The Southern University at Baton Rouge graduated more than 500 bright students Friday, but perhaps none shone brighter than Polite Stewart (pictured). One of the college’s youngest graduates ever, Stewart is being heralded as a rising star in the physics research field. The 18-year-old cum laude graduate first entered Southern in 2004, after having excelled in the college’s Timbuktu Academy, a college readiness program. “He shined like the rising sun,” Dr. Diola Bagayoko, director of the Timbuktu Academy and chairman of Southern University’s Physics Department said, according to Southern University.
Bagayoko continued singing Stewart’s praises, noting, “Last summer, Stewart worked at North Carolina State University as a researcher, and has worked at Texas Christian University.
“He’s made more than four technical presentations over his college career. Polite has distinguished himself as a researcher in a marvelous fashion. He is highly ethical and very hard working. When he’s among his peers, you feel humbled because even amid attention about his accomplishments and his age, he remains focused on trying hard to make himself and those around him better.”
While at the Academy, Stewart easily mastered the curriculum and quickly began teaching high school students in science. Some of his pupils were nearly four years older than him.
Coming from a long line of college graduates (his parents and many relatives on his father’s side are also Southern alumni), Stewart was already conditioned to continue the family tradition. But his father knew he was ready for it back at the Academy.
“Things had gotten to the point where we noticed that he was a little faster in learning information,” said Polite Stewart Sr. “The Timbuktu Academy challenged him, pushed him, and he hung in there. And he enjoyed the experience.”
For Stewart, getting to this point took much worthy sacrifice.