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Green River's Schiff earns top scholar honors

Green River Community College student Jared Schiff, left, ponders a brow-tangling problem with the frame of a human-powered paper vehicle. Schiff and members of GRCC’s Human-Powered Paper Vehicle Design Team will enter the bike in a competition at Eastern Washington University later this month. - Robert Whale/Auburn Reporter
Green River Community College student Jared Schiff, left, ponders a brow-tangling problem with the frame of a human-powered paper vehicle. Schiff and members of GRCC’s Human-Powered Paper Vehicle Design Team will enter the bike in a competition at Eastern Washington University later this month.
— image credit: Robert Whale/Auburn Reporter

On a recent mid-morning, four physics students, hands stuck in the guts of an unusual bicycle, set to work in a small building on the east end of the Green River Community College campus.

A tall young man with short, brown hair looked, stepped back, tightened, walked away for another look.

"Put the clamp there," said Jared Schiff, a mechanical engineering student from Enumclaw. "Nice and gentle with the adjustments. Make sure everything is squared."

To the casual observer, this gem-in-the making appeared to be a wooden bicycle, in itself a bit off the beaten path. But Schiff quickly disabused the ignorant of that idea.

"It's laminated paper," said the 20-year-old Schiff, the project's team leader.

Oh, uh, of course, a paper bicycle.

This is the second year for Schiff on the Human-Powered Paper Vehicle design team. He and his confreres will enter it in a physics competition at Eastern Washington University this month.

"We want to win that race," Schiff said, vowing to overcome some of the problems that beset last year's entry.

When you shake hands with Schiff, you know you've touched a special person. In March, he was one of 62 students from 32 community colleges across the state, one of two from Green River Community College, invited to the All-Washington Academic Team celebration in Olympia.

And there's one thing more. Gov. Chris Gregoire surprised Schiff by naming him the state's New Century Scholar, making him top dog academically in the entire community college system.

"I didn't know it until I looked down at the program and saw my name there," Schiff said with a short laugh

Schiff, the governor said, is a remarkable combination of leadership and scholarship and service to his community, including his involvement with award-winning Human-Powered Paper Vehicle design team and his volunteer efforts with Washington Trails Association.

"I love to ride," Schiff said.

As the state's New Century Scholar, Schiff picks up a $2,000 scholarship from Coca-Cola.

On Monday, the American Association of Community Colleges Convention in New Orleans named Schiff among the New Century Scholars from all 50 states competing for the All-USA Academic Team. He is only the second GRCC student to be named to the top national academic team. The All-USA Community College Academic Team is presented by USA TODAY and Phi Theta Kappa and sponsored by Follett Higher Education Group. Each of the students receives a $2,500 stipend and medallion. The winning students will be featured in today's USA TODAY newspaper.

Green River's other All-Washington team member, 20-year-old Jordon Bokov, was recognized as one of eight WSECU Scholars. Bokov, who came to Green River from Bulgaria, received a $250 check from Washington State Employees Credit Union. He graduates this spring with a 3.88 GPA and will attend the University of Chicago to major in business. One day he hopes to open a restaurant.

This is the first time in the 16-year history of the All-Washington Academic Team celebration that both students from Green River were singled out for special recognition. Each college had the opportunity to nominate two students to the state academic team. The All-Washington team members received a $750 scholarship check from KeyBank of Washington and NELA, the Northwest Education Loan Association.

A poor student when he was a kid, Schiff fell in love with mathematics in high school.

"It all started to click," he said.

For Schiff, things have kept on clicking ever since. He graduates this spring from GRCC with a 3.98 GPA and will attend Eastern Washington University in the fall.

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