English and reading were two subjects that Jay Brown really wanted to improve upon. The Chanute High School senior struggled with the two ACT categories early on.
The first time Brown took the test, he scored a 33, just three points from a perfect score of 36. To help improve his score, Brown borrowed four or five ACT practice books and would study every night for at least an hour, working on the English and reading practice tests. His determination produced improved results the second time around his senior year with a composite score of 34.
Brown, 18, recollects certain portions of the exam.
“The science kind of caught me off guard because while I was doing the practice tests, my weak parts were reading and English because I always handled math and science well naturally,” Brown said. “So you have to average a 35 1/2 over the four categories. So I needed two 36s and two 35s, or three 36s and a 34. Like I said, I focused on reading and English, but that science score, getting a 31 on that, that dropped my overall score a ton. That kind of caught me by surprise. I probably shouldn’t have neglected it as much and maybe got a couple more practices in. But at that time, I didn’t necessarily think I needed it, but in hindsight I did.”
A few points, though, doesn’t paint the entire picture. Brown still achieved high honors as a student at CHS, earning a 4.0 and several standout awards. The Chanute native was the first-ever CHS Lincoln-Douglas debate national qualifier.
This kind of debate focuses on the moral philosophy of certain aspects of society. Competing amongst 250 students from around the country in Dallas on June 16-21, 2019, Brown debated about whether violent revolution is justified against an abusive government.
Piling up the accomplishments, this year Brown won the Horatio Alger Association national scholarship competition. The number of students who applied was upwards of 40,000. Brown was one of the 106 scholars to earn $25,000.
“I was really excited about that because that’s a great association and it’s just full of people who have basically overcome adversity in their life and they grow up, and they’re adults, and they dedicate themselves to giving back to the community, trying to support their communities,” he said. “I was excited about that because that’s kind of one my goals in life. And it was awesome to be inducted in a community like that.”
Brown has also received several local scholarships, including the Knights of Columbus, Bank of Commerce, the USD 413 Foundation, O’Brate Foundation and others. All combined, along with a $68,000 per year school scholarship, will amount to more than half of Brown’s tuition at Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the No. 1 business school in the nation. The rest of his college experience will be paid through work study and a job.
This past year in Brown’s first experience in journalism, he won the Kansas Scholastic Press Association state championship in editorial writing. Dustin Fox, his journalism and leadership teacher, lauded his student’s ability.
“I think the thing that makes Jay special is the way he is always looking for ways to improve himself and the world,” Fox said. “He is never satisfied with the status quo. Jay doesn’t simply point out problems; instead he is solution-oriented. He embraces challenges and is willing to step out of his comfort zone in the name of improvement. That isn’t typical for most humans, and it definitely isn’t typical for a high school student. Jay’s a special young man, and I am excited to see the positive impact he makes on the world.”
It started as early as grade school. His father, Tom Brown, put his son in St. Patrick Catholic School, where class sizes weren’t as big. He attended St. Pat’s up to the sixth grade before moving on to Royster Middle School. Brown earned high honors in grade school and first place in the MATHCOUNTS competition in seventh and eighth grade.
He praises both his parents and his own mental fortitude for his strong academics.
“Growing up, it was a lot of my parents (Viki Crellin and Tom Brown) pushing me, especially my dad, and then once I got to high school, it was kind of time for me to take over, and so that was more when I transitioned into my own independence, sort of pushing myself, starting to read books, going to projects, doing community service,” Brown said. “So my parents definitely set the foundation for it and they kind of let me fly with that, going into my own, and grow myself during high school.”
In ninth grade, Brown won a community service award after visiting Diversicare of Chanute with some of his peers. This community service was under the direction of Sherri Bagshaw, Brown’s Introduction to Business and 21st Century Skills teacher.
“He is an amazing young man,” Bagshaw said. “I knew even when he was a freshman that he was going to do great things. He has a super personality that everybody falls in love with, great work ethic, and of course, very intelligent. I am beyond proud of this young man and will definitely continue to see how his future plays out. Beyond blessed to teach him.”
In addition to academic success, Brown has also done well the past two years in soccer. Last year, the Blue Comets finished 9-6-1 and played in the second round of the sub-state playoffs. Brown was named to first-team All-SEK.
“That was also a big accomplishment for me because sports awards were a big part of my life and starting something so late, putting so much time and effort, I really appreciate getting that award because I put a lot into that,” Brown said.
Soccer coach Adam Wilcox has also been Brown’s gifted teacher for six years. Wilcox said Brown hasn’t ceased to impress Wilcox on the soccer field and in the classroom. He has also watched Brown connect with a group of like-minded individuals who have pushed each other to new heights.
“Jay is an exceptionally talented student,” Wilcox said. “Seeing Jay’s successes has been among my favorite experiences as a teacher. Jay always wants to perform at the peak of his ability. That’s what made him a first-team All-SEK player in his second year ever playing and what pushed him to work so hard on his academics. Jay wants to go into business, so when we started looking at potential colleges, he put Wharton at Penn on the top of his list.
“When talking about Jay’s successes, I think you have to include his relationships with John Stanley and Jillian Vogel. I have worked with these three for the past six years and they have motivated each other and have been spurred on by their accomplishments. Those three are incredibly special.”
Brown will be one of the 30 accepted Joseph Wharton Scholars program students and his research will be fully funded because he is in the program. The future Ivy Leaguer plans to study economics. His initial thought after college is to start a pharmaceutical company.
“I want to say thank you to all my teachers,” Brown added. “I couldn’t have done this without my teachers and coaches in high school. It’s a great school system. They have a lot of good people that can set you up for success later in life.”