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Penney gets a TIP from Duke
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Rising South Effingham High School freshman Shawn Penney spent three weeks at Duke University studying cancer as part of Duke’s Talent Identification Program. - photo by Photo by Sandi Van Orden

While many students have been taking a break from classes over the summer, one South Effingham student spent three weeks studying cancer at Duke.

Shawn Penney, who will be a freshman at South Effingham High School this fall, participated in the three-week Duke University Talent Identification Program.

As a seventh grader, Penney was told about the TIP and his score on the SAT led Duke to send him information on certain programs, depending on test scores.

“I scored a 1,550,” he said.

Penney studied the biology of cancer at Duke.

“It was a very good learning experience,” he said. “I went in thinking some stuff about cancer and finding out that I was completely wrong.

“Many people think, including me before I went, that cancer is a virus, and certain forms of it are, but more times than not cancer is a series of mutations that causes a cell to go wild,” Penney said. “You can see the cells become mutated.”

Penney said a family history of cancer prompted him to study cancer during his time at Duke.

He said he enjoyed being on the campus with the other students invited to participate.

“A lot of the times you are in school, and you’re considered not the same as some kids because you use different terms, but then you go to the Duke campus and you are surrounded by kids who are as smart if not smarter than you, so it was good to be with kids who understand you,” Penney said.

Kristina Penney, Shawn’s mother, said it was hard to send him to Duke for three weeks.

“It was hard as a mother. It was hard to send him away for that long, but we knew that he could handle it,” she said. “He’s very mature for his age and he always puts forth great effort in whatever he does. We knew he’d do well.”

Along with his studies Penney makes time for many extra curricular activities. He is on a leadership group called the evangelism team, or E team.

“We make certain decisions on bringing people into the youth group and how to make them feel welcomed,” he said.
Penney also works in the children’s church every other Sunday and at South Effingham Middle, he was in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Science Olympiad, Beta Club, student council, and he was also on the football and soccer teams.

Though he is just beginning his high school career, he is already planning for college.

Penney plans on going into medical research in the future, possibly becoming a professor.

“At this point I have started thinking about after high school, and that’s part of the reason I went to this program because it’s another thing on your resume,” he said.

He said he is considering attending Florida State University, or possibly an Ivy League school.