'Shy guy' stands out in school

February 10, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

SMITHSBURG - The self-described shy guy spoke modestly of his academic prowess.

"Like any other student, I do my homework and pay attention in class," said Usama Qadri, a 17-year-old senior at Smithsburg High School.

Pry a little, and you will learn that the Washington County Board of Education recently named him as the board's student representative.

He replaces Zach Jamison, a North Hagerstown High School junior who resigned for academic reasons, schools spokeswoman Carol Mowen said.

Usama's first meeting was Tuesday.

He unofficially is the top student in his class, with a grade-point average above 4.0, Smithsburg High School Principal Melvin G. Whitfield said.


He also represented Washington County at the National Spelling Bee in 2002, placing 26th of 252 entrants.

And, he has been accepted to Yale.

"He's the epitome of the perfect student," said his Latin instructor, Martha "Tootie" Ridenour. "I am truly blessed to have him."

By most accounts, Usama, president of the student government association, is the quiet leader of Smithsburg's student body. But what lies beyond the grades and impressive stature is an easygoing teenager who enjoys tennis and juggling and is excited - a little nervous, even - about leaving for college.

"I sort of felt a little inadequate," Usama said. "I know senior year is the time when you're supposed to slack off. It's sort of been the opposite.

"In the short term, you could relax, but not if you look at it in the long run. When I get to college, I want to be ready."

Usama has about 200 books in his bedroom, and those only account for the ones unrelated to school assignments. Right now, he is reading Virgil's "The Aeneid."

"The very first week I met him, keep in mind he's a freshman, I look over and saw him reading," said Ridenour, describing her first impression of Usama. "So I ask, 'Is that for class?' It was like the entire room said, 'Usama's always reading.'"

Ever since, she and Usama have been swapping books, Ridenour said.

"I'm going to be sad when [he] leaves," she said.

Student government adviser Dottie Crawford said Usama always has had good time management skills and knows when he's taking on too much.

"He's really set the foundation so that these younger generations will know how to manage things," Crawford said. "He's a natural leader, in his quiet way."

Once at Yale, Usama said he plans to pursue science, perhaps medicine.

"I've always been a very curious individual," Usama said. "I guess that's why I've gotten by in school."

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