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Meet a “Child Genius” Contestant: John Sumter

Once, during an outside birthday party with other kids jumping around and having a good time in the bouncy play house, a pint-sized John Sumter, then four-years old, was found on the other side of the structure, not hopping or leaping but reading the warning labels.

“He walked to the other side and started counting the number of kids,” John’s mother Traci explains laughing,”and then said,’the sign reads 15 maximum, someone has to get out!'”

From the age of two, when John learned how to read, his parents, Traci and Greg, noticed his advanced ability to acquire and apply information.

“Once he had the ability to read, we stepped back,” said Mrs. Sumter during a phone interview with JET. “The foundation was laid and then he took off like a rocket!”

It’s often said that adults learn and re-learn through the eyes and minds of youth. In fact, it’s a pretty refreshing experience.

The brilliance of a child is remarkable and provides the theme for the Lifetime docu-series, Child Genius, which debuted on January 6.

Child Genius centers around America’s most extraordinary and gifted youth ages 8-12, with their families in tow, as they prep for a national intelligence competition that tests their knowledge on a range of topics including spelling, literature, inventions and logic for a $100,000 college fund grand prize and the title of Child Genius 2015.

Amid this group of blazing young minds is the energetic 9-year-old John Sumter – a Myrtle Beach, South Carolina native, who can hold a conversation on anything from quantum physics to the latest video games. Though, John’s time on Child Genius came to an early end, his academic accomplishments are impressive.

In 2013, the young genius, who is also a Mensa member was among 38,000 students from over 120 countries that participated in John Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth (CTY).

The talent search required advanced young learners to take the School and College Ability Test (SCAT), an above grade-level test used to identify academic talent and gaps between a student’s educational program and actual learning capacity- similar to the ACT and SAT tests.

As part of the 30th percentile of program participants, John was honored in a ceremony last March as one of the brightest youth students in the nation and gained the advantage of taking courses at the university.

John Sumter with parents Greg and Traci Sumter at John Hopkins University.  (Courtesy: Sumters)

John Sumter with parents Greg and Traci Sumter at John Hopkins University. (Courtesy: Sumters)

Holding such an honor and ranking in the 99.9 percentile with an extremely high IQ definitely has its perks but challenges can also abound.

First the perks: “I enjoyed being on the show because I got to be smart and wasn’t restricted to knowledge. On the show, I was able to say anything and learn new things,” John quips.

The challenge, as he explains it: “Well, I was stressed out while answering the questions because of time [constraints] and having to compete against my friends.”

When it comes to school grounds and stresses of balancing an above average skill set and maintaining friendships, the River Oaks Elementary student simply brushes it off with, “ah, I handle that pretty well. I like my friends and I don’t want to lose them.”

The fourth-grader also keeps a pretty busy schedule on deck with karate, swimming and piano lessons,oh and he has to get the video games in!

“Staying busy keeps him focused on a plan to success,” says Mrs.Sumter.”He has a clear path because he knows what he wants to do.”

His career ambition changes often, not out of the norm for a child, but at press time, the goal was to become a defense attorney for murder “so I can help people who can’t help themselves.” Prior to this aspiration, John expressed interest in becoming a scientist to find a cure for cancer.

“He’s still just a kid, Mrs. Sumter expresses. “Being on the show he met friends with similar interests across the board. They still FaceTime and play video games together.”

In the midst of John’s achievements and the bright future that lies ahead of him, Mrs. Sumter shares this sentiment: “A gifted child doesn’t fit stereotypes. They come in all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, so it’s important to treat all children as if they have these possibilities.”