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Top student hopes for a forum with Gov. Bush

The Central High junior wants to discuss his take on education and affirmative action at an upcoming governor's luncheon.

When he takes his place at the table next month with 67 other high school students at the Governor's High School All-Star luncheon in Tallahassee, Central High School junior Ryan Wagoner hopes to get a little one-on-one time with Gov. Jeb Bush.

"I'd love the opportunity to discuss some issues with him," Ryan said. "There are some things we agree on, but we're far apart on others. I'd just like a chance to discuss them with him."

Among those issues, said the 16-year-old honor student, are education and affirmative action. Ryan is not sure Bush is taking the proper track on either issue. He fears that if Bush abandons affirmative action as it currently is, it will drive a wedge into society.

And as far as the governor's education policy, Ryan thinks it emphasizes grading schools rather than the needs of classroom teachers.

While all of this may seem a bit heady coming from the likes of a teenager, consider that Ryan has a track record of being quite a bit above average. His polite, confident demeanor bespeaks a young man who has spent much of his life striving for excellence in everything he does.

He serves as president of Central High School's junior class, maintains a 4.18 grade-point average in his school's honors program and is co-captain of the school's champion academic team. A winner of last year's President's Student Volunteerism award, he has logged more than 200 hours of community service at a local hospital. And he has proven himself as an athlete as well as a member of the school's track squad.

Still, he insists, he is no overachiever.

"I consider myself a normal kid," Ryan said. "I've always liked academics, but it's not like they are particularly easy. I work at it. For that, I have to credit my parents. They always pushed me to do better because they knew I could do better."

Yet throughout his school career, Ryan has been lauded as much for his leadership abilities as for his intellect. He credits his four years spent as a volunteer defender in teen court for teaching him the value of a commanding attitude.

"I learned I could be pretty persuasive," he says. "A lot of times you could win a case just by being able to go straight to the heart when you needed to."

That level-headed attitude toward people will no doubt prove an asset for Ryan, who is considering a career in pediatric medicine after he graduates.

"The greatest thing would be to become a pediatric surgeon," he says "It's probably the most challenging field in medicine. But the real reason I'd like to do it is because I like little kids."

Ryan has already made progress toward that goal. This past summer, he attended a three-month student service program at the University of Florida, a dual enrollment that both earned him college credits and familiarized him with college life.

Ryan's leadership capabilities have also gotten him recognition of late. In January, he joined some 350 high school scholars from around the country for the five-day National Young Leaders Conference in Washington D.C.

He looks forward to being one of 67 other high school juniors joining Bush at the luncheon in March _ even if he does not get his dream opportunity of speaking to the governor directly.

"It's one of those once-in-a-life opportunities," he said. "I'm going to make the most of it if I can."

NAME: Ryan Wagoner

AGE: 16

SCHOOL: Central High School

PARENTS: Michael and Peggy Wagoner of Spring Hill

HOBBIES: Basketball, video games

FAVORITE SUBJECTS: Honors anatomy, U.S. history

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