Walcott honors math star at JHS 190 in Forest Hills

Photo by Steve Mosco
By Steve Mosco

Math skills add up to success at one Forest Hills middle school.

City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) were among the many in attendance at JHS 190 Russell Sage Monday to celebrate and congratulate young whiz Jena Yun for advancing to a national math competition in Washington, D.C., to be held Friday.

“This is the perfect way to start a Monday,” Walcott said from the library at Russell Sage, at 68-17 Austin St. “This is a great school and Jena and the rest of the school represent that greatness.”

Yun, an eighth-grader at Russell Sage, traveled to Albany with her math team and coaches to compete in MATHCOUNTS, a bee-style contest that tests the math mettle of middle-schoolers across the country. Yun placed fourth in the state competition and in doing so earned a trip to the capital for nationals.

“I just went on that trip to have fun with math,” said Yun. “I didn’t believe it at first. People were squeezing my arm trying to get me to stand up.”

But placing fourth and advancing to nationals did more than just make Yun nervous and her school proud. With the accomplishment, Yun became the only female representative at the D.C. tournament and the sole competitor from a public school.

Yun will compete against 224 fellow mathletes from all 50 states.

“This is pretty great. She faced some tough competition up there,” said William Collins, who coaches math along with Mary Rudolph and David Lee. “When they called her name we were all dumbfounded. It is such an incredible feat for her.”

Koslowitz said she was not surprised to hear of an accomplishment of this magnitude coming from Russell Sage, a school she said continues to impress and make her proud to represent Forest Hills.

“This school is important to the neighborhood,” she said. “I have watched this school grow and it is something the entire community can take great pride in.”

One attendee swelling with pride was Principal Marilyn Grant, who credited the dedicated teachers and school staff with helping students exercise their talents.

“The students, the teachers and the administration—– they make the school such a wonderful place,” she said.

The celebration in the school library included a video tribute to the math team, produced by another member and eighth-grader, Evelyn Gottlieb. Prior to the video, eighth-grader Hannah Fishman read a welcome speech she had prepared for the chancellor.

“Math helps us learn leadership and it disproves the impossible,” said Hannah. “Math inspires us all to be our very best.”

After the speech, Walcott commented that the students’ best is yet to come.

“This is just a start,” he said. “You are great here in middle school, but we need you to move on and be great in high school and then great in college. And when you replace us as chancellors and councilwomen and principals, you’ll be great then, too.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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