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Students’ hard work, dreams reflected in Ketchum Awards

Planets. Stars. The universe.

Anything related to astronomy fascinates 14-year-old Cody Le, the gold medal winner in the annual Jesse Ketchum Awards, which celebrate academic excellence among students in the Buffalo Public Schools.

A former Discovery School student, Cody was recognized as the eighth-grader with the highest cumulative average during the last school year in the four core subjects of English, social studies, science and math – Cody’s favorite.

Josiah T. Thomas, a freshman at Hutchinson-Central Technical High School, was the silver medal winner, while 32 students from various Buffalo schools received bronze medals at last week’s ceremony in West Hertel Academy. The medals, as well as certificates and money awards, are presented to winners in their ninth-grade year.

“It was a great honor. My hard work paid off,” said Josiah, whose favorite subject also is math. He also loves to draw and wants to be a computer engineer.

His mother, Tiffany Thomas, said that even as an infant, the family knew that Josiah, 14, was a bright child.

When Josiah was 5, he put together a 5,000-piece puzzle on his own, she said.

“He’s always been a thinker,” Thomas said. “We knew something great was going to happen with him, and he still has years to come.”

Although Cody is currently a freshman at Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School, he has spent most of his academic career in the Buffalo Public Schools.

As a youngster, he attended International School 45, and he went to South Buffalo’s Lorraine Academy for grades 3 through 5.

But it was at Discovery School 67 for grades 6, 7 and 8 that Cody discovered that he wants to be an astronomer when he grows up.

“I was looking at articles and videos online talking about our planet in the solar system,” he said. “I read facts about it. It interested me a lot.”

His good grades are not limited to math and science. Cody, 14, said he has always done well in many subjects ever since grade school, when his average was in the 80s.

“When I passed the third grade, my average grew higher,” he said.

Keeping up his grades and getting a good education, he said, will pay off in the future.

“Education is important in helping me land a job,” he said.

The first medals were awarded in 1873 in memory of Jesse Ketchum, a wealthy Buffalo businessman who died in 1867 at age 85, according to a website maintained by a University at Buffalo adjunct research professor. He was born in Spencertown and lived in Toronto for a long while, where he became very wealthy in the tannery business and in real estate before moving to Buffalo in 1845.

A philanthropist who gave to educational and religious causes, he was a founder of Westminster Presbyterian Church and the school that eventually became SUNY Buffalo State.