ATWATER — Jimmy Zhu says he wants to make the most out of his life and be the best he can be. Those around him have no doubt the 14-year-old eighth-grader is capable of many things.
The St. Anthony's Catholic School student was named Student of the Month for the Atwater campus and excelled at a recent academic pentathlon. Principal Marianne Flynn said Jimmy has been reading at high school level since he was in sixth grade.
"I really like learning new stuff," Jimmy said. In his short lifetime, he already has had more to learn than many of his peers.
Born in Shenzhen, China, he lived there until 2005 when he moved to Waco, Texas, followed by Hawaii and then Merced. He learned English in kindergarten and first grade, explaining that it took him six months to three-quarters of a year to master the language.
Since then, he said, he has forgotten the Chinese language.
Jimmy's teacher Billy Mitchell said he has always excelled academically. He is a naturally gifted student who puts in the work.
'A valuable asset'
"He's just a well-rounded kid," Mitchell said. "He exemplifies what a St. Anthony's student is like. He's popular and a valuable asset to the school."
Jimmy admits he welcomes a challenge and is competitive.
"If somebody told me I couldn't do that, I would put more effort into doing it," Jimmy said. "I put all my mind into doing that."
One of Jimmy's hobbies is drawing, something he said he does when he is bored. Using a pencil, he sketched a realistic farm scene complete with a silo and three barns. He prefers drawing landscapes.
Jimmy loves computers and computer games. Several years ago he decided he wanted to build his own computer, but that will have to wait while he indulges in sports and being with his close friends.
Flynn said when Jimmy first came to St. Anthony's as a fourth-grader, he fit right in. At first he was introverted, shy and hardly talked. He's beyond that now and said he has been influenced by his friends, calling them a fun-loving group.
Tennis is Jimmy's favorite sport but he also dabbles in basketball and soccer. He likes reading, especially fiction. He said his mind converts what he is reading into a movie, making pictures inside his head.
At the academic pentathlon, Jimmy competed in literature, math, science and social studies, along with the super quiz. He brought back five medals for his efforts, including a top finish overall.
Jimmy is the son of Mi- chael Marco Diaz-Ordaz and Tian Diaz-Ordaz of Merced. He wants to go to college, particularly Stanford University, but is still thinking about what career path he will pursue.
Prefers math, algebra
At St. Anthony's, he prefers math and algebra but finds social studies interesting, particularly because his teacher is passionate about it. He likes the sense of community from a small school like St. Anthony's and said he has many close friends.
"We are so blessed to have him in our classes," Mitchell said. "He will be very much missed when he graduates."
Jimmy hopes to take part in the International Baccalaureate program that will be offered at Buhach Colony High School.
"Mr. Mitchell chose this student because his academic excellence is remarkable," Flynn said. "He never misses assignments and gets nothing but all A's in every subject.
"What his teacher admires most about this student is that his academic excellence does not define who he is," the principal said. "He is a well-rounded young man with many talents, and I don't know anyone who does not like him."
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.