It’s Monday afternoon, and instead of joining the thousands of students streaming into the midday sunlight, Shawn Im is standing in front of a whiteboard explaining a probability problem as dozens of his peers are intently listening on.
Im is perhaps the most talented student ever to walk the halls of Peachtree Ridge High School. He placed in the top five of the state math championship. He qualified for the United States of America Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO), a prestigious feat achieved by less than 300 students out of the nearly 200,000 that entered the preliminary rounds. He’s ranked first in a class of over 700 students, and in a few years, Im will be the first member in his family to graduate from college.
Georgia Tech student Kenny Oen, who took calculus with Im, says that Im has “wit, quick thinking, and a funny personality.”
But it’s not his intelligence that make Im a standout member of his community. It’s his desire to share his love of math with others.
Since he was little, Im has been naturally talented at math, and his peers have known him as a self-taught math prodigy. “I know I enjoyed math as a child,” Im explains, “it’s like a game except there wasn’t an end and it was made to be hacked.”
Now, he’s trying to help other students view math in the same light. As the president of Peachtree Ridge’s math team, he leads practice sessions and organizes tutoring groups to make math problems seem possible and exciting to solve. Im also helps coach the math team at Hull Middle School, which was where he started his own competition math journey.
“Not only is Shawn’s intellect at another level, so is his character… Shawn is someone that everyone looks up to because he makes everyone feel welcome when he teaches,” says Peachtree Ridge sophomore Shivani Desai.
Desai isn’t alone in that sentiment — for the math team members listening in awe to Im’s explanation of probability and the dozens of students who’ve been impacted by Im’s love for math, those words truly represent his intelligence, kindness, and eagerness to share his passion with others.