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Math adds up for future MIT student

January 19, 2007|by ERIN JULIUS

SMITHSBURG - Brittany Clevenger had taken every math class available at Smithsburg High School by her junior year.

Now a senior, the 17-year-old plans to channel her math skills toward earning a degree in aerospace engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Math "just makes sense" to her, the world of science offers so much to learn and space intrigues her because of its vast unknowns, Brittany said.

"I always wanted to work for NASA so that I can help either create or design something that will go into space," she said.

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Brittany, the daughter of Lorie Clevenger of Smithsburg, applied to MIT early.

"I knew that I would get a very good education there," Brittany said. "The more I looked into it, the more I fell in love with the college."

Brittany's 4.3 grade-point average and work in Advanced Placement math and science classes got her into MIT, which accepted 13 percent of its applicants in 2006, according to the admissions Web site. Brittany has participated in a string of extracurricular activities during high school, including the National Honor Society, Student Government Association, Latin Club, Academic team and color guard. She also takes tap, ballet and jazz classes.

Brittany's physics teacher, Charles Whitt, has been teaching for almost 30 years and said that he's never had a student attend MIT.

"It doesn't get any better, we're talking about the top. If you're really a major player, that's where you want to go, if you can get in," Whitt said. "That tells you a lot about Brittany."

Whitt said Brittany is the only girl in his Advanced Placement physics class.

"She's in a class of 12 boys, and she leads the class," he said. "We don't have too many females in AP physics."

Brittany appreciates Whitt's teaching style.

"In class, he purposefully puts mistakes on the board. He makes us challenge what we're told," she said.

Almost 50 percent of students at MIT are women, so Brittany said that she isn't worried about being the only female in class much longer.

Throughout high school, Brittany attended Maryland Summer Centers, for gifted students in the state's public schools, to study engineering during summer vacations.

She also attended a National Student Leadership Conference for engineering in College Park, Md., one summer.

Because of these experiences, Brittany feels prepared for the challenge of college, she said.

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