Roger Allen Jr., now concluding his senior year at Southeast Bulloch High School, will be in rarified company this fall as a freshman 1906 Scholar at Georgia Southern University.
Of the thousands of freshmen who will enroll at GSU for 2011-'12, only 150-175 will be part of the University Honors Program, and of those, only 11 were awarded the 1906 Scholarship, which is named for the founding year of the school that evolved into GSU. These scholarships cover the full cost of tuition, and for Georgia residents eligible for the HOPE scholarship, the 1906 Scholarship is added to HOPE, allowing the combination to cover further costs.
Allen is the only Bulloch County resident to be awarded the scholarship as an incoming freshman this year. Representatives of Georgia Southern and Southeast Bulloch sat for photos in the high school's auditorium earlier this week as Allen signed paperwork accepting the scholarship. While signing ceremonies are common for athletic scholarships, they are rare for academic scholarships, acknowledged Dr. Trey Robertson, principal of Southeast Bulloch High.
"This is new. This is not something we do every day, but with a scholarship of this magnitude, I think it's well warranted," said Robertson. "Any sort of a light you can shine on that student is well deserved."
Allen has been a student at SEB for two years, during which he has continued a record of achievement he began in the Savannah-Chatham County schools.
Coming to SEB
After completing ninth and 10th grades at Savannah Arts Academy, Allen came to live with his father, Roger Allen Sr. (a frequent contributor to the Statesboro Herald), and stepmother Donna in Bulloch County. His mother is Judith Allen of Bloomingdale. He has two brothers and two stepbrothers.
Young Roger is the sort of high school student who not only performs music but is trying his hand at composing it, and who finds mathematics not so much challenging as entertaining.
Allen's best scores from two takings of the SAT include a perfect 800 in math, a nearly perfect 790 in verbal and a seldom surpassed 730 in the writing component. His ACT score was 35 out of a possible 36.
Musically, he started learning piano in his preschool years, then was exposed to violin while attending a music- and arts-oriented elementary school. Oboe was his principal instrument by the time he arrived at Southeast Bulloch, and he plays that instrument in both the school's concert band and an ensemble at his church, Trinity Baptist in Nevils.
When Allen wanted to play in the SEB Yellow Jacket marching band, he took up the saxophone and was playing it well within hours, his father reports. So for two years now he has been playing in both the concert and the marching band. He shifted from tenor sax to baritone sax between marching seasons.
For two consecutive years he has been named to the Southeastern U.S. Honor Band, and is slated to participate in the 2011 honor band Feb. 3-5 at Troy State University. He also took part in University of Georgia Jam Fest Honor Band last spring. He has held a chair with the Atlantic Chamber Orchestra, based at Armstrong Atlantic State University, for five years.
Math and music
Allen said he's "trying to find willing test subjects" to play a chamber music piece he is composing.
Mathematically, he achieved the highest individual score in SEB's division last year at a high school math competition hosted by GSU. Back at Savannah Arts he was part of a winning math team his sophomore year.
Also interested in drama, he is preparing for a spring play with the drama class at SEB. He was a chess team member at Savannah Arts and has tried to organize a chess team at SEB. He has already completed a world literature class at GSU as a jointly enrolled high school student and has earned some Advance Placement credits.
As a full-time student at GSU beginning this fall, Allen intends to double major in music and mathematics.
"Math and music right off the bat might not seem like a good combination, but if you think about it, a lot of elements in math and music are very similar," he said. "Music has a lot of foundations in math ... rhythm and meter and tempo."
He was in the process of applying to other universities, but put that on hold after seeing more of Georgia Southern and being accepted for the 1906 Scholarship.
"It's not just the money, although the money is important, but it's also kind of the atmosphere that I got there, the feel of the college," he said. "It's just a really inviting place, and I felt like other applications, to me, would be superfluous."
The fact that only 11 incoming GSU freshmen were offered 1906 Scholarships this year reflects the impact that a sluggish economy has had on income from the university's invested endowment, said Dr. Steven Engel, director of the University Honors Program. Last year, 19 incoming freshmen were awarded the scholarships, and 15-18 was typical in previous years.
Over the course of a year, about 700 students apply for these scholarships, Engel said.
For Roger Allen Jr., who could go many other places, the scholarship is another reason to stay close to home and family. While he is the only Bulloch County student newly selected this year, there are, by Engel's count, seven Bulloch County residents among already enrolled 1906 Scholars.
Allen is one of eight Georgia residents among the 11 new winners, who have until Feb. 1 to accept.
Applicants write essays which are the most important element of the selection process, and the university also looks at their SAT scores, their grades, the rigor of subjects they have taken, and their extracurricular involvement, Engels said. Finalists and their parents are then invited to a fall event called the Southern Scholars Showcase where students participate in individual interviews with representatives of the specific GSU colleges they have applied to, plus a group interview that involves a problem-solving exercise.
The criteria make no preference for Statesboro-area students, but Engel says the university is pleased to have some among its top scholars.
"We're delighted to keep the best local students locally as well as attract the best students nationally here as well," he said.