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Jerry Hicks

Cypress High Teenager Gives Us a Glimpse of Perfection

December 03, 1996|JERRY HICKS

Don't get the wrong idea about those of us who aren't perfectionists: We'd love to be perfect.

I've always wanted to be perfect at something. Bowl a 300 game just once. Shoot in the 60s for 18 holes of golf. Get straight A's just one report card. Bask in lavish praise for fixing the perfect dinner.

My wife once described what for her would be the perfect meal. I forget all the details, but it included lobster and asparagus. So one night I surprised her with it. But I overcooked the asparagus.

No doubt I'm not alone, but I've had to face it: I've never been perfect at anything. Then on Monday I heard about Michael Rochon-Duck. He's 16 and a senior at Cypress High School. He scored a 1600 on his SAT this year.

Now that is . . . perfect.

I spotted his picture in an educational newsletter. A nice-looking young man. But he's definitely a teenager. He looks like he could be the delivery kid who throws your newspaper in the bushes instead of onto the porch. He just doesn't come off as a future Nobel candidate.

But Michael Rochon-Duck has himself a "perfect" next to his name where it says Scholastic Assessment Test. Nobody can ever take that away from him. The test, half verbal, half math, is a college entrance exam weighing heavily with schools that must decide which students to accept.

I told his mother, Betty Rochon, that I'd be dancing on the ceiling if I were her. That's close to what she did.

Rochon is a claims adjuster supervisor for State Farm Insurance. She has a blown-up photograph of her son's perfect SAT score behind her desk.

"I'm not one of those mothers who drags out a million pictures of the family to bore you with," she said. "But this one I had to show people."

I loved her down-to-earth attitude about it. When I asked if her son inherited such genius from his parents, she joked: "I think someone swapped babies with me at the hospital."

She admits she wasn't her son's equal when she went to school. Her husband, Willie Duck, a retired carpenter, was good in math. But at the high school level, when their son got into calculus and trigonometry, he soon moved past anything they could help him with.

Michael is their only son. Rochon said she got her first inkling of how bright he was going to be after a talk with his first-grade teacher at Morris Elementary School. "She said Michael would answer the questions in such detail she'd have to explain his answers to the rest of the class, because his vocabulary was so superior to theirs."

Next thing you know the school is telling her Michael needs to skip a grade; he's too far ahead of his classmates. That's why he's a senior at 16. The only Bs she remembers him ever getting were in physical education class. His only high school grade below A was a B-plus in Spanish.

Cypress High counselor Marianne Welsh boasts that Michael is an outstanding young man as well. "He's inquisitive; he always looks further than just the answer," she said.

Michael is active on the speech and debate team and in mock trials at the school. He also plays tennis outside of school.

I got to talk to him for only a few minutes Monday. He had to run off to a debate team session. He told me most politely that he likes his life right now, except that his schedule is so busy he doesn't do much for other people.

"I'd like to spend more time helping others," he said.

As far as college next year, he's looking at Stanford, MIT and Columbia. He wants to go into chemical engineering. With his SAT scores, he shouldn't have any problem wherever he wants to go.

Here Come the Republicans: Saturday is Pearl Harbor Day. It also happens to be a big day for distinguished visitors at the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda. Susan Eisenhower will be there. She's President Eisenhower's granddaughter and she'll be touting her new book "Mrs. Ike," about her grandmother, Mamie Eisenhower.

Also on hand to speak will be Caspar W. Weinberger, who was secretary of defense during the Reagan presidency and also served in the Nixon Cabinet as secretary of health, education and welfare. Weinberger, who wrote a book about his Reagan years, has now written a second book, a novel called "The Next War."

It may not be in league with Tom Clancy, but he did get Clancy to write a blurb for it. Clancy calls the Weinberger book "a thought-provoking look into an undetermined future."

Suggestion Box: The 1996 Angels poster on my desk is already outdated, with J.T. Snow, Chili Davis, and Rex Hudler gone, as well as a whole slew of smiling coaches who won't be back with a new manager taking over. Actually, I wasn't very happy with that poster to begin with, and I've got a suggestion for whoever is putting together the one for the Angels' next season.

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