. "I want to make as strong an impact, as good and positive an impact on my community."

"Really focused and motivated and we need that kind of young man," said Anita Gorman about Drake and his volunteerism.

Gorman knows about volunteer work. A friend of Drake's family, Gorman's a legendary Kansas City civic leader and she co-chaired the One Zoo For All campaign. She says Drake's commitment to the project was extraordinary.

"We won that by 409 votes," said Gorman about the zoo sales tax campaign. "Now there were a lot of people that worked on that, Phil, but I've got to think that this young man who just stepped out of nowhere, really, and said, 'I'd like to help,' made a difference."

With his remarkable academic prowess and promise and his strong and creative commitment to community service, Drake was already well on his way to a very successful future. But now he has hit he jackpot to help him get there.

"I'm really excited for that," says Drake. The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has named Drake one of its national Young Scholars for 2014. Just 60 of more than 2,000 exceptional middle school students who apply each year get that honor and the high dollar scholarship that comes with it.

"It will be able to give me a better education than most public schools would be able to," said Drake. "I think it will let me get a really great career in the future. It's going to be interesting."

"This scholarship is going to push him to limits that otherwise couldn't have been done," said Manchion.

That's because the award, which goes to children from lower-income families, will pay for Drake to attend an outstanding private school, and then college, where he can make the most of his impressive talents, something his family could not afford on their own. And it will give him valuable support and guidance along the way.

"I'm looking forward really to look at different projects and ideas," said Drake, "like different creative things or academic things to know exactly what I want my future to be like. And also, I'll be able to have fun on the way, too."

With the backing of Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Young Scholars program, Drake had many options for great schools to attend but he's decided to stay local. Drake will be going to The Barstow School in south Kansas City, Mo. next year.

FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.

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