My parents didn't pressure me: Indian-American prodigy named in 'world's brightest' students list
Natasha Perianayagam, a 13-year-old Indian-American prodigy named in the "world’s brightest” students list, has said that her parents gave her the "best support" by not putting pressure on her to excel in her studies.
Perianayagam, a student at Florence M Gaudineer Middle School, in New Jersey was named in the "world's brightest” students list for the second consecutive year by Johns Hopkins Center For Talented Youth, based on the results of above-grade-level tests of over 15,000 students across 76 countries.
“I know that my parents are happy about it and my elder sister too,” Perianayagam told PTI in an interview on Tuesday.
This was the second time that the young girl made it to the list of brightest students in the world by The Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY).
In 2021, Perianayagam was one of nearly 19,000 students from 84 countries who joined CTY in the 2020-21 Talent Search. Less than 20 per cent of CTY Talent Search participants qualified for CTY High Honours Awards.
According to the university press release, Perianayagam was among the 15,300 students from 76 countries who joined CTY in the 2021-22 Talent Search year.
Less than 27 per cent of those participants qualified for the CTY ceremony, receiving either high or grand honours based on their test scores. In her latest attempt, Perianayagam scored the highest grades among all candidates.
In response to a question on the support and encouragement she received from her parents, Perianayagam said “I think the best support they gave me was not pressuring me to do it” or “saying ‘You have to do this’.” She said her parents, who hail from Chennai, did not force her into taking the tests. “There was no external pressure. They just left it up to me. I waited until the day of the deadline to do (the test). I just woke up and was like, ‘Okay, sure, I'll do it.” Perianayagam said the fact that she had taken the Johns Hopkins Center For Talented Youth (CTY) test in the Spring of 2021 when she was a Grade 5 student, motivated her to take the test for the next level in 2022.
“There are two types of awards you can get for taking the test. One is High Honours and another is Grand Honours. So last year, I got High Honours and I knew there was another level that I could reach. I decided maybe I'll get Grand Honours this time. I took (the test) and this time, I did get the Grand Honours,” she said.
Perianayagam said she “didn't really prepare” separately for the tests since in school she is already enrolled in a few advanced classes. “So that prepared me well for it. And I also did some extra practice outside of school,” she said.
With her achievement sure to serve as an inspiration for other students, Perianayagam said her message to other youngsters is that “if you want to achieve something like this, just try it first...you never know what your actual potential is until you do something that can measure it. So just take a chance.” The middle-schooler is yet to firm up her plans for the future and said that architecture and science are two subjects that interest her tremendously.
“Initially for a long time, I thought I wanted to be an architect because I like building things and I like maths. And those two things go into it... But then I realised that science is very interesting to me. So maybe I'll do something in science or maybe with art,” she said.
She said that in terms of engineering or architecture, she would like to pursue her higher studies at colleges such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“I haven't really thought about it because I haven't decided what I want to do yet. When I figure out what I want to do, there'll be a good college that I can go to,” she said.
Perianayagam said that when she is not studying, she likes music and plays the guitar, violin and piano. “I also like to read and draw. And sometimes, friends will come over or I'll be doing something with my sister so that's how I spend my free time,” she said.
In 2021, Perianayagam’s results in the verbal and quantitative sections levelled with the 90th percentile of advanced Grade 8 performance, which catapulted her into the honours list that year. This year, she was honoured for her exceptional performance on the SAT, ACT, School and College Ability Test, or similar assessment taken as part of the CTY Talent Search, the university said in a press release on Monday.
CTY used above-grade-level testing to identify advanced students from around the world and provide a clear picture of their academic abilities. "This is not just recognition of our student's success on one test, but a salute to their love of discovery and learning, and all the knowledge they have accumulated in their young lives so far," said CTY's executive director Dr Amy Shelton.
"It is exciting to think about all the ways in which they will use that potential to discover their passions, engage in rewarding and enriching experiences, and achieve remarkable things -- in their communities and in the world," she added.
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