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A head start - SEB junior completes first year of college
Richard OwensWeb
Richard Owens III, center, is shown with his parents Richard Jr. and Linda. Richard left Southeast Bulloch High School after his sophomore year to attend a special program at Middle Georgia College. - photo by Special
    Richard Owens III is a driven young man.
    When he entered Southeast Bulloch High School as a freshman, he immediately signed up for the most difficult schedule he could take, including several Advanced Placement classes.
    But, “The classes still weren’t challenging enough," Owens said. "I needed more to do.”
    So, he joined the Chess Club, and became part of the SEB Math Club competition team. He also made the SEB marching band team.
    Still, Owens wanted more.
    Gene Eden, a guidance counselor at Southeast Bulloch, began talking to Owens’ parents about possibly sending Richard to college after 10th grade. Ricky and Linda Owens agreed to consider a special program at Middle Georgia State College in Cochran for high school students.
    The college runs the Georgia Academy of Aviation, Mathematics, Engineering and Science, which opens college courses up to exceptional high school students. After some discussion, the Owens' decided to let their son attend the academy.
    “Ricky was quite excited at the possibility of bypassing a lot of the last two years of high school," Eden said. "He is pretty exceptional student, and has an unbelievable level of maturity. He is the first student from SEB to enter the GAMES academy, and has opened the eyes of some other students to advancement possibilities.”
    One of Owens’ favorite teachers at SEB was Matt Olsen, the school's band director. Olsen wasn't surprised Owens chose to attend GAMES.
    “He was a real quick learner, and had a tremendous work ethic," Olsen said. "He started off playing the saxophone, but then changed to drums."
    Owens said he is in the band at college, but, “Without Mr. Olsen, it’s totally different. Its just a bunch of kids having fun, with little or none of the focus I found at SEB. I have started playing the acoustic guitar now.”
    The GAMES program at Middle Georgia is one of two programs in the state designed for junior and senior high school students to finish high school, while getting a two-year associates degree at the same time.
    Lisa Whitaker is the academy's director. Whitaker said the program, now in its twelfth year, chooses only students with high levels of self-motivation, because no matter how smart the student is, they cannot rely on anyone else to keep them on track.
    “Richard is a very bright student, and worked very hard last year," Whitaker said. "He took 18 hours of course work in the fall, and 19 hours in the spring semester. He’s done very well at GAMES. We can’t wait to have him back for next year.”
    Though she's happy for her son, Linda Owens misses her boy.
    “Having Ricky away at college is about to kill me. I miss him, I really do.”
Richard Owens Jr. also misses his son.
    “We’ve always been best friends, but now that Ricky is at college, there are aspects of his life at MG that he just doesn’t want to share with me.”
    Owens said he understands the feelings of his parents, but he likes the challenge at Middle Georgia.
    “Being that I have to satisfy both high school and college course requirements means that I am carrying a very heavy course load each semester,” he said.
    Owens intends to go into pre-law, but said firmly: “I don’t want to end up doing real estate closings.”
    He said he has taken a lot of political science courses, which may change his current career choice.
    “I have begun to think that I would actually like to become a statesman," he said. “I want to be someone who is involved in helping formulate policy dealing with national and international affairs. Our world is pretty messed up, and I would like to be one of the people who helps straighten it out.”
    In 2009, Owens will graduate with his college class, and then get his high school diploma, graduating with the SEB seniors. While he said he will miss his senior year experience in high school, he believes his college experience makes up for it.