By Mike McCombs
In kindergarten, a teacher told her parents she was going to be getting a lot of scholarship offers. Maybe that was one of the first signs Gracyn Kenyon was a little different.
Kevin and Joellene Kenyon were later surprised to learn their daughter, in early elementary school, had tried to read every book in their house … whether she understood the subject matter or not.
“She said she was reading everything we had,” Kevin Kenyon said. “And we didn’t even know it.”
“I really did like to read a lot. I remember that I would just go for hours,” Gracyn said. “I would read the entire book. I tried to finish in one or two days. (As a 3rd grader at St. Gregory), I read the Odyssey really young, probably before I should have read the odyssey.”
So it really shouldn’t have been much of a surprise when Gracyn Kenyon, now an 18-year-old senior at John Paull II Catholic School, was named a National Merit Scholar Finalist by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation – the school’s first finalist. She had been named the school’s first semifinalist in September 2020.
“Gracyn is one of the brightest students I have encountered in my long career in education,” JPII Principal John McCarthy said. “Her classroom insights and contributions are amazing.”
Gracyn Kenyon is competing for one of 7,600 National Merit Scholarships in the spring worth more than $31 million combined.
“The Kenyons have been a faithful JPII family since we first opened our doors in 2013, and we are so very thrilled for Gracyn as she is honored as a National Merit Finalist,” JPII Assistant Principal Heather Rembold said. “Gracyn is a student filled with curiosity, insight, and incredible academic tenacity.”
Gracyn Kenyon had been involved in the JPII robotics team. She was a captain on the girls team last year. She’s participated in the archery team, the quiz bowl, student leadership in 9th and 10th grades.
And she was a member of National Junior Honor Society, National Honor Society and is andAP scholar with distinction.
Kevin Kenyon knew Gracyn had natural ability, but she was different from most of her academic peers.
“(Most of them) tend to be STEM kids, but she’s not a STEM kid, he said. “She’s not a math whiz, she’s an English whiz.”
The love for reading hasn’t waned since she was reading everything she could get her hands on in elementary school.
“As I got older, it transferred to reading less fiction and reading more nonfiction,” she said. “Where I was reading about more things that were really affecting the world.”
At the Kenyon’s home, Gracyn had access to a collection of Sherlock Holmes books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
“It was there, something I could grab off the shelf,” she said. “It would draw me to it, the fact that it was prevalent in pop culture.”
The Sherlock Holmes books struck a chord with Gracyn Kenyon, beginning her love for legal history.
“(It is amazing) how much (those books) affected the culture at the time that they were published,” she said. “The way people viewed justice and crime, as well as how crimes were investigated, changed a lot in that time.”
She’s also a French Revolution buff and she says the reasoning is the same. It’s another time when there was a lot of change in society, a lot for the people to adjust to, all at once.
Gracyn Kenyon said despite her passions being unusual, people usually react with genuine interest.
“I can bring a lot of things to the table and teach them things,” she said.
Gracyn Kenyon already has several full scholarship offers for college, where she plans to study history and political science before moving on to law school. Though she’s hoping to attend the Honors College at the University of South Carolina.
“I do really like the (USC) Honors College. Since I’m going to graduate school, I’m being more careful about the undergraduate (costs),” she said. “It wouldn’t break my heart if I didn’t, but I would like to go there.”
After that, Gracyn Kenyon said it’s too far down the line to know where she wants to go to law school o what kind of law she’d like to practice.
“I definitely want to explore as much as I can,” she said. “I am the type of person that wants to to explore and learn.”