Ex scientia, vera. This Latin phrase punctuates the end of each email that Chandra Kethi-Reddy sends. It means “In knowledge, truth.”
“You can’t find truth unless you actively pursue it,” said the Minnetonka High School (MHS) senior.
Kethi-Reddy’s pursuit of knowledge was recognized last week as he was named a 2011 National Merit semifinalist. He scored among the nation’s best on the preliminary SAT test last fall.
After a celebratory trip to Taco Bell, it was back to life as usual for Kethi-Reddy.
He juggles several advanced placement courses while working to earn an international baccalaureate (IB) diploma at MHS. The IB program is a rigorous college-level course of study that emphasizes critical thinking and intercultural understanding.
Kethi-Reddy is also a captain of the school debate team. He participates in the theater program and after enjoying a role in Phantom of the Opera last year, he plans to audition for the upcoming production of Dracula.
Outside of school, Kethi-Reddy holds two part-time jobs that he performs from home. One of these jobs is revamping the website of TopLine Energy, a Florida company he worked for this past summer.
His busy schedule leaves little room for leisure. “I haven’t had much time for hobbies,” said the teen. “But I love StarCraft. It’s a great video game.”
So how did Kethi-Reddy achieve academic success?
“I would hardly call it academic success, more like the perfect storm of academic failures,” he said. “The only reason I am where I am is because of all of the mistakes I've made.”
In his junior year, he says, he took on too many demanding classes and extracurricular activities. He also experienced the death of a friend.
Kethi-Reddy says he relied on his ability to improvise and make the best of situations. “Last year, I walked into the ACT test, discovered I forgot my calculator and all of my pencils were broken,” he said. “I had to hold the lead in my pencil as I wrote.” He still managed to score a 32, ranking in the top two percent of students nationwide.
“A wise man once told me, ‘A genius never makes the same mistake twice,’” says Kethi-Reddy. “Now I've found my limits, and I'm ready to finish high school and enter college with a more focused perspective.”
He hasn’t decided on a college. “It will be somewhere between Chicago and Florida,” he says, not wanting to veer too far from TopLine. He is considering a double major in philosophy and industrial engineering.
Kethi-Reddy credits the TopLine management team as being valuable teachers and mentors. “I'm surrounded by brilliant men and women who inspire me,” he said.
After college, Kethi-Reddy would like to continue working for the company. “I plan to lead the world into a new age of energy sourcing,” he said.
Teachers at MHS have taken note of his intellectual talents.
“I noticed that Chandra had some great skills in programming his calculator,” said MHS math teacher David Surver. “So I invited him to come in to speak to our math department about how kids could use graphing calculators to cheat on exams. This is the first time I remember any student addressing the math department as a group, and he did a great job giving us the inside scoop.”
MHS English teacher Kelly Kangas has worked with Kethi-Reddy since he was a sophomore. “Chandra has not lost his intellectual curiosity, and he strives to be unique,” says Kangas. “Although he is very gifted, he is very human, which I appreciate.”
Kethi-Reddy is happy to share some of his observations on high school. Listen up, freshmen.
“One of the things I've noticed in my years in advanced classes is that they don't feature the smartest, they feature the most confident,” Kethi-Reddy said. “If you have confidence, you can definitely make it through these classes. Push through them.”
“Don't focus as much on the grades as on the learning,” he added. “The successful ones aren't the ones with the highest grades, they're the ones that took what they learned and applied it. Everything you learn can be useful at some point.”
And finally, “Make everything into an opportunity,” he said. “If something happens to you, find a way to make it work for you. If no opportunities present themselves, make them.”
Kethi-Reddy will be recognized along with other 12 other National Merit semifinalists at the Oct. 6 Minnetonka school board meeting.
National Merit finalists will be announced in early 2012.
Kethi-Reddy is the son of Lakshmi and Vanier Kethi-Reddy of St. Bonifacius.