Little Jolene West is fast on the heels of her uncle Davey.
The 3-year-old can already count to 10 in Spanish and is hungry to learn whatever she can.
She’s her uncle’s tiny prodigy.
With an uncle who can take Advanced Placement tests and ace them without flinching, Jolene is in good hands.
Davey West of Union is now a freshman at Charleston Southern University in North Charleston, NC, but before heading off to school the 19-year-old did what not many — if any — have done before him.
He garnered perfect scores of five on all five of the final exams in the five AP classes he took as a junior and senior at Union County High School. Not only was he possibly the first to do that at UCHS, he might also have been the first to take five AP courses.
The feat is impressive.
West’s dentist told him last Tuesday the highest score he got on an AP exam was a four. His chemistry teacher also doesn’t remember anyone ever getting a five on the AP chemistry exam.
Illustrating how rare it is to get a perfect score of five on an AP test, according to The College Board, a non-profit organization that administers and oversees the Advanced Placement Program, the average score on all AP exams in 2008 in South Carolina was 2.81.
Only 12.5 percent of the nearly 27,000 AP tests taken that year ended in perfect scores. In fact, throughout the 37 AP exams available average scores were no higher than 3.69. That mean score was for the 16 Latin: Literature exams taken in the state.
The national average score in 2008 was 2.83 for the nearly 2.7 million total tests taken. Only 13.87 percent of those tests ended in perfect fives.
West took AP English Literature and Composition and AP Chemistry his junior year and AP U.S. History, AP Calculus and AP English Language and Composition his senior year of high school.
The average score for tests taken in any of those areas in 2008 was no higher than 3.55 in South Carolina.
“I’m never really satisfied,” West said about learning. “I always want to know more.”
Union County’s own boy genius is majoring in secondary mathematics education with a minor in chemistry at Charleston Southern. He received several scholarships, including being accepted into the Palmetto Fellows program. He was No. 8 out of a total of 36 to be selected for the program.
His AP exam scores also helped him get an exemption from taking the Practice I tests to certify him as a teacher and he started as a sophomore in college with 28 credit hours completed because of his performance on the exams.
He wants to become a teacher and chemistry really is where his heart lies. He’s even looking into a work study opportunity in the Charleston Southern chemistry department next semester.
But how did he get to where he is now?
It took a lot of work — sometimes even on his own.
When his teachers told him in high school they might not have time to cover everything, he’d go home and cover it himself. He even had index cards with holes punched in the corners he’d write study material on and attach to his belt so everywhere he went he could pull them out and do a problem or review some information.
“It keeps you reviewing,” West said.
He also is a firm believer in having reference resources.
West has started a collection of chemistry books which is now up to six textbooks and a few workbooks. He only recently purchased the newest addition to the collection for 50 cents from a book sale at the Charleston Southern campus library.
“A lot of times I can see a problem and the solution and can teach myself how to solve it,” the college freshman said, adding he thinks he has developed a good way to learn by being able to break subjects and information down.
That’s good considering he was and still is a busy person.
When he was excelling in all those AP classes, he also was active in several other areas like band, drama, chorus and church. He’s now an active member of the college’s drama department and also remains active in church.
He’s also doing some tutoring and looks forward to becoming a teacher one day.
“I love to teach,” West said.
And his mother and family couldn’t be more proud of his accomplishments. He is the son of Gene and Tammy West and has two brothers, Jake who also is in college and Ryan who is an eighth-grader at Sims Middle School in Union. His grandparents are Maurice and Mary Hyder and Wade and Sadie Wilson all of Union and the late Grady and the late Nellie West of Buffalo.
His mom Tammy said West would rather have her read to him instead of watching cartoons as a youngster.
“He’s always loved to read,” she said. “And when he got older, he started reading to me.”
The nurse said her son actually was studying her college chemistry books when he was in the eighth and ninth grades and even helped her from time to time with her homework. When he got to high school, Tammy said her son was busy but he always found time for the books.
“There were a lot of nights he would be in here until 2 or 3 a.m. studying,” she said.
But he’s been known to always make that extra effort.
“He does that with everything, though,” Tammy said.
So it’s a life of learning and teaching — hopefully in the chemistry realm — for West but while he has a focused vision of what he wants to do he won’t stop gobbling up information in other areas.
“I love chemistry, but I pretty much love all subjects,” West said.
And he has the perfect attitude toward learning, no matter the subject.
“It’s fun,” West said.