Recently at Renaissance High School during the Annual PSL Track and Field championships, fans of high school track saw a superstar in the making.
Oh no, not superstar like soon to be an Olympian, but a superstar in the classroom. When Renaissance High School’s distance runner Justin Bullock stood on the podium to receive his second consecutive city title medal in the 3,200-meter run, the cheers that rained down on the field from the stands were not so much for his running, but the fact that the announcer interjected that he received close to $ 1.8 million in academic scholarship offers, won the Bill Gates Millenium Scholarship and has already been accepted to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The acknowledgement of Bullock’s academic achievements is not to say there have never been other scholar athletes that have come out of the PSL, because there have been thousands. But his accomplishments in the classroom are superior. He, like his sister (Jeneva, 19), has earned the title of valedictorian of Renaissance High. Scholarship genes seem to run in his mother’s (Yolanda, a teacher at Cass) children, his older sister, Jacquis, left high school with a 3.8 GPA.
“I never told him he had to have all A’s,” his mother said. “He wanted that for himself. The thing I did was not allow television to raise them. None of them have TV or computers in their rooms.”
Concurred Justin: “Although I have not gotten a B since middle school, I never felt any pressure from my family. Sure my mother had structure in the house and rules to follow, but that was how it should be. The only real competition I had was from Jeneva, but it was purely friendly.
“I had great teachers at Renaissance and they pushed me, especially Ms. (Cynthia) Bridges, my chemistry instructor. That is why when I get to MIT I’m majoring in chemistry and I hope that leads me into becoming a doctor.”
At the PSL Track and Field championships Justin had a day to remember. Besides winning the 3,200, he ran the second leg on the Phoenix first place 4×800 relay and he finished second in the mile run.
I really wanted to win the mile,” he said, “but I think I had too much going on and I kind of got distracted. I was class treasurer, a member of the Science Quiz Bowl and I worked at Red Lobster. But the fact of the matter is he just beat me.
“Out of all the events the relay win means the most to me, because it was a team effort. It took all four guys to function as a team. It really is a big deal to me to beat Mumford and win that race.”
Justin said he plans to run track at MIT and that he is a fan of the Olympics: “I watched the 2008 games and I got inspired watching those athletes compete at the highest level. I did not look at it like that will be me one day, but I know I can apply that same effort to the classroom. I feel I’m a better student than athlete.”
His mother said she is proud of her son for what he has accomplished, but as an ex-track athlete she found a special joy watching him stand at the top of the podium.
“When Justin showed over and over that he was a smart student, it was expected that he would do well,” she said. “But in track you have to consciously inflict pain upon yourself.
I’m very proud that he not only has academics, but he has heart and grit that will help him in all he does.”
Leland Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.