He then ticks off the names of the good teachers he has had. “You always remember those. They’re a big influence on your life.”
Later, in class, he roams the rows of young martial-arts students, nudging an elbow, lifting an arm, correcting posture. In the front of the room, he models a stance.
“What is this space called?” he asks.
Someone blurts an answer.
“I don’t see anyone raising their hand,” he admonishes.
Sky seems most at home here. He is a third-degree black belt, his mom a second-degree and his father a sixth-degree master. He has been junior Florida sparring champion three times. He began coaching soon after enrolling at FIU, and now teaches all levels. The camp his mother ran and the taekwondo classes kept him busy 12 hours a day over the summer.
“I’m learning a lot of Spanish,” he jokes.
It was the joy he got from teaching at his father’s studio than inspired his career change of heart. The decision was confirmed when he taught English classes at a college in Cambodia as part of an FIU study-abroad program. “I saw what a difference I was making,” he says.
Sky no longer spars, but he does compete in poomsae, a combination of basic actions and movements, or forms, performed against an imaginary opponent. He recently took home three medals in it from the Florida State Taekwondo Championship, qualifying him to compete in the world-class division at the national level.
As for academics, he is pursuing a master’s degree in mathematics education through a Harvard University extension program. “I still love math and physics. I love astronomy,” he says.
When the family was sorting and packing to move from their house to an apartment, he refused to give away his astrophysics textbooks, his mother says. “He told me, ‘Now I want to read them for pleasure.’ ”
Sky admits that it feels good to be considered a genius — or in educational lingo, “profoundly gifted.” He says he has never felt left out, whether it was in the taekwondo studio or playing pool in the game room at FIU. He is friendly in social situations, with a sharp sense of humor and a contagious laugh.
But he adds a caveat.
“Being a genius is not about being smart,” Sky says. “It’s about how you use it to do good.”