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Thomas Huang (copy)

Thomas Huang serves food to Denise Cada during the Portage Presbyterian Church's 20th annual free Christmas Day Dinner. Huang is an exchange student from China who is attending Portage High School as a sophomore this school year and he was among more than 30 volunteers for the Christmas dinner. 

It might be hard to imagine anyone’s to-do list looking similar to Thomas Huang’s in his final week in Portage.

First, the Chinese exchange student will try to raise enough money for two new basketball hoops at Lincoln Park in Portage.

Then he’ll demonstrate his mastery of Microsoft Word in a national contest in Orlando, Florida.

“We’ll be very busy,” said his Portage host mother, Tara Bandekow. “He’s an impressive young man.”

Huang completes his sophomore year June 11 at Portage High School and returns June 24 to Dongguan, China. He has lived with the Bandekow family since September.

Huang can’t take many going-away presents with him on the plane ride home to China, so he asked people to donate to a local cause instead.

During his stay in Portage, Huang played basketball frequently at Lincoln Park, where the basketball hoops are outdated, he said. Huang and the Bandekow family reached out to Portage Parks and Recreation Manager Dan Kremer and learned it would cost $4,200 to upgrade the old hoops. Huang and the Bandekows are now trying to raise that entire amount, but whatever is not raised prior to his going-away party on June 16 will be covered by Huang’s family from China.

“It makes me feel happy to know that people won’t have to go all the way to Collipp-Worden to play basketball (on nicer hoops),” Huang said of the fundraiser.

The new hoops at Lincoln Park will be just like the hoops at Collipp-Worden Park, with acrylic backboards and adjustable heights.

“He must have really enjoyed his time here,” Kremer said of the project. “I think it speaks volumes about this young man and his willingness to give back to the community.”

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Those interested in contributing to the new hoops may contact Bandekow at 608-697-8402.

A day after his going-away party, Huang travels to Orlando for the 2019 Microsoft Office Specialist U.S. National Championship put on by Certiport, a certification exam company. Huang will compete for cash prizes against other high school students from across the U.S.

Huang qualified for the contest because he achieved a perfect score in Microsoft Word during Portage High School business and information technology teacher Jan Imhoff’s Microsoft Office class.

“I didn’t even know this company offered a national contest,” Imhoff said of the achievement, “and I had never seen anyone get a perfect score.”

The Microsoft Word test that Imhoff issued in January took the students about 45 minutes to complete and involved about 30 different tasks in the program.

“He is one amazing kid,” Imhoff said. “He’s not afraid to be inquisitive.”

Huang had never used Microsoft programs prior to taking Imhoff’s class, Bandekow said. He used Apple programs instead.

“Part of the story is it shows what an amazing teacher Jan Imhoff is,” Bandekow said. “I think it also just shows that Thomas (Huang) didn’t come here to go to movies or party with other Americans. He works hard.”

Follow Noah Vernau on Twitter @NoahVernau or contact him at 608-695-4956.

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