Roger B. Chaffee 2022 scholarship winner is looking forward to college to ‘find out my passion’

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Wayne He, a senior at Forest Hills Northern High School, is the 2022 winner of the Roger B. Chaffee scholarship.

The scholarship was started more than 46 years ago to honor the astronaut, a Grand Rapids native and Central High School graduate. Roger B. Chaffee perished with two other astronauts in an Apollo 1 spacecraft flash fire during a launch pad test at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 27, 1967.

He, 17, will receive $3,500 and some commemorative gifts. He learned about the scholarship opportunity from family and says he was intimidated by the pool of applicants but still applied.

The scholarship is awarded each year to an outstanding Kent County high school senior, who intends to pursue a college career in engineering or the sciences.

RELATED: 2021 Roger B. Chaffee scholarship marks first pair of siblings to win award

Robert Steelman, president of the Roger B. Chaffee Scholarship Committee, said He stood out from the rest of the applicants because he “had the whole package.”

“He took the tough classes,” Steelman said. “Looking at his transcript from him, he got an A in every class and a perfect SAT score of 800 for math. The reading and writing score were 770, scoring a total of 1570 out of 1600.”

Steelman said that He’s extracurricular activities also stood out to the committee besides his strong SAT scores. He thrives on the swim team, tennis team, helps at the Kid’s Food Basket and more while also working as an after-school tutor.

He always knew that he wanted to pursue a career in computer science since middle school. He said he was willing to do the extra work to be challenged daily and being home during the COVID-19 pandemic allowed him to teach himself different projects.

He is preparing for his postsecondary education by taking dual-enrollment math classes at Grand Rapids Community College. After graduation, he wants to attend Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science in Pittsburgh but is currently waitlisted. However, He says he has been granted early acceptance to the University of Michigan to attend the College of Engineering.

“High school is a mix of people interested in different things, not completely specialized,” He said. ” So, when I go to college, where there are specialized programs for different majors, I’ll find out my passion. I’ll be able to work on projects and make connections to find what I want to do in life.”

Jacob Kelly, He’s sophomore AP calculus teacher, said that He was the “most challenging student he has ever taught.”

“His problem-solving skills far exceeded my ability to create customized assignments meant to challenge him,” Kelly said. “He made me a better teacher, and his classmates’ better students.”

According to He, Kelly has been his favorite and best teacher during his four years at Forest Hills Northern, helping him build the confidence to succeed by pushing his academic limits.

“It showed me that I could do so much more than what I was already doing,” He said. “This class is when I excelled in figuring out mathematics. It’s when I knew I had a challenge.”

The Chaffee Planetarium at the Grand Rapids Public Museum is named for Roger B. Chafee. He was honored at a scholarship banquet at the museum on May 5.

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