R-MA grads look to college careers steeped in science

Randolph-Macon Academy students William Wong, left, and Johnny Wong, who are brothers, will speak as salutatorians at the school's commencement ceremony Saturday morning. Rachel Mahoney/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Among the Randolph-Macon Academy class of 2016, co-salutatorian brothers Johnny Wong and William Wong will be two graduates who hang up their uniforms and pursue education excellence in college.

Johnny and William, both day students who live in Front Royal, started at R-MA when they began middle school after participating in the school’s summer camp program. Johnny said that being at the school means that their academic career has been orderly and organized, and the harder classes have taught them not to procrastinate.

The brothers said they’ve helped each other study different subjects, although they’d debate the finer points of who helped whom. They did agree that their teachers at R-MA have helped them to narrow their focus into the sciences.

“Some of them have good stories, some of them are very colorful and some of them are very fun,” William said.

Johnny and William will be rooming together at University of Virginia starting in the fall, and both will be in the Echols Scholars Program. William said he’ll probably end up studying for a degree in computer science, while Johnny said he’s considering a few subjects – he enjoys biology and chemistry and said he could see himself becoming a doctor.

“I can’t be a surgeon; I can’t handle that much blood,” he said.

Both brothers are members of the National Honor Society and honor societies in five different subjects. Johnny ran cross-country, played tennis and served as president of the Alpha Readers Book Club on campus. William was a member of the journalism club and swim team throughout his upper school career and served as yearbook editor his senior year.

Johnny and William will each receive a Presidential Award for Academic Excellence and Johnny will receive a class-specific award in astronomy this year. Both brothers have earned Blue Ridge Scholarships that will go toward their college education.

The brothers are the first generation in their family to graduate college, and said their parents were avid supporters of their education – keeping a binder of their school achievements since elementary school and buying study books for their high school tests.

A few days after graduating, Johnny and William said they’ll be visiting family in Hong Kong for about a month of relaxing vacation time. In July, they’ll start the month-long UVA Advance program that will earn them six general education credits at the university. Johnny said the residential program will be a bit of an exploratory opportunity for him.

“It’s more like I’m trying stuff that I’ve never tried before,” he said. “Journalism was one of them [the electives], and also music theory – let’s see how artistic I can be.”

As much as they said they’ve enjoyed living in Front Royal, both brothers are ready for the change of pace at a large school. Johnny said UVA will be a good fit with plenty of routes to explore in the sciences.

“It’s a big research university…so I think there would be opportunities for me to get research or get some labwork,” he said.

“I’ll probably just join the Super Smash club,” William quipped.

Johnny said he’s still looking into an entrepreneurship program at the university, while William said he might consider intramural swimming or joining a journalism club.

The Wong brothers will speak to their commencement cohort of 70 seniors and five postgraduate Falcon Scholars celebrating at R-MA’s Melton Gymnasium at 10 a.m. Saturday. For at least the eighth year in a row at the school, the graduating class of 2016 has a 100 percent college acceptance rate. Students there have earned $5.1 million in scholarships total this year.

This year’s commencement speaker is Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul J. Selva. Selva is the second highest ranked military officer in the U.S. and the highest ranked officer in the U.S. Air Force.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com