Images by Blakeney Cox
Scott Misso has that look.
You’ve seen it. The young, nerdy, exceptionally bright, “I could build a nuclear warhead with a D-cell battery, six feet of string, a Bic lighter, and a paper clip” look. Sitting at a conference room table at Jasper High School, draped in a blue and white striped Oxford shirt with rolled up sleeves, jeans, one lock of blondish hair curled over the edge of his glasses, he could be the computer tech-savvy genius in a Hollywood blockbuster who uploads a virus, infecting a race of malevolent aliens, thereby saving the world from annihilation.
In his case, the look is not an affectation. Last year Scott was inducted into the Honor Society, and also scored a 32 on his ACT. He’s been in Key Club two years running, and has been invited to Scholar Bowl this year. He hasn’t seen a B mark on his report card since the 5th grade, (he’s now in the 11th) and even that still bothers him. The kid isn’t exactly lacking in the old gray matter department.
Then there’s the matter of his birth date. “A random factoid,” Scott says in an amused, ironic tone. “I turned 12 years old on 12-12-12.” When asked if his IQ has been tested, he responds with a nervous laugh. “Um, yeah, in Spanish last year we took a ten question quiz. It didn’t give me an exact number, but it was like, 130 plus,” he says.
An avid reader, Scott says his favorites lean toward novels with a medieval setting. “I’ve read all of the Eragon series,” he says. “I’m currently reading The Shadow Rising, from the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.”
Although he loves playing video games like Skyrim, Dark Souls, and Fallout, Scott admits he’s not much of a TV fan. “I haven’t watched TV in years,” he grins. “We still have the box TVs. Video consoles don’t work on them.”
Since he was a small boy, Scott says he has always loved to draw, often sketching characters he saw on Cartoon Network. In middle school he began taking art classes. By ninth grade that developed into an interest in architecture. “What really set me on the path, was we took career tests. I’d been thinking about it before, but it told me that’s what I was well suited for,” he explains.
Scott’s mother, Jennifer Misso, a counselor at Curry High, has been a great source of encouragement. “My mom was always a driving force behind making me want to succeed,” he says. “I told her I liked architecture and she was like, ‘Okay, I can try to find things for you to do to learn.'”
That subsequently led to a meeting with Jasper Main Street Executive Director Mike Putman. “He showed me pictures of buildings they had renovated and said, ‘Why don’t you go downtown, find some buildings, take a few pictures, and show me which building you want to do and we’ll talk about it some more?’” Scott recalls.
The building they chose was on 19th Street, and had been the site of a Top Dollar Store years ago. “The first thing I thought was it needs a new coat of paint,” Scott says. “Then I thought, what’s this building going to be? We finally decided on a theater, because the last theater in Jasper closed down a few years ago. I thought, maybe red, with black and white awnings and lights on top that go up to the sky. The front is angled so perfectly for a theater sign right there, and the windows don’t go all the way around.”
Now that he had a building, the next step was to redesign it. “I downloaded this thing called Sketch Up,” Scott says. “It was a really difficult program to use. I had a 30 day free trial so I had to do finish it pretty fast. I was surprised that it looked that good. I thought, I’ll put the awnings in, paint it red, and then make the brick pillars stand out, paint them a different color like tan. I used the best sketch to do the online building. ”
He finished the diagram over the 2016 Christmas break and met with Mike Putman again the following January. “He was really impressed,” Scott says. “He liked the design and he loved the lights. He said, ‘This is awesome!’”
“Jasper Main Street and the Downtown Business Association welcomes input from everyone, not just merchants and business owners,” Putman says. “It is wonderful to see a youth like Scott take an interest in making downtown Jasper a more beautiful place.”
Scott is now considering a career in either civil engineering or architecture. “I like being able to design things,” he says. “During that last project, it was really fun to me being able to turn the building into something that looks better and had a use. Revitalizing old neighborhoods would be fun.”
Lest you dismiss all that as a temporary fad, Scott has also been doing summer work at school—when he’s not at camp. “Every summer I do a camp that relates to it,” he says. “The summer before 9th grade, I did an Auburn design camp in Birmingham. The next summer I went to Auburn University to a camp for design. Last summer I went to a materials camp at UAB, because civil engineers need to know about materials like concrete and steel.”
With two years left until graduation, Scott is focusing on jumping through the necessary hoops to ensure he’s ready for college. “I’m trying to get a 34 on the ACT because Auburn has a good architecture program,” he says. “I’m taking the AP [Advanced Placement] classes here. I went to HOBY for the school, which is the Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership camp at Troy University. It was a good experience.”
If he ever learns computer hacking skills, those aliens won’t stand a chance. 78