Oct. 2-8, 2003
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Ninth grader excels at science and problem solving
BINGHAMTON — Renaissance men are those well-rounded, well-adjusted individuals that are accomplished in both the arts and the sciences. There aren’t too many of them. The people around them are in awe of their abilities, their drive, and their intelligence; to befriend one is an honor, to be inspired by one is a gift and to have one on one’s team is a huge advantage.
At Seton Catholic Central High School, the students and staff are learning just how fortunate they are to have Eric Butter among them. Eric is a freshman at the high school, having graduated from St. James Middle School last year. While at the middle school, Eric’s accomplishments were distinguished and plentiful. They included earning honors at the Greater Syracuse Scholastic Science Fair (GSSSF) in sixth grade, earning high honors with distinction at the GSSSF in seventh grade and qualifying as a semi-finalist in the Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge in eighth grade. Eric has won other awards and distinctions in area competitions including winning the gold at the Broome County Science Fair.
To qualify for the semi-finals of the Discovery Channel Science Challenge, Eric filled out a comprehensive application that included writing a 500-word essay. In the essay, he was required to explain his idea, how it came about, what help he received with his project, what his hypothesis was and what conclusions he reached upon completion of the experiment.
Bobbi Alcock, director of GSSSF stated in a letter to St. James Middle School that, “Being chosen as a semi-finalist means that Eric was able to communicate himself very well to the judges. That was not an easy task to accomplish. Having been chosen as a semi-finalist is a much deserved honor.” As a semi-finalist, Eric was chosen from almost 2,000 entrants representing 47 states and is one of only 13 students who represented New York State.
Eric credits much of his success to his teachers and mentors. Cora Walters was Eric’s science teacher throughout middle school. Walters and Ross Warner, a Biology teacher at Binghamton High School, gave Eric the encouragement, support and guidance he needed to succeed. “It’s not often you find a student who is an individual achiever and a team player,” said Walters. “Eric is both. As a student, he has a thirst for knowledge that doesn’t quit. On tests, he sometimes didn’t give the expected answer. He would politely challenge the question and was able to support the answer he gave.” Walter admits that Eric made a lasting impact on her. “He stretched my knowledge which required me to research a topic and get back to him. He’s one of those kids you know is going to do something meaningful with his life.”
While Eric enjoys and excels in math and science, his real passion is English and the arts. “I like theater and English more than science,” said Eric. His teachers have witnessed his talents in that area as well. In addition to playing the violin, Eric has found time to participate in Odyssey of the Mind (OM), which is a team-oriented, creative, problem-solving enrichment program. The students work in teams of five and are given a problem to solve in October. They have until March when the regional competition takes place to come up with the solution. During the competition, Eric played the role of an Englishman trying to buy a used car. “In the skit, Eric created a fairly authentic English accent,” said Walters. “He surprised us all with his wit.”
Isn’t there something that doesn’t come easy to Eric? “I think he would tell you he struggles to be ‘one of the guys,’” said Bob Weston, Eric’s OM coach and eighth grade class advisor. “He’s still just a kid,” said Walters. “And sometimes, he does things that kids do. But 99 percent of the time, he takes the courageous route and does what’s right instead of what’s popular.”