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Children Look Up to Schoolmate

January 21, 1986|JENNINGS PARROTT

--Other pupils walk or take the school bus, but first-grader Yong S. Duckworth arrives in a Mercedes-Benz and takes a coffee break instead of recess at the elementary school in Chrisney, Ind. (pop. 439), about 30 miles east of Evansville. You get such privileges when you're older than the teacher. Student Yong, otherwise known as Mrs. Duckworth, is 34. Although she completed high school in her Korean homeland and even did some private teaching there, Duckworth is tackling first grade to improve her English. She says she was afraid her lack of English would hinder the development of her 4-year-old son, Simon, who starts school later this year. Duckworth came to the United States with her husband, Benjamin, after they were married at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul when he was in the U.S. Air Force. After the family moved to Chrisney, Duckworth sought help to improve her English. When a tutor couldn't be found, she discovered that she was just as eligible for first grade as any 7-year-old. Because of her age, she takes a coffee break instead of recess. Otherwise, she is treated like any other pupil, which means she is expected to turn in homework, receives grades and eats lunch with the youngsters.

--Stephen Baccus was graduated from the University of Miami law school, but he can't practice law yet. He's underage. Baccus, 16, received his law degree Sunday--just two years after getting his bachelor's degree and eight years after skipping from the fourth to the ninth grade. The state bar association will not admit him until he is 18, but Baccus plans to keep busy. He has scheduled a lecture tour in Japan, which will be videotaped, and will then pursue a doctoral degree in computer science. About the only thing Baccus has done on time is have a bar mitzvah. He was 13. "I'm not saying it's always better to do things as quickly as possible," Baccus said. "It's better to do things at your own pace. I would be in 11th grade now and I think I would be bored out of my mind." In the audience Sunday was his girlfriend, 16-year-old actress Danielle Brisebois of "Archie Bunker" fame, who came to Miami from California for the graduation ceremony.

--Greenville County pastor Ethel M. Spearman says she had never asked for a sign from God before, and she regrets the one time she did. It was during a prayer session at her Today's Faith Bible Church in Greenville, S.C., and, "I said, 'Give me a sign that the doors are open.' And sure enough, he opened that door." Just shortly before she made her request, motorcyclist Hayne R. Jarrett Jr., 28, was trying to stop at an intersection that night when his cycle's brakes failed, Highway Patrolman Dale James said. Jarrett swerved to avoid hitting an oncoming car and rolled into the church parking lot, narrowly missing two parked cars. "He had to make a split decision," the trooper said admiringly. "He did a heck of a job riding the bike." After negotiating the parking lot, Jarrett rode the motorcycle down a flight of stairs and crashed through the church's wooden door. He was not seriously injured. "Sometimes you ask God for an opening of a door. God just tore that door right open," Spearman said, adding: "Don't ever pray for a sign."

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